How To Improve Church Music I


This is a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Without leadership and commitment from the bishops and pastors, good musicians won’t be attracted to Roman Catholic parishes, at least not in the numbers we need. And if we lack top shelf musicians, the people will rarely, if ever, experience what good music ministry is all about. And if the people don’t get it, they won’t pressure the clergy to pony up for it.

There’s a lot of whining and complaining about the quality of church music. Some of the complaints are valid ones. Some of them reveal the usual log-speck-eye issues. Some of them are indeed matters of personal taste. What is lacking in most discussions is a plan to get from here to a future better than the present.

What I’d like to do is look at the individual pieces that we need to fit the puzzle together and get to that future. I’d like to look at it first from what the diocese should be doing. Somebody has to start hatching the musical birds, so I’m going to put the pressure on the bishops from the get-go.

From there, I’ll describe what a church musician would like to see in a parish before committing to serve there. I can only testify as to why I accepted jobs where I did. So I’ll rely on the input of other musicians to add their hopes and wants in the comment boxes. Pastors have a lot of work to do to make some of their parishes attractive to good musicians. Some of it will take money. But there are enough things to do outside of budgetary considerations. It just takes a little work and a direction.

I’ll also make a list of the skills a parish musician should have: what will make you attractive to employers; what will help you succeed in ministry; how you can sell yourself to your new pastor and the parishioners, what disciplines you’ll need to adopt, if not master, to hit the ground running when you have diploma in hand. Some musicians, however, won’t be in a position to get a degree. What then? Let’s take a look at what parish volunteers can do to improve themselves.

Next, I’ll outline the ideal parish situation. Even if your budget can’t pay the going rate for good musicians, there are way you can and should make your community attractive to your music director. What should the school personnel offer? How should the choirs adapt to and adopt their new leader?

And finally, I’ll outline what it should be looking like in twenty to thirty years: what we need to do to keep the machine humming.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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