PrayTell notes changes afoot at NPM master control. This will be interesting to watch. From the link:
Noting that “the landscape is changing,” (CEO Steve) Petrunak wrote that “NPM must also embrace change if we are to be a vibrant and relevant association.” He cited churches closing and merging in some parts of the country, and the association “may face similar strains in the years to come.” A recent member survey showed that 3 out of 4 members are over age 50, and that the membership remains substantially homogeneous while the U.S. becomes more diverse.
- I have been a member on and off through the years. I was pleased to be a member in the 80s, though I was happier as a member of a local ecumenical organization of church musicians. I think that local groups are far more vital in that they permit support and mutuality among people who serve in a city or region.
- I was more pleased to attend schools than conventions. The exchanges there are far more mutual, and the opportunities for adult learning (that is, hands-on) far more effective.
- When I was in my twenties and thirties, I did not get a sense of welcome from some NPM national lights at schools or conventions. People ten to twenty years older than I seemed to populate the limelight. And possibly still do. The most “popular composers” are still ten to twenty years older than I, with the possible exception of David Haas, who was born the year before me. It would be interesting to track the average age of convention presenters over the years. It seems to me many of the same experts lead the breakout rooms as in the 80s. If young church musicians don’t see peers in an organization, why would they want to join it?
- Likewise that “diverse” face of contemporary Catholicism. NPM might make a point to check out gatherings like Encuentro and actually talk to the musicians there.
As for my lapsed membership, I’ve arrived at a stage in life where I don’t see NPM as particularly helpful to what I do. Few people in my diocese are interested. I don’t know that NPM has ever attempted a professional presence in the Pacific Northwest.
My role is to mentor parish musicians, and help them be formed and developed as ministers and disciples through the celebration of liturgy. I don’t need NPM for that. I have a more sparse younger generation to serve. NPM has no answers for why so many fewer young Catholics are active, compared to the 60s and 70s. I don’t think they made an effort to prepare and groom a new generation, outside of a token handful of new “stars.”
While I have a respect for theological tradition, the older I get the more I wonder if the walkback from Vatican II was a good thing, on the whole. A lot of Vatican II Catholics allowed themselves to grow very discouraged in the 1978-2013 era. I tell myself there must be an opportunity in all this. I just don’t see it.