Church Choirs and Church Choir Directors
Blog post by Jason Horner, NCDA Music in Worship R&R
I have a full-time job as a church musician. This is becoming more and more rare and within the world of ACDA there are less and less church musicians seeing the value in membership. Why is that? I think there are lots of factors; time, money, not understanding or knowing about the value of the organization... the list goes on. But another factor is the nature of the beast. Being a church musician is different from teaching K-12, college/ university, or even leading a community ensemble. (I also direct at a college and have a community ensemble.) For some church musicians the job is primarily leading the choir, but this is increasingly rare. More than likely, whether the gig is supposed to be focused on music-making, it usually involves a lot more music organizing: choosing music for worship that doesn’t include choir, developing relationships with parishioners, meeting with your pastor to figure what we are going to do about the Corona virus (ok, that’s hopefully not an ongoing thing). For the part-time church musician you might get to spend 1-2 hours rehearsing your choir and having them sing 3-4 times a month for worship. But honestly, you move furniture, check emails, call less reliable singers to remind them about daylight savings (again, hopefully you already navigated that one) and so on.
So as a musician organizing singers and worship, finding the value in an organization primarily focused on furthering education of conductors and teachers may not totally fit the bill. What I have come to understand, however, is that as a conductor the richness of a deeper understanding of the choral arts is a necessity for me as a well-rounded musician. It helps me to remember the goals and develop my sense of a choral tone by experiencing excellent choirs under great colleagues and mentors. Yet I can also bring my experience as a Church musician to this organization.
The skills used in leading singing and directing multiple ensembles transfers readily in the choral art. Now this blog is going out to a group of dedicated ACDA/NCDA members, many of which have church gigs. So yes, I’m preaching to the choir (directors!) What’s the point of this discussion? I think, for me, I need to get out of the organization as much as I can. But that’s really up to me and how I approach the ideas and concepts that come from participating.
I was in Milwaukee last week for the regional convention, I organized the NCDA Church Choir festival (with lots of help) a few weeks ago here in Nebraska. And so my mind is still in the haze of those closely tied experiences. I had singers in all my groups say something along the lines of “bring us back some great knowledge to impart” when I was headed for Milwaukee. I hope that that has happened. The joy of singing, my joy in directing, my experience as a worship leader, and my heart will also continue to guide me as I lift up singers and ensembles. I truly wish for other leaders to have those experiences and maybe be encouraged to join us, the “nerdiest” of directors, in our mission.