How to approach the Music Director

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RomanRevert

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Our music director, though very good with the traditional music when he chooses to use it, seems to have a penchant for the Haugen/Haas genre (gag!). I am trying to find a way to gently nudge him with suggestions to provide more traditional sacred music instead of the trendy non-sacred type. I want to be careful not to appear condescending or insulting to him, but I do want him to see that I am educated on the matter and that I have suggestions and not criticisms. So, instead of the “Haugen/Haas stinks!” approach, I would prefer the “I would like to request ______”. So, can anyone help me with:
  1. How to approach him (what has worked for you in the past?)
  2. Resources to provide him of sacred music
  3. Any other suggestions.
Thank you for your (name removed by moderator)ut!!

+JMJ+
 
There is a good magazine I’ve heard about that you may want to look at called Sacred Music.

You have to be so careful when giving suggestions to musicians. They are artists after all, and therefore can be temperamental!! 😉
 
There is a good magazine I’ve heard about that you may want to look at called Sacred Music.

You have to be so careful when giving suggestions to musicians. They are artists after all, and therefore can be temperamental!! 😉
Yep. I can be like a bull in a China shop sometimes … so I need the advice. Thanks for the link!
 
Our music director, though very good with the traditional music when he chooses to use it, seems to have a penchant for the Haugen/Haas genre (gag!). I am trying to find a way to gently nudge him with suggestions to provide more traditional sacred music instead of the trendy non-sacred type. I want to be careful not to appear condescending or insulting to him, but I do want him to see that I am educated on the matter and that I have suggestions and not criticisms. So, instead of the “Haugen/Haas stinks!” approach, I would prefer the “I would like to request ______”. So, can anyone help me with:
  1. How to approach him (what has worked for you in the past?)
  2. Resources to provide him of sacred music
  3. Any other suggestions.
Thank you for your (name removed by moderator)ut!!

+JMJ+
First of all, THANK him for his work. He could likely be earning five times as much for the Episcopalians or at a local jazz club. Instead he is providing music for parish worship. Make sure YOU really know that and appreciate that and then you’ll have no worries about appearing condescending to him.

He might be thrilled to learn that anyone in the parish has a special interest in liturgical selections of music. OTOH, he might already be playing what many parishoners have already suggested to him (meaning the stuff that your say makes you want to gag). If he is interested in making some changes, see if you could beg funds from the Pastor or the Liturgy Ministry to provide the sheet music he would require to make such changes.

Finally, ask him if you could assist him in any way. Does he always have adequate transportaion? Does he need a ride to a liturgical supply house or music store. Use your imagination when you offer your willingness to help him Then - THANK him again.
 
Take him out to lunch and get to know him. Ask him about his philosophy and beliefs about music and what he really loves. Do 90% listening and maybe 10% talking the first time. After that, you’ll have his friendship and you’ll know where he stands.

That’s way better than risking a misunderstanding by going straight to your suggestions.

Betsy
 
Some good advice, especially in getting to know the director and his outlook on music. You may find that the reason why he is doing the some of the music that you do not want is sort of a “political” reason. (At least I know that is the case with many of my colleagues who prefer traditional music, chant, etc.) They are on a payroll, so many times they have to follow what the pastor wants, etc. I experienced that when I worked as a children’s choir director. The new pastor basically told me what he wanted and I really had no say. He let me bring ideas up, but it was more of a formality - he already had his mind made up with what kind of music he wanted for the liturgy - no chants (even though the kids could do them well) or traditional hymns, save one or two once in a while.
 
Some good advice, especially in getting to know the director and his outlook on music. You may find that the reason why he is doing the some of the music that you do not want is sort of a “political” reason.
Absolvtamvndo.

There are many things done in my parish that are not my personal choice and if you do want to avoid offense it is a very good idea to check out the political/ideological landscape.

Sometimes musicians who know better may go along with things against their preference for a time whilst they gently try to “educate” and push for change, in preference to “putting the foot down” and getting everyone off side, and that process won’t be visible to those in the pews. If your director is in such a position, it really wouldn’t help for him to feel “criticised” for not having solved an issue he may already be dealing with in his own way.

