Depending on where you live, your 2023 – 24 program year/school year may have started already. Or perhaps you’re still preparing for rehearsals to restart. Here in Iowa City, schools will start in late August and ensembles will resume rehearsals after Labor Day. Planning worship services, choosing repertoire, and recruiting for ensembles are in full swing. Since I have more unstructured time than during the program year, I am continually reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses.
With that in mind, I thought I would give a progress report from a blog post in June. I mentioned that over the summer, I was planning on renovating parts of the music ministry. This included organizing various physical spaces, which is not a strength of mine compared to other areas. Happily, with the right help, this has been a resounding success! One of the spaces, a small alcove between the Chancel and the organ loft, had accumulated a lot of clutter. Thanks to the help of part-time music staff, we decided what we needed to store there and move other items elsewhere.
Another space that needed some change was the Choir Room. Three other choir members and I spent a morning organizing the space and decluttering a countertop. Here, the process was much different. One of the choir members wisely asked “What’s the purpose of the room going to be this year?” Another choir member remarked that because of the location of the rack with Adult Choir robes, ensemble members often had a difficult time getting to their robe in the morning. The question about the purpose and the need to improve traffic flow in the room greatly helped our decisions. After about two hours, we felt as if we had accomplished a lot. Unfortunately, the work isn’t quite finished yet. I need to toss or recycle a number of items, sign-out sheets need to be created, and I need to decorate the room. However, the most important work is finished. It was also another reminder of the power of collaboration as well as the important (and sometimes humbling question) of what are the needs of the music ministry and a particular ensemble.
Regarding additional systems of care and fellowship, I decided to create Care and Celebration Teams. The Care Team will oversee sending out cards if someone is in the hospital or a loved one passed away, or create a meal train if needed. The Celebration Team will oversee developing fellowship events and celebrating birthdays, retirements, and other joyful events or milestones. I haven’t always taken the time to celebrate in music ministries I’ve led and that’s an oversight I’d like to correct.
In my professional and personal lives, a challenge I’ve often faced is sometimes taking on too much and knowing when to say no or step away, even from something that’s a good thing and brings me joy. Along those lines, I’ve decided to step down from blogging on ChoralNet. Looking at what’s on my plate next year, I realized that I needed to take a few things off my plate and unfortunately blogging is one of those things. I’ve really enjoyed blogging and am grateful for the opportunity to serve other choral professionals.
I thought it would be fun to look at some of the first blog posts I wrote back in 2021 and see if some of the first content I wrote was still relevant. Much of it still gives me food for thought. In my first blog post on June 8, 2021, entitled An E Natural in an E Flat Major World: Modulating/Adjusting to a New Era, one of the questions I posed was “How might we continue to create a world where all feel a sense of belonging in choirs?” This was a comment on a new world including shifts that had started before the pandemic, such as a heightened awareness of the need for equity and inclusion in repertoire, conductors, and singers. I still think about questions of belonging and equity. In addition, I’ve thought about other related questions about how to create an environment where people can show up as their full selves at church.
Three other questions just about stopped me in my tracks:
- What non-musical elements can I use to enhance choral pieces?
- What individuals/organizations are in my community or church I can collaborate or co-create with?
- A sense of community is vital to every choral organization. What are new ways I can apply to help building community?
Regarding the second question, collaboration at St. Andrew happens quite often. On the other hand, I’d like to challenge myself to find additional people to collaborate with. Additionally, I’d like to build more relationships with organizations in the community in order to partner with groups outside of the congregation. With the third question, I’ve started drafting plans for a mentorship program between different ensembles, for example between the Youth Bell Choir and the Children’s Bell Choirs. By the time September rolls around, I’d like to launch the Care and Celebration Teams in the Adult Choir. For the first question, I still have a long way to go.
With that, I thought I would share the anthem the Adult Choir will sing the first Sunday they’re back in worship on September 10. The piece is called Let Everything by Dr. André Thomas and they loved it when we sang it last year. I felt it was a great way to launch the choir season.
Thank you all so much for reading over the years. I hope that your preparations for the upcoming program year go well and that you have a memorable year!