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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Onward, Christian Soldiers*

"High School Diploma/GED is required. Competence with diverse musical styles, proficient at the organ and piano, choral conducting skills, pastoral sensitivity, and collaborative and diplomatic skills are required. Responsible for planning, coordination, oversight and execution of all liturgical music needs of the parish. Over the course of the year the commitment averages less than 7.5 hours per week."
So reads  a local job announcement for a position entitled, "Director of Liturgical Music".  An important position in any church, don't you think?  
I'm sorely tempted to rip this to shreds, verbally--as would be any competent church musician--so I will.
1. High School Diploma/GED is required
We ask less of people who work at (name your favorite local fast food restaurant). Are you saying that people pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and yes, even doctoral degrees in church music shouldn't bother?

2. Competence with diverse musical styles
One might say, "well, what's wrong with that?"  If you're old enough to remember the Clinton administration, you may remember the fuss that was kicked up over their shady translation of "e pluribus unum".  The proper translation is, "Out of many, one (referring to many cultures coming together to form one nation)". They tried to convince people that the correct translation was, "Out of one, many".  I don't need to tell anyone who runs a choir that success in leading worship depends in part on unifying disparate forces, and bringing more people into the fold--not Balkanizing church musicians into as many different categories.  We are indeed all in this together.

3. Proficient at the organ and piano
Let me state for the record that I do NOT have a problem with this. A strong organist and pianist is crucial to church music success.  I do have a problem with it ending there.  It is not enough to take Duke Ellington's statement, "If it sounds good it is good".  By whose standards are we judging?  Organizations like the American Guild of Organists and National Association of Pastoral Musicians have well-established standards by which churches large and small can evaluate their musicians.
4. Choral conducting skills
See #3 above, but I will add--"Equip the called".
5.  Pastoral sensitivity, and collaborative and diplomatic skills are required.
I don't honestly know what all that means--I do hope it doesn't mean, "we want a doormat".

6. Responsible for planning, coordination, oversight and execution of all liturgical music needs of the parish.
Including weddings, funerals, all Masses great and small; finding supply organists, soloists, training cantors and choirs (and those two tasks are NOT the same, even though they both involve the voice). I wonder why they didn't include the word "quality".
7.  Over the course of the year the commitment averages less than 7.5 hours per week.
In whose parallel universe? That doesn't even cover practice time--and I haven't included library tasks, phone calls, recruiting, getting stuff in the bulletin, preparing for special services, choir rehearsals, cantor training, professional development, and instrument/equipment maintenance. 
For those of you who are saying, "we aren't paying you to practice", well, fine, but don't expect us to improve, learn new music, or even to keep up the high standard our vocation/avocation demands of us. We aren't automatons, who, when you flip a switch, provide an hour of music for your dining and dancing pleasure.  We are musicians--human beings who have devoted our lives (or large chunks of our lives) to the glory of God through our musical contributions to worship. To treat us as anything less is plainly wrong

Why in 2014 are we still arguing about this?
Because of nonsense like the above ad.
If there isn't a pastoral musicians week for Catholics (or churches of any stripe for that matter), might I suggest putting it around November 22 (St. Cecilia's Day) to honor God and our patron, and to get the word out that what we do matters, both in heaven and on earth.

*--Words by Sabine Baring-Gould (1865), music *(hymn tune "St. Gertrude") by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1871).

PS: Why should a librarian care?

Because we too are in service of others, and subject to the whims of a fickle public whose idea of why libraries matter began and ended with Marian Paroo. I've recently applied to positions asking for "advanced degrees" but paying minimum wage. I've applied to what I thought were entry level positions but turned out to be "middle management" (their words).  For the field to say, "entry level is what we say it is" is irresponsible.
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