“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” Emily Post
I have had two ChoralNetters contact me in the last month about two different Choral Ethics dilemmas. Both leave me scratching my head. Perhaps you can help; maybe you’ll have a better answer than I do. Today, I’ll present Adam*’s dilemma and next week it will be Brick*’s turn.
Adam is the choirmaster/organist for a mid-sized Mainline Protestant church. His congregation is a member of a coalition of churches pooling resources. He is the only professional musician in the group of five (now six) churches who share clergy and others things. He plays most Sundays at his own congregation, with the occasional Sunday at one of the other churches. During Lent and Advent, he directs a Festival Choir comprising his choir and singers from the other congregations, rotating among the churches. Since Adam is the only professional musician in this group of churches, he directs the Festival Choir and works with them during scheduled rehearsals several Saturdays before important Holy Days.
This arrangement works for the most part. Adam plays whatever instrument the other congregations have or brings his own keyboard for the one who has none. The volunteer musicians from the other churches respect him but there have been one or two incidents of territorialism. Adam will be moving on in about eighteen months, perhaps sooner, so right now he doesn’t care about whose territory is whose or the fact he is expected to drag his keyboard around. What he does care about is illegal music copying.
Right after Easter, one of the volunteer musicians from another of the congregations asked him if his church would like their quite extensive choral music library. She told him they could no longer use it but perhaps his bigger choir could use some of the music or they could use it when they had their twice yearly festival choirs. She suggested what his choir could not use could be donated to another choral organization or recycled.
He took the boxes and boxes and BOXES of music and put it in the back seat of his car, and some in the trunk. Adam didn’t have time to immediately go through it but put it all in his living room, where it sat for several weeks. After complaining about what a hassle it was, sitting there, one of his friends offered to help him go through it. They found some real gems, never expecting to find anything like that, as well as some dregs but PLENTY of things for his own church and the festival choir. He also found 32 files full of copied music; 32 folders. Some anthems, some hymns from hymnals he doesn’t think they own and some blatant illegal stuff.
Adam has not been especially happy the last year or so in his position. The church hierarchy has not wanted to give him a raise or pay him mileage (or gas money) for all the churches he’s now expected to serve as official professional musician. Since Adam and I began our correspondence in early May, they’ve added yet another church to the coalition. They are, to quote Adam, cheap.
He can’t stand the idea of the music copies he found. I asked him what he did with the folders and he told me he took pictures with his phone and then shredded them with his home office shredder. It took him four hours. Now, he wants to tell someone what he found. I asked him this question; why? Does he want to get someone in trouble? My guess whoever did this is long gone. Does he want to threaten someone? Does he think he could use this as leverage for a raise? Adam tells me he is moving on in about 18 months to go back to school, so I asked if he thought this could be an issue with a reference if he did so.
What would you do? Who would you tell and why? If the copies are shredded, should that be the end of it? And since this is one of the churches in the coalition Adam is not usually responsible for, should it be his business in the first place?