Christian Nielsen MT-BC
Board Certified Music Therapist, Composer, Musician, Speaker
Worship & Ceremony Music
From Minneapolis Star Tribune Seeker's Diary: Centenary United Methodist Church, Mankato, Saturday,
October 11, 2003
Writer Amy Gage describes the "reflective mood" set by Christian's playing:
"Memorable moment: The sanctuary was decorated with fall themes and colors. An eerie, mystical tune
filled the sanctuary. The musician was recording artist Christian Nielsen. He played a cedar flute, blowing an improvisational
melody that 'comes from the soul'..."
While much of his time is spent ministering to the clients he serves as a music therapist, Christian is available to
perform. Christian's experience working with individuals and their families in medical crisis and facing the end of life has
given his performance a spiritual depth and tenderness not seen in other performers. As a composer it gives him a wealth human
experience on which to draw. He is proficient in many instruments and uses them in his practice and in performance. As a musician,
Christian is probably best known for his performances on the Native American Cedar Flute, and flutes from other cultures and
for his music for relaxation, meditation, and healing. However he is a versitile singer and musician who also plays guitar,
synthesizers, percussion and several other instruments. His original compositions and improvisations are usually calming and
comforting, but they can also be energizing. His modern renditions of traditional hymns and spiritual songs, sung and accompanied
on guitar, are often meditative and always prayerful. He also plays a wide range of secular music, original music, and music
from other cultures.
Christian is the son of a Methodist minister. While this is the faith of his tradition, he draws on the wisdom of many
other cultures in his spirituality and his music. Christian's music is also reflective of his own journey with a life-changing
medical condition. Christian has participated in worship services for many denominations of the Christian church; Synagogue
services; American Indian ceremonies; Interfaith services; community, church, and health care special memorial services; spirituality
and wellness events; retreats; environmental awareness events; and in educational events. He performs for groups as small
as 20 to groups of over 3000 in places large and small, from large Twin Cities churches to small rural churches.
Christian also does speaking, children's times, retreats, workshops, youth & adult education, and other special events.
"Christian's music creates a sacred, prayerful space, where the spirit just flows" -Minneapolis Area
The Native American Cedar Flute
The cedar flute originated with Woodland American Indian nations and eventually migrated to the Plains Indians. The tradition
of the Cedar flute is improvisation. While some melodies handed down through oral tradition exist in vocal music and some
flute music, native flute melodies are mainly improvised. A flute player is to play what is in his or her heart- in the moment.
For this reason the flute was often played as a part of courtship.
The other use for the flute was and is in the creation of a sacred, prayerful, and meditative space for the player
and those who listened. The Cedar flute's haunting, yet gentle tone, combined with simple, soulful melodies make it the perfect
calming and healing instrument.
When Christian performs, he combines improvisations, original compositions, traditional Native pieces, and adaptations
of spiritual music from other traditions into his solo playing. Christian usually plays solo, but also does incorporate environmental
backgrounds he has created, or performs larger compositions with pre-sequenced synthesized backgrounds. Christian also performs
with other musicians. The flute particularly works well with certain types of percussion, but can also sound very good with
pipe organ. Christian has often collaborated with orgainists (including Philip Brunelle) on special arrangements or improvisations.
Some of the words used to describe Christian's Native American Flute playing have included: "Magical", "Etherial", "Meditative",
"Sacred", "Emotive", "Mystical", "Soulful", "Mournful", "Healing", "Joyful", "Peaceful", and "Tranquil". Christian has sold
hundreds of his original Native American flute recordings.
"I have found this instrument very effective in helping people cope with pain, stress, anxiety, chronic conditions,
and terminal illness. One hospice patient described this as her "crossing over music" and she did "cross over" while I was
playing for her. Others have told me the flute calmed them more than anything else (including sedatives) did. The flute is
very effective at creating imagery and connecting us to the peace of the natural world and within ourselves. When I play for
myself, for a patient, or for a large group of people, I find it very centering and consider it a form of prayer."
