What are your policies re: youth involvement in music outside of children’s choir
  • I have a couple older kids in the church who wish to play for an occasional Sunday, and a “request” of sorts from the committee that I make sure this happens at some point. I don’t have a problem with this and want more young people to participate in our music ministry. However, there needs to be some ground rules in place before I go ahead and schedule them. The pastor finds my suggested requirements to be “micromanaging”:

    -You must meet with the director and accompanist (if needed) at least twice before your scheduled date.
    -If you have other commitments, you must make sure they do not conflict with rehearsals or your date.
    -Failure to attend rehearsals without prior notice means you forfeit your chance to play. No exceptions!

    Ooo that last one is harsh, right? Here’s why:

    One kid wanted to play for first Sunday of Advent, I gave him music, he showed up the week before WITHOUT HIS INSTRUMENT and asked if he could still play. Obviously my answer was NO. Because of that incident, I believe there needs to be clear expectations and rules for participation. Am I a micromanaging tyrant for holding young people to a high standard?

    This IS NOT a debate about why/why not to have kids play in church, so save it for another time. I just want to know how others handle similar situations and what your rules and expectations are. Thanks!!

    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,361
    This sounds very reasonable, especially at the beginning when you don't know these kids. It might come to the point where you know a musician and realize they are competent and don't need the extra rehearsal, but this seems like a good idea to start.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,972
    Yeah, you're not micromanaging, but a mom's rage is nothing to be trifled with in parish politics. So if the priest is hearing from you and an angry mom, you may have to decide whether this is the hill to die on or not.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 446
    Yeah, you're not micromanaging, but a mom's rage is nothing to be trifled with in parish politics. So if the priest is hearing from you and an angry mom, you may have to decide whether this is the hill to die on or not.


    Right. Much depends on your relationship with the pastor. Inform him of the policy, tell him you are aware that this could potentially poke a bear-mom, and ask him if he will back you if it does. If he waffles, dump the policy.
  • Reasonable for a Catholic church, unreasonable for a Protestant church (unless Episcopalian/Anglican).

    Sad, but true.

  • Fidem,

    I'm many things, but a teenager isn't one of them. I'm counted as a competent singer. I wouldn't dare sing in a choir with which I hadn't practiced, if for no other reason than ensemble singing is different from solo singing, EXCEPT with the explicit permission of the choir director. Expecting to show up for the liturgy without having practiced is presumptuous in the extreme, and has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the persons committing (or considering committing) this offense are young people or not.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,392
    A little secret - holding young people to the standards of their elders helps them grow up and, here's the kicker, they want to be treated as grown-ups. (Until they actually grow up. Then they have second thoughts. But not before then!)
  • Thankfully there’s no angry parents to deal with right now. I’m much less concerned about the one girl who wants to play because she worked many times with the previous director and knows what the expectations are. I’d love to have the other kid back at some point too-the same one who wasn’t prepared at all and expected to still play-but he’s got to understand and respect the rules. I’m planning for the post-Easter season this week and will meet with the pastor again. We’ll see what he says...

    @noel jones, aago: I currently work for a United Methodist church. This particular church seems to be all about “rules” and has a very pushy committee, so you’d think they would be on board with my policy. The pastor is young and only been there for a year, and often struggles to assert himself. Perhaps another discussion will bring his full backing of the policy. My policy regarding special music for summer scares him a lot more than this one. Previous director allowed sign ups without any kind of checking or alignment with the readings/sermon. I came on board in August so it was too late to fix it. ANYONE signing up for summer music this year must submit their piece to me and I will schedule it where it fits with the readings, and NO BACKING TRACKS. We hired an accompanist and there’s no reason to use anything else this year. He said “I totally agree with you but just expect some complaints and push back.” Okay, great, bring it on LOL.
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • TCJ
    Posts: 601
    I had a teenager who wanted to play the violin (we have a professional who assists on occasion) so I agreed to meet her to see how she played. My professional agreed to meet, too, since he obviously knows a lot more about the instrument than I do. After having two meetings cancelled (both by the girl or or family) I left it up to her to contact me. She never did. I am not sad about it because it indicates to me that the person lacked a sense of commitment in the first place.

    In light of my experience with people often not following through on their own requests, I think your suggestions are perfectly reasonable, and not only that, but necessary. Stick to your guns.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,438
    Thanks for talking about this. I suppose one doesn't have to agree to a tentative performance date at all before hearing the young volunteer perform the piece.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,361
    @TCJ: I wonder if it was more her parents' idea than her own.
  • @chonak: I would very much prefer them to “audition” but I already know that may create more drama. I’m hoping to build a loophole by requiring they attend rehearsals, and then if a kid really seems unprepared I can gently suggest moving their scheduled Sunday, and if it’s really awful tell the parents they need more time to practice.

    It’s tricky, you know? I absolutely believe in getting youth involved in church music-after all there won’t be any future ones if they don’t have early experiences. My first experience in church music led to my conversion to Catholicism-it’s extremely valuable and important. But anyway it’s a fine line to walk with holding clear standards and running into pushy parents that want their perfect little star to do things they aren’t ready to do. Right now I’m still less worried about parents and more worried about the ridiculous committee that doesn’t understand anything about music management and wants it to be all “let’s sing and play for the Lord”. Sigh.
  • Carol
    Posts: 364
    As a recently retired teacher I have observed that today's students often have an inflated idea of their competence. I think it comes from being told "Good job" for every little thing. It makes sense to assess the skills of the students but I think "working with them" is better than an "audition" which would be intimidating to most of us.

    Due to a sudden resignation, I once had to throw together a K-8 Spring Concert and I had a student who told me she could play the piano. Boy was that an overstatement! I didn't want to embarrass her, so I figured out how I could make a super simple part for her. I did learn my lesson, though.
  • I'd have similar policies to yours.

    But I'd never feel the need to announce or discuss them in that sort of way.

    Instead I'd say that we need to work together to make sure that it's a good experience for both you and the congregation, and when's a good time to do that work?

    I've told people before that I won't let them perform something if I'm not confident that they can both pull it off, and also recover from any mistakes they might make on the day, and that I won't let them be put in a position where they embarrass them-self. Every time so far, this has motivated them enough to practice so they were good enough.

    Sometimes this has meant going into a service with a Plan A and a Plan B.
  • Carol
    Posts: 364
    Pax Melodius, I admire the way you put your 4th paragraph! That is exactly the tone that is going to cause improvement and dedication. You may also discover a previously untapped talent in your parish.