Jake Gute’s musical talents incorporate the piano, violin, viola, alto saxophone, choir bells and voice. He uses these talents in musical ministry, aiding or leading worship in a variety of Carroll-area churches.
Jake Gute’s musical talents incorporate the piano, violin, viola, alto saxophone, choir bells and voice. He uses these talents in musical ministry, aiding or leading worship in a variety of Carroll-area churches.
March 17, 2014

Master of the piano, violin, viola and voice, the 2011 Kuemper graduate's musical talents are regularly on display in four area churches - Holy Spirit and St. Lawrence parishes in Carroll, St. Mary Parish in Willey and First United Methodist Church in Carroll - sometimes even twice on the same Sunday.

About once a month, Gute helps with a 7:30 or 8 a.m. service in one of the Catholic churches before arriving for the 9 a.m. rehearsal at the UMC. He will play strings, piano, bells or sing in the choir on request - anywhere he is needed.

He has also provided music for services in at least three other Carroll churches when the music directors were unavailable, and his work in wedding ceremonies - ranging across western Iowa and occupying nearly every one of his summer weekends - easily triples the number of local churches that have seen him perform, he said.

On a quiet, cloudy Tuesday afternoon, Gute lifted his Pernambuco horsehair bow to his original hand-crafted Romanian violin to play for a smaller audience - one reporter and one photographer. The haunting notes of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason's "Ashokan Farewell" slowly echoed through the empty sanctuary.

Gute also plays the alto saxophone, participates in bell choir, sings in church and community choirs, performs with the All Strings Attached orchestra and has dabbled - poorly, he claims - with percussion instruments and the flute.

"I kept doing it because my teachers kept pushing me," he said. "I like being pushed to my limits, then learning to go further."

A majority of elementary students take private music lessons at the urging of parents - music early in life encourages involvement throughout life, Gute said. His story begins no different.

Son of Tim and Deb Gute of Carroll, his mother signed him up for piano lessons with Joan Gronstal in first grade. He learned foundational skills, including how to read music - skills that served him equally well when he started learning to play violin from Becky Windschitl a year later.

In high school, Gute added the alto saxophone to his repertoire because he needed to play an instrument in the Kuemper concert band in order to play piano in the jazz band. The viola, which he started learning as a joke during the final years of high school, has since become his favorite instrument.

"It fell into my hands," he said, adding that the slightly larger instrument is easier for him to play than the violin.

It also has a different tone - its lower string gives it a range five notes lower than the violin, using the alto clef instead of the more well-known treble. But the part it plays is actually between the alto and the tenor.

"It's always that inside part," he said. "It's always a cool part. It's always fun to play."

Gute credits the string family in general for its ability to tell a story, be it through a solo, duet, quartet or full orchestra.

"No matter what the piece is, the strings have a way to make it unique and beautiful," he said.

And though he describes himself as an outgoing person, he likes the way the piano enables him to fade into the background.

"It gives someone else the opportunity to shine," he said, explaining that the audience is usually listening to a singer, not the pianist.

His musical leadership stretches back to high school, where he led the Joined in Praise small group his junior and senior years. The group provides music for the near-weekly Mass at Kuemper, where he continues to play piano for the choir.

After one semester of college, Gute returned to Carroll, finding himself "in between." Jacki Montgomery offered him a job at Sound and Service, where he currently works in sales, before quickly recruiting him to help sing in the Christmas cantata she was directing at the Methodist church - an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.

Equal parts music and faith, his passion drives him to participate or lead music ministry in Christian services across the Catholic-Protestant divide.

"I can go to the Methodist church and understand that point of view," said Gute, who was raised in Holy Spirit Parish. "Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran - wherever I am, I can be fully involved, and appreciate how the music ties into that as well."

This duo is also on display in a recent tattoo on Gute's ankle, a treble clef sporting the phrase "leap of faith."

Though he confesses that the design is the logo of a less-than-great band, he loved the ties between appreciation of faith and love of music.

Gute hopes to someday count both the cello and the bassoon among the instruments he plays, as well as improve his skills on the organ. He also voiced gratitude to Gronstal, Windschitl and Montgomery for supporting him through life's high and low notes.

"To get me where I am today, I know was a lot of hard work," he said with a laugh.

Though he is not sure where his future lies, he currently has no plans to return to college or pursue music professionally.

"Keeping it as a passion is the only way I'm going to be as involved as I am," Gute said, adding that he lives in the "right now."

"I'm happy where I am," he said. "I'm not sure I'll stay forever, but right now, that's the truth."