But the other musos suck!
Or are you plagued with singers who can’t seem to sing in tune? Some churches are blessed with an abundance of talented singers and musicians who make amazing music every week. (Incidentally, if thats you, you may find point 2 interesting here and here.) More often though, the eager volunteer is a little behind in the skill department.
So what do you do? They’re giving “their best” for God, right? Hey, their heart might even be in a better place than yours. It’s possible. But if you’re to have beautiful music that lifts the hearts and minds of your congregation to God, surely there’s gotta be standards of some kind.
Well, I have some ideas, but first, there’s something more important…
What about you?
I’m sure you’ve met your share of great and mighty musicians of such high quality that even the word ‘practice’ is beneath them. Even their farts are musical masterpieces. And if you’re really lucky, they snort or snigger whenever someone makes a slightly less than perfect sound.
It’s easy to caricature. It’s easy to compare. Who’s better, who’s worse: whether musically or just charitably.
But what about you?
Comparisons aside, are you as good a musician as you could be? As good a musician as God is calling you to be? Is this in fact what God is asking of you?
And how do you look upon your fellow musician? Particularly the off key, out of time, deflated in sound, slow reader, hesitant improviser…?
Before you go on, you’ve got to answer these questions.
And I’ll admit right here that I can be impatient with those who don’t live up to standards I sometimes struggle to reach myself. And I can be underprepared to rehearse a new song. And I really should get singing lessons.
Attract the good, improve the…ungood (my half attempt at a politically correct heading)
Ok. Well now that you’ve ensured you’re a good muso, what can you do about the others? And it really is an important questions, particularly if you want any hope of attracting other good musos.
I’ve long held the suspicion, and often had the experience, that there are good musicians hiding in the pews. And most will stay stubbornly anonymous as long as they fear being associated with less than great music and musicians.
So here’s four things you can do about ‘ungood’ musicians…
1. ‘Audition’ potential new members – if you want to avoid the awkward situation of trying to get rid of someone, hear them before you invite them to join the team. Or get them to come for a ‘trial rehearsal’ so they can see what it’s like (i.e. you can see what they’re like!).
2. Encourage further training – so if you ‘audition’ someone and they’re not yet at the standard to add value to the team, you can encourage them to keep working on, honing, building their skill. And if you can, it would be great to offer to be part of that process. Can you spend time coaching them? If you can, and they want it, do it.
3. Provide easy parts – alright but if you’re already stuck with ‘ungood’ musos, write out some easy parts for them, even if just for a few songs. Some of the most amazing orchestral works have parts where some instruments play the most simple lines.
So if you’re not confident in your ability to write something, find someone who is. And if your whole parish doesn’t have anyone who can do the job, contact your diocesan office and find out if they know of anyone near you who can. We’re all in this together!
4. Host ‘open mic nights’ – just have a laid back performance night on some kind of regular basis. This has so many good effects, like
- creating a place for your inexperienced musos to play in front of people
- motivating improvement in your ungood musos
- tempting the anonymous good musos to come out of hiding
- generally promoting the arts as important in the Church
Question: What have others done that have helped you become the musician you are now? And what have you done with/for ungood musicians you’ve encountered? You can comment by clicking here.
- You may have heard the phrase “Hire slow, fire fast”. Good advice. Doesn’t quite work with volunteers in church – but sometimes it needs to be done. However, it’s way harder to ‘fire’ a volunteer than an employee! ↩