Music is one of this real life Wonder Woman’s superpowers! 🎶
Maureen “Mo” Putnam has a BA degree in piano and voice and a MA in Liturgical Music. Currently, she is starting her 16th year as Director of Music and Liturgy at Christ Our Light Catholic Parish in Princeton/Zimmerman MN, working with the Chapel Choir at Saint John’s University and teaching piano students. Maureen has vast experience as a professional musician: she was a member of the Air Force Bands: Horizon (rock band) Chanute AFB, and The Singing Sergeants (choral ensemble) of Washington D.C. In her years living near the capital, she held vocal positions with the St. John’s Episcopal Choir on Pennsylvania Avenue, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Old Town Virginia. After moving to Minnesota she taught the All College Choir and was a member of their piano faculty. Theater is also a passion of Maureen’s; during her college years and beyond she has performed many lead roles, provided musical direction, and played in numerous pit orchestras. She also enjoys teaching voice and piano, accompanying, performing as a solo lounge artist, as well as playing with local jazz bands. She resides in Sartell, Minnesota, with her husband, Tom Speckhard, who is also a professional musician. They are proud parents of two artsy children, Aidan (22) and Sophia (19), and as Tom would say, “Way too many pets.”
Please join me in getting to know Mo!
KR: Will you please tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment–your work, your passions, your dreams?
MP: I love my job because I help people encounter God through great music and good people. I really believe music enriches the liturgy and accomplishes what is hard to name. Like other forms of art too, it helps us to experience emotions and things that are not tangible. Music is uplifting it helps us to get out ruts, worries and even sadness. For me, it is truly a way that I see God breaking in to our hearts. As an extrovert, I enjoy people and big group gatherings so choirs and parish life fits my personality. I also really love to teach what I have learned about music and provide a safe space for people to experiment with their own talents. Lastly, it is weekly puzzle to match music style with scripture texts, season of the church and the musicians that are participating.
Outside of work I am so grateful to be Aidan and Sophie’s Mom. I have learned so much about myself and life from the sacrifices it takes to parent and also watch two wonderful creative and kind kids grow into adults that I respect and enjoy.
I hope to continue to enjoy life with good health and eventually have the opportunity to retire. I would love to travel to Ireland, get to participate in a few mission trips that assists children, have time to visit with my siblings in Ohio and meet Stephen Colbert in person.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
MP: Encourager and Teacher – I love teaching and encouraging musicians to share their gifts.
Big Picture thinker – I am good at keeping my eye on the prize verses getting bogged down in the details. This has enabled me to be a program builder. I like to set up systems that can adapt and grow.
I enjoy finding the positive and I am quick to forgive mistakes.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
MP: My Mom. I am a better person to have known her. Here’s an excerpt from the tribute I wrote after she passed away:
My mother was patient! As many of you know, my mom, Mary Anne McLaughlin Putnam, passed on February 9, 2014. So many of you have been so kind in your support I wanted to share a little about what an extraordinary person she was. In many ways her passing was a blessing because for the past three years, she had been suffering with Alzheimer’s. During this period, Mom was no longer able to do the things that were so dear to her like visit with family, play with the great grandchildren, attend daily mass, write the intercessions and articles for the parish bulletin, wake up on the farm, cook large meals for family and friends, work in the garden, can and freeze her garden produce, sing, play piano, and care for my Dad. Near the end, she was really no longer “present” to us except for the fact that she still smiled when someone was near.
Did I tell you that my mother of eleven children was patient? As my family gathered to celebrate her life, some common themes were, “I never heard her yell,” or “I never heard her complain,” and I was honestly able to add, “I don’t recall a day that I was ever angry with my mom.” In my adult years, my sadness was only that I wished Mom would have shared more of her wisdom because I think she could have saved me some agony, but maybe even in that regard she still knew best. The priest at her funeral said, “Although I haven’t known Mary long, I will always remember her kind smile, but somehow just with her smile I knew that she knew more about the subject I was preaching about than I did. I thought she was sitting close to me at the front of the church praying that my homilies would improve.” Mom just seemed to approach her gift of wisdom with a kindness that she shared only when asked. Amazingly, she just didn’t seem to have the need to “be right”, instead she had patience to let us figure it out on our own, on our own time. We truly admired her intellect that assisted all eleven of us with homework while she multi-tasked with housework.
Mom was particularly gifted in language arts and music. She sang often and taught each of us our first years of piano. (She even once sang with Tommy Dorsey on a radio show.) I think it was from her that I learned how much developing musicianship is a beautiful “process” that requires patience, and the ability to accept where you are at. A tip for young mom’s: keep piano books with your children’s books. I have great memories of asking Mom to teach me piano for our “story-time.” In our later years, Mom let us earn “accompanying privileges” during dishes. Thus, as the youngest I was very inspired to practice so that I could play as well as my older siblings and accompany the singers (my brothers and sisters) while they did the dishes and the clean up.
As I end this too brief of a tribute to my mom this is what was read at her funeral:
“Thank you Mom for your gift of patience. Most of all, thank you for teaching us to be patient with ourselves. We are grateful for your example of finding contentment in life by accomplishing your daily chores, and then allowing time to read a good book.” As a family friend elegantly stated, “Mary, I am a better person for having known you.”
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
MP: I Would stop Greed. I think it is the biggest reason that humanity fails; it causes people to hurt one another and our planet.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
- Games!! Boardgames Pickleball
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Talking with friends
- Playing music
- Cooking Vegetarian Dishes
- Working in the flower gardens
- Watching movies and a good series
- Walking my third child, “Phoebe” and petting my dear kitties, Sampson and Delilah
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
- Stay close to Christ. This will bring you your deepest joy and perhaps can prevent you from causing harm to yourself and others.
- Delayed gratification are two great words! Do what is difficult first, then go play.
- Read and listen to others’ life stories, this could save you from writing your own dramas.
- Work on your self-esteem by excepting that you will fail. Try to enjoy your failures knowing it is a step towards improvement.
- Find witty people that make you laugh and keep them close.
- Keep communicating your voids and challenges with people you trust because you will receive insight and peace.
- Have pets once you can afford them.
- Be good to yourself but help others in the process.
- Learn to cook because the food is better and it is fun.
If you live in Central Minnesota and want to see Mo in action, she will be playing at the Sartell House of Pizza on Thursday August 25, 2022, from 6:30-9:30.
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