The church of the future may well face a shortage of capable music leaders if current trends continue. Excellent training in church music is available at several of our colleges and seminaries. But a vocation in church music begins years earlier.
Through observation and conversation with colleagues, I've learned the important role that congregations play in growing new musicians.
Musician-nurturing congregations share some similar characteristics. Here are 10 ways your congregation can help to seed the future supply of church musicians:
(1) Realize the value and importance of music in your congregation's worship and life together; and
(2) Dedicate adequate resources in money and personnel to encourage and support it.
(3) Provide a model. Employ a qualified church musician of vision and ability for ministry. Besides the inspiration and encouragement of a good model, practical young musicians will view church music as a Real Job.
(4) Support a children's choir program that teaches the hymns and worship of the church.
(5) Value the unique musical and liturgical leadership — both vocal and instrumental — that children and youth bring to your congregation's worship. Children will grow in service to the church.
(6) Install and maintain a worship instrument that is better and more exciting to make music with than anything else at home or school.
(7) Sponsor organ scholarships with your resident organist for promising keyboard students. When ready and confident, encourage young organists to play a portion of the service.
(8) Offer scholarship assistance to a member pursuing a career in church music at an ELCA school.
(9) Get with a program. The Church Music Apprenticeship Program sponsored by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and Lutheran Music Program suggests a variety of activities for student and mentor. For an informational brochure, call 888-635-6583.
(10) Sing and make music as though it's one of the most important things you do together — for indeed it is.
Of course, it's always possible that you and your congregation may not be the ones to realize the return on your investment, but somewhere, the church will.
Carolyn Bliss, an associate in ministry from Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been a church musician for more than 30 years. She has coordinated programs for the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and the American Guild of Organists. Recently retired, she says she is forever grateful to her childhood congregation for its patient encouragement of a fledgling organist.
Anthology of Anthems
THE AUGSBURG CHOIRBOOK: SACRED CHORAL MUSIC OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Ed. by Kenneth Jennings Augsburg Fortress, 1998, 434 pp., $29.95 REVIEWER: Colleen Ortega
Kenneth Jennings, the general editor of the new publication, The Augsburg Choirbook, ought to be commended for giving church musicians and choirs such a valuable resource.
Anthologies are huge undertakings — and in this case, choosing just 67 anthems from this century's publications must have been difficult work. (The overall field, however, was narrowed, as only anthems published by Augsburg were chosen — still, a gargantuan task.
The editors, however, chose wisely, for a diverse collection of solid music appears: pillar composers of the American Lutheran tradition to those less known like Peter Tiefenbach and David Ashley White are represented. There are, indeed, many gems.
The most outstanding feature of the book, however, is the wealth of information included about the compositions. The indices given, which include title, composer, tune, voicing, congregational, and instrumental parts, topical themes, and scriptural sources, make the collection very easy to use.
There is one problem, though. The size of the book and its weight make it difficult to hold in a choral setting. Those used to other collections, such as the Oxford anthem anthologies, will find it bulky.
Jennings' book is an incredible resource, and a most welcome one for those who are involved in Lutheran worship.