Mixed signals: getting musicians and song teachers on the same page

If you’re a regular reader you know I’ve been in rehearsal for the last 2 weeks for our annual Family & Friends musical. As such my last couple of blogs have been about subjects along the those lines. Last week I wrote about how to survive a mass choir rehearsal. One of my readers, Tracey, wrote me to say she enjoyed it, but then she brought up a situation I had never thought of. ” Do you have any tips for musicians?”, she asked me. She went on to explain that she has been in mass rehearsals where the instructor taught the song completely wrong musically. Tracey also shared with me that when she tried to tactfully get the instructor back on track there was animosity.
I have to confess, I haven’t had much experience with such situations. I’ve been really blessed to work with the same group of musicians for many years now, and we’re very much in sync. So while I can’t give you much information on what to do in such situations, Tracey, I can tell you how we avoid it at my church. The short answer is we communicate. And we do so often. We do it to insure just such a thing doesn’t happen. We do it to make sure that we’ll all be on the same page at rehearsal.

When we have a rehearsal coming up, my Minister Of Music informs all of us what we’ll be learning. She provides us with the music, lets us know exactly which songs to be ready for and confirms that we’re all learning it in the same key. We all have a copy of the same version of the song also.

Musician’s rehearsal is also something we always, always do before a major event like a big musical. On the night of rehearsal we ask that the director be there along with the key song leaders. We go over all of our songs with these people. This helps us insure that we’re all in sync.

I think though, that Tracey may be dealing with a problem that I’m afraid tips like these won’t help much. The sad truth is, some people simply aren’t very good at teaching songs. To do this and do it well, you really need to have a pretty deep understanding of music, harmony and song structure. There are, unfortunately some people who teach who don’t know much about it. Early meetings and communications whenever possible can go a long way towards at least figuring this out in advance.

If talked about before rehearsals you as a musician might be able to catch potential problems before the actual rehearsal. Express your interest in meeting with the clinician/instructor to insure that you both will be on the same page. If he or she is open to it, you might even listen to the music together and talk about the particulars. All of this assumes, of course, that you’re going to be working with someone you’re not familiar with already.

It’s a touch situation to be sure. But when you find yourself in a situation like this, where the person(s) you’re working with simply doesn’t have the necessary skills, it’s important you maintain a level of professionalism and dignity as much as possible. If there’s nothing you can do to help, simply roll with things as much as possible and help as much as you’re allowed.

Communicate with other personnel as much as you can, get on the same page as much as possible, talk about teaching styles and any other policies that may help you do your part more efficiently. After that all one can do is pray and remain professional.

 

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3 Responses to Mixed signals: getting musicians and song teachers on the same page

  1. Steve says:

    Exactly, I know the frustration that she is feeling. I am a musician and I don’t like to teach parts.I have been in a situation in choir rehearsals where I have taught parts of a song incorrectly. This caused me to learn from my mistakes. These type of issues cause tension in the choir when you have a musician that doesn’t know or like to teach parts. I can play the music perfectly, however voicing is not my area of expertise. So to keep down confusions in the choir, after my choir director joined, I asked her to assist me, and now we have a fabulous working relationship with each other. We colaberate with each other at least twice a week and she picks out the voice parts and teaches. My pastor always says, where there is unity there is strength, no unity no strength. Work together and find common ground and seek and pray for the issues affecting your choir.

    • Ron Cross says:

      My MOM/musician and I have done it this way for over 30 years now Steve. I’ve always taught parts at my church. My MOM/musician simply learns the music, and my director simply prepares themselves to direct the song. There’s no one way to do it. It’s about finding the mix that works best for your ministry.

  2. alyce says:

    You couldn’t, imo, be any more correct! Communicate, (hear) and pray!

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