"The flute just takes me places... right where I need to be, where I want to be. I'm at the cabin
on the dock by the lake. This is where I feel the most alive and whole. I can even feel the warmth of the summer sun. It's
so healing to listen to you play." -Physician
Guitar & Vocal
In his formal music training, Christian's major instrument was guitar. In his work as a hospice music therapist Christian
has developed a guitar and vocal style that is gentle, tender, and prayerful. His guitar playing and singing have helped guide
hundreds of people from this life into the next. Christian plays mostly modern contemplative renditions of more traditional
hymns with some contemporary music. Christian also plays upbeat and celebratory music and often facilitates group singing
with guitar as well.
"When you play, it just touches me like no other music ever has."-Hospital Chaplain
Christian owns plays a wide range of percussion instruments from cultures all over the world. For thousands of years
many cultures have used various percussion instruments in ceremony, meditation, and prayer. Christian a variety of way to
incorporate them into worship, including meditative performance, call and response singing, adding to piano, organ, guitar,
or group accompaniment of vocal groups or congregational singing. Christian also facilitates many drum circle events each
year and has even facilitated congregational percussion improvisations.
Christian also uses synthesizers and electronic keyboards in some performances. He often uses them in a meditative style,
or with pre-sequencing or "recording". He can also make and record specific compositions and arrangements for a specific service.
As a music therapist, Christian believes that music was never intended to be a passive activity. We are all meant to
take part, whether it be through active listening and quiet contemplation, or through feeling the connection to God and each
other by singing or playing together. Music is too often a divider in many churches, with contemporary vs. traditional services
becoming increasingly common. What we really need to focus on is the community from ages 0-110! There are many ways to "Make
a joyful noise" together. Christian has many ways of encouraging and promoting congregation participation through group singing
and percussive activities.
"You could just feel everyone's blood pressure in the whole room drop and their breathing calmed and
slowed- it was just amazing." -Nurse observing performance
Christian is also available for concert performances. Concert performances can feature the wide range of Christian's
own musical diversity. They can range from performances with guitar & vocal, Native American flutes, percussion, synthesizer
(live and sequenced), and environmental sounds; to simpler performances of only the Native American Flute. 60 minute and 90+
minute programs are available.
Listen to the Music
You are, or should be, listening to a sample of Christian's Native American flute playing, with an adaptation
of "Amazing Grace" (This is a "low-fi" mp3, so it wouldn't take forever to download- on some computers the rain may sound
Click here to listen to Christian's recordings
to check a date or for more information, or call:
Christian's career and ministry in music has been diverse and varied.
Christian studied and played music from childhood, performing in school, churches, contests, and in recitals. In 1988 Christian
dropped out of high school and began attending Lakewood Community College (now Century College) to study music. At this time
Christian began working professionally as a musician, singer, and songwriter in the Twin Cities area. After two years of Community
College and an unclear direction, Christian began working in human services and health care fields during the day, while playing
music at night and on weekends. After several years of this routine, work with a young boy with cerebral palsy showed him
that music had remarkable and amazing healing and energizing properties.
This led him to Augsburg College in 1993, where he earned his degree
in music therapy. During his time at Augsburg, Christian conducted research and experienced the use of music in the healing
and spiritual practices of many different cultures. Of particular interest was the role of music in creating a sense of "sacred
ceremony". Making his own journey as a healer more interesting, Christian had a stroke at age 27 shortly before completing
his degree. After a year of recovery, he completed his degree requirements and then did his internship training at Park Nicollet
Methodist Hospital, working in areas of oncology, hospice, and neurology. Since completing his training, Christian has worked
in private practice providing services to individual clients and health care providers. Much of Christian's work has been
in the area of end-of-life care, using music to support clients and their families in their physical, emotional, and spiritual
journeys toward the next life. He has also helped people with chronic pain, cancer, dementia, anxiety & depression, developmental
disabilities, chronic neurological disorders, and childbirth. In addition, Christian performs music, speaks, and facilitates
workshops for religious, community, environmental, and health care organizations. Christian's music and ministry are a combination
of the experiences and training of his personal and professional life.
In 2003, Christian experienced some further stroke activity, partially
due to misdiagnosis by previous physicians. In November of 2005, he had a heart procedure to repair a heart defect that had
caused the previous problems. The procedure has been successful. With this repair, proper care and a balanced lifestyle, healing
has continued. While there will always be challenges due to the previous injury, this experience has served as a guide to
further focus his work in sharing the great spiritual healing power of music.