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The Un-Pastoral Musician

  “I have a music degree, so I know best what the people should sing.”

  “I’m just a volunteer. I don’t want to go to all those meetings and stuff.”

If the people in the pews haven’t heard such comments from an un-pastoral music director, rest assured that the people in the office have. Or the choir members, or the liturgy committee, or anyone else who suggests that good church musicians don’t just “come in, play the notes and go home.”

It takes humility and a willingness to relearn.
Whether paid or unpaid, whether trained or (relatively) untrained, regardless of title, whoever is in charge of the music needs to really work at developing a functional rapport with the choir, accompanists, liturgy folks, office staff—and, not least, with the community’s history, repertoire and goals. It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes humility and a willingness to relearn (or, often, to unlearn) what you’ve been taught.

Otherwise you’re just a warm body taking up room, and preventing the choir—indeed the parish—from effective ministry.

Some may not be surprised to hear about a pastor hiring an unskilled person—someone who’ll make him look good by comparison. It happens, folks. But a series of kind, supportive priests—some of them pastors—called forth my best efforts and made it possible for me to learn and grow.

True, the supply of competent, committed musicians is thin on the ground, and getting thinner. The local chapter of NPM (the National Pastoral Musicians Association) may be dwindling because many musicians don’t want to get together with their peers and share their knowledge and experience. “I don’t have time for all that nonsense.”

That’s downright un-pastoral.

MD Ridge
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go

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