Sunday, February 11, 2007

Attack of the Killer Musicians!

I am blessed to work with a pastor who's, by and large, a dream of a colleague. Please make no mistake: I am NOT prompted to write this entry because of any professional friction between the two of us.

What I have read and heard, too many times recently for my comfort, is cases of highly unprofessional behavior of church musicians toward the clergy who serve their churches. I won't get into the details of any one story, but trust me--they're not pretty. And don't get me wrong: I know there are some real Clergy-Kongs out there who neither respect nor behave professionally toward the musicians with whom they work. That's perhaps worth addressing, most effectively by clergy who are as fed up with Clergy-Kong stories as I am right now with Music-Zilla tales. So you Music-Zillas, if your egos will permit you to identify yourself in what follows, read and heed. And if you're trying your utmost to be the best church musician, staff member, Christian, and co-worker with your pastor that you can be, then this isn't about you; if you read it, remember it if you're ever tempted to make yourself the star of your own church music show.

I am Music-Zilla. I have the credentials to prove it. I am the resident expert in all things musical at my church, and I defy anyone, especially the pastor, to find fault with anything I do, musically or otherwise.

Do not forget that it is your great good fortune that I am here, wasting my great talent on this pitifully music-challenged church. You have neither the intellect nor the taste to adequately appreciate what I so generously share with you musical ignoramuses.

Since your tastes are so parochial, I alone am qualified to judge what pieces of music, styles, and genres are appropriate for this church. Any attempt to judge my decisions is simply proof that you have no musical taste.

You are only a clergyperson. You couldn't possibly understand or appreciate what it takes for a musician to do what a musician does. Do not presume to suggest that I have any need to study new music, methods of teaching or conducting, or expand my repertoire in any way. I was performing this repertoire long before you arrived here, and I'll still be performing it when you're long gone.

I alone have the discernment to know if I ought to practice more. At the pinnacle of my art as I am, it is difficult to imagine that there is much more I could possibly learn. Do not presume to suggest additional practice or continuing education on my part.

I don't (often) tell you how to preach your sermons. Don't you dare try to tell me how to choose hymns, choral and ensemble pieces, solos, or service music. Stop bowing down to the altar of "The music must fit the texts/theme of the service." Nobody cares or notices about that nonsense except you. In "Church Music," remember that "church" is only the adjective; the noun is "Music." You tend to your knitting, and I'll tend to mine.

Whatever it was they taught you at that high-steeple seminary, it sure wasn't how to work with musicians. It's not my job to educate you. I'm too busy doing what it is that I do. Treat me with the deference due any fine artist, and we ought to be able to get along when we must. Simply do not expect me to be impressed with your credentials. Do not hope to earn my respect. I am Music-Zilla. I am bigger than you. Or at least, my ego is.


cheesehead said...

Wow. It's as if you are there.

Thank you for this, and for your continued support.

Psalmist said...

Praying for you, Cheesehead, and even for your music-zilla. And you be sure to let us Texas folk know when you need the Texas Town Car of Justice to make a little drive north, OK? I'd SO love to open up a can of musician-to-musician whoop-*ss on your music-zilla.

Quotidian Grace said...

Preach it, Psalmist!! This is just great.

I'm ready to ride...

John Wesley said...

Dear and Gentle Reader,

I am of the most sincere opinion that most of our most fervent expressions of our theology are found in our hymnody.

I would like to invite you to visit my humble journal, as I start my tenure upon the continent of the Americas. I have been elucidated by your musings and wish to remain in your prayers whilst in the Americas.

I am most curious about the manner in which clergy conduct themselves in the colonies, as I am a newly arrived pastor and do not wish to offend the faithful and the savages. So prithee hence to my journal and let us hold each other accountable in our mutual love of Christ.

I remain God's humble servant,
John Wesley

P.S. an after-thought said...

Wow, it can get that bad? I guess I'm my church there is a worship committee which advises the pastor and helps pick hymns and themes. And the pastor does have a degree in music, having gotten a music scholarship. But the existance of the committee goes back 3 or 4 pastors.

Psalmist said...

Yeah, unfortunately, P.S., I've heard and read several truly awful stories lately. I think it works best when clergy and musicians work together and I've never tried to do it any other way, though in my early days, the first two pastors I worked with were pretty much hands-off and liked it like that. But actively working against the pastor of the church--and yes, it does happen. Praise be to God that's not the way of it at your church or mine. Thanks for stopping by.