Photography by Yuvie Styles

At 27, Erin Doyle already leads a whole congregation.

A Kansas transplant, she has spent the last eight years in Dallas — three of them in Lake Highlands — after moving here for college. Last year, she became music director for Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Garland.

She plays the organ at two masses every week, directs the choir, plans all the music for services, weddings and funerals. Anything music related, that’s her job.

At 5 years old, Doyle was already playing piano, thanks to her parents who enrolled her in lessons. She wasn’t completely sold on playing instruments until grade school when she was drawn to a new instrument.

It was flute.

PATH IN MUSIC

Though piano wasn’t something she enjoyed at first, she soon grew to embrace both that and flute once she was old enough to join the school band.

“It was like fifth grade when I could start band, and I started playing the flute,” she says. “And I just learned it a lot faster than the other kids at school. That’s when it was like, ‘OK, I might be good at music.’”

In the past year, she’s added a few more instruments to her roster, including the organ, which she plays for church. She also sings and dabbles in woodwind instruments, like clarinet and saxophone.

“That’s pretty much it,” she says. “I started learning electric bass during the pandemic, so I’m not, like, good at it, but I can mess around on a bass a little.”

Flute is Doyle’s main instrument. It’s what she went to school for, but she emphasizes she is more than just a flutist. When Doyle was in high school, she spent a summer at a Catholic retreat. There, her experience as the music leader drew her closer to church music.

“I enjoyed leading music on this retreat,” she says. “Then that geared me toward thinking maybe this is something that I want to keep doing.”

The Catholic retreat led to studying flute at SMU for her bachelor’s and UNT, where she received a master’s.

DEDICATION

She spends hours each day practicing instruments, whether it’s flute, organ or piano. Those around her have all witnessed her dedication.

Her mom, Nancy Doyle, says her daughter is determined in anything she does.

“She’s very dedicated to her music, always works hard,” Nancy says. “She’s very focused and sets goals. And then she, you know, has complete determination to meet her goals, and she sticks with it. She never quits.”

That determination and dedication carries over into Doyle’s work life, too, and the church finds the time she puts into practice impressive.

John Sharp, her manager at Saint Michael the Archangel Church, says despite her shy and soft-spoken nature, he knew she’d be a great asset to the church.

“She’s very quiet, very reserved, very shy, but there was something about her that just struck me that she would fit in really well,” he says. “We’re very impressed with her. I know the pastor is very happy with her.”

Though Doyle isn’t one to brag on her talents, she has even turned the heads of other musicians and singers. Sharp says his dad was a Fulbright scholar for organ and heard Doyle play at church once.

Sharp says his dad applauded her work and was impressed at her skill level, being so new to the instrument.

“Thumbs up for her, because he was quite an accomplished organist,” Sharp says.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Music runs in the Doyle family. From her dad to her two younger brothers, everyone except her mom plays at least one instrument. Her dad is a self-taught pianist and guitarist; her two brothers are musicians; her youngest brother is a singer and studies musical theater in college.

To Nancy, family makes music meaningful in her life, but one thing the whole family has in common is the Catholic faith.

“And, yeah, church is very important in our lives,” Nancy says. “I just feel like music is important in my life because my family are all musicians.”

Music even found a way into Doyle’s love life, and it came in the form of her fiance Christian Nguyen.

The two met in band at SMU in 2016. Nguyen moved from Vietnam for college and decided to stay once he found a passion in fitness.

In contrast to Doyle’s calm and reserved personality, Nguyen is cheerful and full of energy, yet still relaxed inside Peak Zone Fitness where he’s both sales manager and a personal trainer.

“She’s very reserved but speaks her mind when she needs to,” Nguyen says. “She’s pretty talented on all her instruments and has been improving a lot. She’s getting a lot better.”

Though working out and fitness is his full-time job at Peak Zone Fitness, exercising is another thing they enjoy as a couple.

With a few friends, they also have a band that plays on and off. Since the pandemic and with their individual commitments, they haven’t played as regularly.

“When we first started, we’d play every weekend or so, but now it’s like once a quarter,” Nguyen says.

ORCHESTRA DREAMS

Aside from that, Doyle still teaches flute and piano classes to four students but is stepping away from it to focus more on other endeavors. One of those pursuits is orchestra.

There are only a few orchestras in the country. They’re very competitive and difficult to break into, but Doyle’s biggest supporters — Nguyen and her parents — witness how serious she is about realizing her dream as an orchestra member.

“The level of performance is so high to get into a professional orchestra, that it can be discouraging sometimes,” she says. “I’m not just a flute player. So I can take solace in that and know I can still do music, even if I don’t get into an orchestra.”

She enjoys the variety of being more than just a flutist. Otherwise, she says, it wouldn’t be as fun if it were her only focus.

“It’s just more fun,” she says. “I think I’d lose my mind just playing the flute.”