Article I meant to cite...
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    A while back in the thread 'What helps/hurts most," I mentioned having a supportive congregation can help/hurt (if not supportive) a good music program and I mentioned an article where the author is terminated because of influential congregants. This is it
  • Oh, my. And look at the date of the article (judging by the date of the earliest comment on the thread). I was under the impression we'd "come a long way, baby," but now I find that this article could have been written by any one of us, yesterday. Just change the name of the city or diocese.

    I, for one, feel like a fellow "wanderer."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'll read it in a bit, but I will say that after 5 or 6 years of liturgical music (some more liturgical than others!), I'd like to think I've learned a lot, at least in my current job. Here's the guy's first mistake: "My first order of business is to clean up that which has preceded me." NO! Your first order of business as a new MD is NEVER to "clean up" the parish. It's to provide music for Mass given what you've got. Sometimes that's easier than other places, and if it's a challenge you can't accept then you don't. Second you get established in the community so that you're able to make the changes you need. I remember seeing on NLM a few days ago an article quoting a memo a young priest sent his new congregation about "fixing" the music. It made me laugh and think "what a naive fool! He'll be learning about the priesthood REAL quickly!"

    The fact is that you have to prioritize things. My boss, for reasons I can't disclose publicly, has essentially told me "no Latin" from now until my departure from the parish in June. And, knowing why, I think he's 100% right. Another part of this is you have to count your blessings: as tempted as we both are to whine and mope about not being able to do Latin, I pointed out that we have nothing to feel bad about. If we have no Latin, at least we'll still have an excellent cantor program, chanted propers at our early Mass, congregational introits picking up speed, and be using only the best of the western hymn repertoire. And, as my mother's parish continually shows, if your worst problems are liturgical, then you have a GREAT church.

    I'm reminded of a whiny blog post a friend made about "why do hot girls marry jerks who beat/cheat instead of me?". Someone suggested that women enter into marriages with jerky/abusive guys in an attempt to "change" them, and surprise! they beat/cheat on their wives. Well, at least in the first few paragraphs I have to say "what did you expect?" to the author. Catholic congregations are particularly and notoriously abusive towards musicians - don't expect not to get a few shiners while you're doing the work of "changing" them.

    I'll have more thoughts perhaps later in the morning when I'm done reading this.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Just finished it. It's a good article. Lots of annoying little errors (the gradual is NOT the first choice between readings in the OF!) and my BS detector kept going off. And I'd like to see more about the abuse of musicians by Catholic churches brought to light, but all in all it's a good article.

    My reaction is basically why waste your time? Is that all there is to music ministry? Like most of my opinions, this may be because I'm young, but I think that one with sufficient talent and standards CAN find a good job. It may not be in a Catholic church, but there must be good jobs out there somewhere for someone who has the talent. Tell me if there isn't, so that I can hurry up and switch my major to something with computers. I realize every church has its pitfalls, but surely the author can do better than Catholic churches? I at least intend to in my life. Tell me, seasoned veterans, is that all there is to music? Getting yelled at by washed-up old hippies and people who don't know a half note from an eight and think their opinions matter more than mine? I have to believe there's better out there, even if one has to leave the Church to find it.
  • I was glad to read the article, and believe he had some very valid points to make. I agree with you, Gavin, that he did seem to take a rather aggressive approach when he began work at a new parish. Most of the parishioners in the pews are probably just unaware that the tripe they've been hearing isn't appropriate and/or that something better is out there. It takes time, patience, charity and a lot of work to change the hearts and minds of a parish. As a paid parish musician, he has a unique opportunity to gradually make those changes, almost without the parishioners noticing, if he is a bit resourceful. If, however, he finds his efforts of even the gradual re-introduction of good stuff thwarted, then he must simply shake the dust off his feet and find another opportunity...

    I can't help believing that, in many ways, his 'wandering' can't help but be planting seeds that will bear fruit all along his way. Probably at every parish where he has been the parish Music Director, there are little pockets of people who have been infected with the sacred music 'bug'. I see his travails (and those of other like-minded DoM's ) as a way of working toward the greater good of the Church, even if it is a bit disheartening for the individuals... We have to keep our eyes on the goal!!!
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    While I appreciate the author's disappointments, I find it difficult to muster much sympathy for him. The alarm bells rang very near the beginning of the article where he states that he was on his eighth job in ten years. When someone changes jobs with that frequency, the suspicion arises that this may be someone who just possibly "does not play well with others". His subsequent discourse would seem to confirm this: he takes the bull-in-the-china-shop approach to parish musical reform. This virtually never works.