Good on you for your sensitivity. There is often a lot going on “behind the scenes” in parish music and it can be hard to take when someone from the pews who isn’t aware of that fact comes to you with “all the answers”.

Edit: an afterthought, I would leave “resources to provide him” for a bit further down the track. A lot of musicians are well aware of what’s out there, even if they don’t actually use it, and that could perhaps come across as patronising if you tell him about a bunch of things he already has at home on the shelf, thanks very much, sort of thing. Get to know him first and if it turns out he has a real budget crisis or something, or you know he doesn’t know about some useful resource, he’ll probably be grateful for help.
 
"RomanRevert:
I can be like a bull in a China shop sometimes…
You don’t want to be like that with the music director!!! Musicians, who tend to be moody and sensitive anyway (I’m a rare one who isn’t, but I’m around them all day long), *really *do not like it when people who don’t know music (at least not on the level that they do) tell them how to do their job…

I’ve been a music director before and was told how to do my job by people who know absolutely nothing about how to do it themselves one too many times…and it got a bit ugly.

Also consider that the pastor may be telling the music director what to use. There could be other factors in this that you don’t see.
Take him out to lunch and get to know him. Ask him about his philosophy and beliefs about music and what he really loves. Do 90% listening and maybe 10% talking the first time. After that, you’ll have his friendship and you’ll know where he stands.

That’s way better than risking a misunderstanding by going straight to your suggestions.

Betsy
*That *is an excellent idea.
 
I don’t know much about music. A priest friend tells me that my singing falls in the “joyful noise to the Lord category”. But I do know that my parish does not have appropriate liturgical music. I probably don’t have much chance of making an impact – the Pastor and many parishioners love the current music – but I would like to explore providing the head musician with information about the nature of appropriate liturgical music. I think he is well-intentioned and the right information just might have an impact. Any ideas?
 
Can you describe the music you currently have and why it is not appropriate?

A description of what you currently have would make it easier to provide the right sort of pointers / avoid wasting time on the wrong sort.
 
This is tricky and will require a great deal of tact for two reasons: 1) Is it not possible that the music is in fact deemed appropriate but is simply not to your tastes? (I’m just guessing as you haven’t provided specifics.) And 2) no one likes to be told how to do their job by someone who isn’t trained to do that job.

One tactful way to approach this would be to compliment the music director on his skills, and request politely to hear some of your favorite hymns. If he doesn’t have the music and the parish doesn’t make funds available for him to purchase new music, then perhaps you could help him request funds to update the music repertoire or make a donation yourself, earmarked for that purpose. And of course, he may have a pastor who keeps a tight rein on him, and he may in fact have very little say over what music is chosen. In that case there’s not much you can do. 😦
 
I would suggest that you also read the following documents:

adoremus.org/0408SacredMusic.html
While this one is 20 years old, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger makes some really solid observations, many of which are now slowly taking shape now that he is our Supreme Pontiff.

adoremus.org/1101musicliturgy.html
This comes from the Holy Father’s magnificent book, The Spirit of the Liturgy. It presents you a solid look at music and will help you compare and contrast your parish’s musical selections using some of the Holy Father’s insights.

adoremus.org/10-12-96-Ratzi.html
This comes from the Holy Father’s second book on the Liturgy, A New Song for the Lord. It uses his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who is the choirmaster emritus of the Resenburg Cathedral Singers. This, too, is very insightful.

adoremus.org/ChurchDocs.html
This is Pope John Paul’s letter marking the 100th anniversary of the document issued by Pope St. Pius X on Sacred Music. You can find this document here: adoremus.org/MotuProprio.html While this document is 100 years, many of its premises are still very relevent today.

adoremus.org/MusicamSacram.html
This is one of the Church’s documents on liturgical music.

I hope this helps you. Normally, I would have tried to type up the sections from the Pope’s books, but, I’m sidelined with conjectivitis, which is a big fancy word for “Pink Eye.”

Also, don’t let the adoremus tagline scare you. They actually do have an impressive online library. Given my eye’s current condition, it’s much easier to go about this route.

Hope this helps you.
 
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