Austin McManus

Concordia University Ann Arbor will celebrate 148 graduates on May 19. The graduation candidates are students who have spent their years at CUAA developing in mind, body, and spirit for uncommon lives of service and impact.

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting Concordia’s 2019 graduates.

All eyes will be on Austin McManus when he crosses the graduation stage at Concordia University Ann Arbor’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 19.

This will be a bit of a change for a guy who is usually behind the scenes and focused on serving the people around him, a testament to his calling to serve the Church as a director of parish music.

McManus’ parish music major and worship arts leadership minor has him well-versed in the details that go into planning and leading worship.

His favorite part? Playing the organ.

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“The organ is the king of instruments,” said McManus, whose hometown is Malinta, Ohio. “I love the beauty of having multiple sounds and the variety that you get with just one instrument; you don’t get that with anything else.”

The organ’s dynamic capabilities are somewhat synonymous to the many key roles Austin has played during his time as a Concordia student: Box office student manager, coordinator of evening prayer and communion services, student manager of Chapel tech, and worship leader, as well as Cardinal Regiment drum major and member of a half dozen music department chorales and ensembles.

On top of his extra-curricular involvement, McManus also had academic requirements to fulfill, including two 120-hour practicums, one for his major and the other for his minor.

He’s coordinated box office seating charts to fill a theater audience in the black box theater. He’s trained his Chapel tech team to simultaneously control lighting, sound, and slides. He’s led the marching band as they perform half-time arrangements while also positioning themselves into formations.

McManus knows how to piece together the details to make one harmonious sound.

“Whether it’s a prayer service with just a few people or a concert of 150, I love seeing the culmination of the details and the impact and joy it brings to an audience or congregation,” said McManus. “Especially in worship, I want everything to be done well as we are proclaiming Christ and putting Him first in everything.”

When he wasn’t gaining experiential insight to his vocation during his practicum hours, practicing percussion at a wind ensemble rehearsal, or managing ticket sales for an upcoming theater performance, McManus would take time for himself in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity to sit down and spend time with his favorite instrument. He usually did this in the evenings, when no one else was around.

Especially in worship, I want everything to be done well as we are proclaiming Christ and putting Him first in everything. —Austin McManus ('19)

“It’s a great stress reliever,” said McManus, who jokes that because of his symphony of responsibilities he feels like Google calendar is his best friend.

McManus realized his love for the organ, his favorite stress reliever, as a child when he would come home from school and play around on the practice organ at his grandfather’s house. Throughout McManus’ childhood, his grandfather led worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio and was McManus’ inspiration to learn the instrument himself.

By age 12, McManus was already playing the organ in worship at his own home congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Napoleon, Ohio. He’s currently going through the call process of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and is ready to turn his occasional teenage gig into his full-time career as a director of parish music.

His well-rounded balance of experiences at CUAA has played a major role in equipping him in mind, body, and spirit to lead worship, just as God has called him to do.

Join Austin McManus for his senior organ recital on Sunday, May 5 at 4 p.m. in CUAA’s Chapel of the Holy Trinity, located at 4090 Geddes Road. The recital is free and open to the public and will feature a festival of hymns and voluntaries for the Church year and include performing works by Brahms, Pachelbel, Callahan, and more.

Learn more about CUAA’s music programs at

— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to

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