Meeting the Call to Lead~ in Music

Subject: RE: The Hell of Worship – pitfalls of church music
Date: 07 Jun 04 – 01:04 PM

Rehearsals can be real fun (not)….. We’ve had two different people storm out when the tantrum they threw in rehearsal was not received as they thought it should be.

We’re human, and we all have feelings we bring to the experience, but the band is there to minister to people coming to the service, primarily by the music we offer; we are NOT there for opportunities to act out, or for giving each other therapy.

The first time, it was a then-regular band member whose meds and family situation kinda boiled over. He first picked a fight with the Missus who was there watching the rehearsal. When we asked them to stop because people were about to arrive for the service, she was able to quiet herself, but he only escalated and then flounced out muttering dire upset.

We just let him go. (Later he apologized after taking a break from the band for awhile, he’s been able to participate positively most of the times he’s come.)

That night, we decided as a band that behavior like that is simply not acceptable. So the second time this happened (it was one of many beginner players we’ve invited to sit in for rehearsal and/or the service), we saw it for what it was and didn’t put up with it.

We have not had this problem with any other beginners, or any performing pro’s who sit in when they visit us, either. Generally, people have appreciated the opportunity to learn something when they sit in, as we appreciate learning from them.

These experiences led to a lot of reflection among band members. (and eventually a Band Policy that applies to all gigs and to members who play for church services).

For awhile we considered not being open to non-members sitting in. But we concluded that the problem wasn’t with the sitting-in aspect. IMO it has more to do with maturity, and lacking a shared sense of why we are there.

Several months later, one of our regular members got mad about some news he heard during rehearsal, just before we were to leave to go do a set in a big community concert. We all spontaneously kept our lips zipped as he blew up and then subsided. He was able to get his feelings settled down. He soon apologized for the disruption.

Because of what we had learned from the two earlier experiences, the rest of us waited out the upset instead of jumping in on it (to argue it or to try to “fix” it). I was grateful the situation didn’t escalate to the point that we had to decide whether he should be asked to skip that gig. The reason why it didn’t was because he took responsibility for his upset and didn’t push the responsibility off on us.


More recently, our old regular returned, and was once again very much on the edge with med changes. That night it got a little dicey at times, not only musically but in his conversation with parishioners present. Frankly, some people got scared.

He had said, however, as he arrived, “I dunno if I should be here tonight.” I looked him square in the eye and said, “Let’s see how it goes and I’ll let you know, OK?” He gratefully agreed.

When he got out of line, I asked him to settle down and he was able to.

The following week he had stabilized, and he asked me how bad it had been the week before. I was honest– and he appreciated it. There was a general consensus that as his friend and as the band’s director, I have last call on whether he’s in shape to play or might be asked to sit in the pew and let us minister to him.

As a band, we do minister to one another, and we do share how our day has gone– how major life situations are progressing, what we need from each other. But we don’t hold each other up for ransom: “Treat me like THIS or I won’t play or be nice.” And once the rehearsal gets moving, we focus on the music and the spiritual experience.

Also, once the people start to arrive, out focus is on paying attention to them– not receiving their attention, or being drawn into an extended, intense personal conversation….

When we play at church, we are also the greeters as people arrive, due to our being good at it and because we usually choose to play from the place where they come in. (It’s a simple old trick I learned in public speaking.) So if we don’t keep the right focus, the whole atmosphere is affected.

Oh, I’m not saying people arriving don’t inquire as to how we are, ourselves; but it’s not a time when they should be met with a needy person longing to tell them the Whole Story of the week, nor is it appropriate for us to give all of our time and attention to a needy person longing to tell US the Whole Story of their week.

A decision we made most recently was to close rehearsals. Some people have been coming earlier and earlier before the service, so we’ve concluded that since there is no after-service fellowship hour, we’ll designate a room for pre-service fellowship that needs to go beyond the 10-15 minutes immediately before the service when people visit pew-to-pew as they arrive and welcome one another. Because it isn’t working for it to occur while we are trying to learn new material or work out arrangements, and there simply isn’t any other time we can get together. We’ll cover it in announcements at the upcoming service, hopefully as new good news– not as “don’t come early” news.

