Music Program - Raising Your Self-Esteem
Will Sherwood, AAGO, ChM
you do not praise your own house, it will fall in upon your head!
music leaders and managers on church staffs, our attention and focus should
be on the quality of our music, its integration into the services & programs,
and managing the choirs & volunteers. However, some emphasis occasionally
needs to be placed on what I call marketing our church music programs.
By programs, I mean the full gamut of musical activities we're involved with
and responsible for. This includes everything from the care & feeding of
volunteers to developing and executing long-term growth strategies and instrument
maintenance timelines. Our everyday (and every-week) duties often are so pressing
to get all the logistics right, that we lose sight of tending the bigger picture.
Whether you have a simple worship service solo each Sunday or several choirs
and concert series, this bigger picture can make or break the future of your
program and yourself - your program needs to be recognized and appreciated by
the staff & congregation; and you need rejuvenation through stepping back
and taking inventory of where you've been, your accomplishments, and what direction
to set sails for in the next year or so.
I believe self-esteem
is key here. Although personal (as in psychological) self-esteem is closely
related, I'm really talking about the self-esteem of the Music Program
as an entity. On one hand, a program (just like people) can be meek and apologetic
and quiet; yet the other extreme would find boastful and always in-your-face
self-accolades and reminders that of course music is the most important and
only ministry of the church. As in life (and choral blend!), it's most effective
to strive for balances. If you and your parishioners feel good about the music
program and publicize it in a balanced way, then it will grow and increase in
quality and satisfaction.
A solid music program should be held up as a central strength
of any religious community. No apologies.
Most of this marketing
concept can be summarized in one word: visibility. Awareness, carefully
presented to parishioners, can increase both the real and perceived effectiveness
of your programs. When people are gently reminded about something, they may
care for it more and appreciate it more. Below are some ways to achieve this
without annoying fanfare; hopefully some of these ideas will mesh with your
situation and style.
By marketing your
program carefully and in a confident (but not too proud) manner, you can increase
the visibility and effectiveness of music in your congregation. We really want
to educate (for a long-term effect) and have people anticipating the next
event. Advertising does not fully do that since it is a one-time enticement.
Plan your strategy for continued interest and learning as you make your program
more and more visible and enjoyable. In this way, we can help those people worship
who prefer a more experiential or artistic representation of their religious expression
and maximize the church's outreach ministry.
things you do already and educate. For instance, if you have a special
hymn, prelude, or solo (or soloist), list it in your newsletter. Inform your
congregation about the music, the people, composers, instruments. Give them
something to be aware of during the music – a connection to the service, an
aspect about the music or words, etc. Perhaps write a newsletter article:
“The Making (Singing) of an Anthem” that describes what all goes into the
selection, rehearsal, and performance of music each Sunday.
- Create new,
but small, events or activities - Without much effort, you could introduce
a recurring pattern of events or special music that even though they are easy
to do, they have a big impact on the perception of the music program. For
- Hymn of
the month, or a hymn-sing (maybe as a prelude)
prelude once a month
one (or more) selections from a larger work as the anthem for contiguous
Sundays. Something like this is exciting for the choir and the congregation,
but doesn't require the time-intensive rehearsals to have it ready to
perform all in one Sunday
a “stop of the month” or a composer of the month – anything different
to catch people’s attention and hopefully allow them to connect more with
(monthly or quarterly) newsletter articles relating to music or music
programs or choirs; if you're really ambitious, a quarterly or yearly postcard
schedule or brochure informing about the program or calendars. (Maybe even
a web page!)
Sometimes you have to tell people
to look for and what to appreciate.
others by asking for help. Even though it's often faster to do
things ourselves, there may be hidden benefits to asking others to help with
various projects. Focus on recruiting people who often comment on or compliment
the music and may not have the time for weekly rehearsals or the musical ambition.
Volunteers may appreciate more or understand more about the music program
or all that you have to go through, and they may learn a detail or two that
they might tell others. In a recent situation at our church, even though
the circumstances were unfortunate, we asked for “pipe brigade” volunteers
to help dismantle and carry out the 65 ranks of pipes of our water-damaged
organ – and the comments were consistent: “I never knew there was so much
in a pipe organ – I learned so much!” Other examples in more normal situations
- Help with
a mailing, an article (program notes), or other PR-related materials
- Help with
the choral library (filing, inventory, cataloguing on computer)
Not only does
it help with the director's work load, it draws others closer to the music
program. Who knows, they might even pick up a folio and start to sing!
- Invite suggestions
for anthems or adjustments in some way to the music program or service music
- Request help
in fundraising, or collecting monies to purchase a specific item like
a set of music scores, instrumentalists, or instruments (or maintenance)
- Provide status
reports. Usually status report is a dirty word with most people, meaning
red tape or chore. But here, a carefully written, informative, interesting
update can serve many purposes. It might be presented to various committees
or staff of the church, and include accomplishments, growth, updates of each
part of the program, trends, requests, warnings, editorials. And who knows,
if you communicate and educate, the people in power may reward your programs
with increased budgets because they trust and understand your needs.
- Use technology
to your advantage. Use email and web pages to keep choir members, parishioners,
and the community informed of your events. Use word processing programs to
dress up any and all printed materials, press releases, schedules, letters,
posters that concern the music program. Even if you hate computers, get
someone to do it for you and this face lift will go a long way to raising
the quality perception of the program.