It’s a fine line, leading this band with church members as volunteers. To a certain extent, I’m a volunteer too, but as the pastor’s wife I face innumerable unarticulated (and often conflicting) expectations. It can be hard to know how to respond to these, especially when people want a more personal relationship (positive or negative) than are appropriate within pastoral boundaries.

Sometimes it affects my willingness to volunteer, myself.


Over time, what I have learned is this: People who can be responsible for themselves can go with the flow. People who can’t, can’t; once they make that clear, they should not be expected to join our band.

I have also learned this: to know this ahead of time, or to even try to please them, I would have to be a mindreader… that what they really want is help only Jesus can give them…. and that whatever shape I may be in on any given day, I ain’t Him.


Subject: RE: The Hell of Worship – pitfalls of church music
Date: 07 Jun 04 – 01:37 PMThe Beginner in a Church Band

I offer our young friend Brian as an excellent role model.    He tunes his own instrument for himself, as the band is tuning, and he plays in keys he can play in– or does his own transposing to use a capo if there are not multiple arrangements provided.

He has watched many rehearsals and it is evident that he has paid attention when he comes to sit in.

He listens well and follows the leader, and tries new material without taking rehearsal time to advertise his nervousness. He plays what he can play, and listens to the rest.

He saves major questions for another time and handles them privately and postitively. He acts like a mature musician who is yet a beginner in playing skills.

He has issues like everyone else and takes more meds than most– and never acts out.

He takes a musical or “performance” challenge well, when it’s the right challenge, and is willing to extend his skills by trying something new.

He is willing to be encouraged– he is open to the process of change and knows that it comes not from ourselves but from the Lord.

We are always happy to have Brian sit in. We don’t treat him like he is doing us a favor, because he’s there to offer his music to the Lord, as we are, not for personal appreciation. He’s responsible enough to know the difference between times when he can contribute and times when he needs to stay close and learn more.


Subject: RE: The Hell of Worship – pitfalls of church music
Date: 07 Jun 04 – 01:45Songleading is so different from performing.

(The material below is excerpted from orientation material in draft for potential new associate band members who live far but visit and play with us often.)


Leading Worship Music

I’m our group’s overall band director, tho this doesn’t mean I direct much in terms of how each player will do their part. I initially set the tempo and phrasing– the feel of the song, since it will be actually SUNG.

We like it when individual players interpret a song for their instrument in their own way, in terms of ornamentation, once we have hit a groove on the rhythm and phrasing. Things morph in a good way; I don’t impose the sound but let it emerge and listen for that.

Sometimes I will ask individuals to play certain instruments on certain pieces (fiddle vs banjo for example), knowing how that person will probably style it, but it’s very flexible depending on who is present and what they brought.

Creative chaos, and I have veto, by general agreement.

I suppose I come across as bossy if one is overly sensitive in areas of authority. What is more accurate, I think, is that this directiveness is mainly due to the lack of rehearsal time to futz around having a committe meeting, and the lack of time spent by others on learning new songs in advance– we are all playing with the jukebox in MY head because I am the only one so far who has the time to review new music and do arrangements for everyone.

I prefer to think of myself as willing to make a decision when one is needed, in a timely and clear fashion, but it comes from knowing the band well and knowing a song well because no one else has usually heard it until I sing it for them…. even if it’s just enough singing from me to get the tune into Ed’s or Greg’s head if it is one they will songlead.


Subject: Music Librarian, equipment
Date: 07 Jun 04 – 06:54 PM

MUSIC LIBRARY!

I’m drowning in STUFF!!! “Thank you Susan but don’t we ALSO have this song in the key of E flat?????” With some timely help from the church secretary, I just produced three fat matching binders of nursing home service material… one for each of us who goes off and does these, sometimes with other folks to play along. In the folder pockets, players’ chordsheets and people’s singalong leaflets for instant church, I think 10-12 sets, for up to 50 people and five band members, presto! To live in our cars. (You may be a musician if…..)

And….

You don’t think we haul our sound equipment in and out of the church every week I hope! So, WHO BROKE TOM’S AMP so we could not catch his vocal last Saturday night, and who twiddled all the pre-set knobs on another amp? The church didn’t buy it– it’s all ours individually– so now there’s the question…. who pays to fix Tom’s amp? (I say the church.) And WHERE is that missing microphone we need to resume recording the services????

Oh well…… I love you, too, Jesus.

~Susan

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