    The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stresses the need for reform to be gradual and organic. The mess we have now can be traced to the failure to observe this principle in the mad rush to embrace the so-called "spirit of Vatican II", with resultant confusion and disaffection on the part of many Catholics. Attempting to drag unwilling parishioners and pastors in an equally inorganic mad rush in the other direction is not the answer, in my opinion.

    The Church documents on the sacred Liturgy are authoritative, but stuffing them down parishioners' throats is not going to win them over to the Church's ways of thinking about the Liturgy. I am in complete agreement with most of what this musician says about the status quo, and yet I find my ire rising at his abrasive attitude; I can only imagine how it comes across to those unconverted to his cause. This approach is inherently self-defeating as it would seem to provoke reaction in the opposite direction and perpetuate the problem by more deeply entrenching the very things he seeks to change.
  • Heath
    Posts: 798
    I met the author at last year's Colloquium. Nice guy, and quiet, which seems to clash with the tone of his article. He's in a United Church of Christ "parish" now, though still a practicing Catholic, I believe. I think he felt maybe just a twinge of regret for doing the article, as the power of Google brought it up to prospective employers.

    He may be prowling around this forum . . . Michael, want to chime in? Please correct any misinformation I may have perpetuated with this post. : )
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    That isn't to say that I condemn him for taking a tough/fast approach, Janet, but I blame him for not learning anything. I often suspect my work at my church will come to naught when our orthodox priest is reassigned and the congregation gets back in control. But, if I can't say that I've accomplished anything, I will say that I've learned a lot about how to accomplish things. Give me 8 Catholic parishes in a row, and you'll have me "fixing up" the ninth in a month. Ultimately, he is right: the congregation is in control, and they luv their Haugen-Haas. And that's how it is everywhere. But at the very least, learn something about what works and what doesn't, so when the congregation does get their way you can at least do a better job with the next one.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    And while I'm patting myself on the back, I'll add that I've even changed my approach several times in the past 2 years. Why should we expect congregations to grow if we never do?
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    I might mention as well that the tone of the article reminds me a great deal of how I was 20 years ago, just starting out in Catholic church music, liturgical documents in hand, full of plans to reform the Church and purge her of musical trash (it was the St. Louis Jesuits at that time; Marty & David had not yet become universalized, much less the new crop of Lifeteen jingle-writers). I eventually learned that it can't be done by one person. J. R. R. Tolkien's words ring truer and truer as the years go by: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us". God is in charge of his Church. I think we need to be reminded of that from time to time.
  • I think we can all agree that this young man's rant was written while he was suffering a great deal of deep injury. In reading it, it's clear that he's not in need of repeated scolding, scorn or tart accusations of contributory negligence for his own bad behavior.

    Rather he is in need of something the newchurch sacro-pop music crowd, led by the likes of David Haas, like to call "formation." Of course when these folks talk about formation, they're speaking of that "everything's good, I'm OK-You're OK; feel-the-music-in-your-heart" kind of formation. I'm talking about truly valuable, mentored formation from a seasoned veteran of quality music presented in a structured environment; someone who has with great success built a program from the smoking rubble of a truly poor music program. Haas and his ilk love to talk about feelings, but what most people need is practical preparation in how to "play their game," and let's face it. . . it's a game they love to play, and they're quite good at it. They can take perfectly reasonable suggestions or presentations of solid, well-reasoned instruction from the Church and turn it on it's head in such a way that those of us who truly know better are made to sound like "backward-thinking fools; flies in amber; people committed to things that are 'too churchy.'" The scorn, abuse and dismissiveness on the part of clergy, lay staff and parishioners in many churches is a terrific sin, totally lacking in Christian charity.

    I'm also willing to bet that he, like so many of us, has faced truly irrational, poorly-educated, socially inept and professionally clumsy priests who haven't a clue how hard we work to make what we do happen, and happen well. In my career, I've only been fired once, by a newly-appointed pastor who'd never been a pastor before. After his first Mass he shouted up to the organ loft that the closing hymn was "too slow." I calmly pointed out that the tempo of the hymn really ought to be dictated by many considerations, and that in my professional judgment (having a M.M. in organ performance in my back pocket) the tempo was fairly average. His next remark? "If we're going to debate music, I'll win." Period, end of discussion. Thank you, Father. The next Saturday, when I arrived at the rectory office to check my mailbox, he asked me if I could meet with him the next day after the last Mass. I asked, calling his bluff, why? "Well, this weekend will be your last with us." I said, very calmly, "No, last Sunday was my last." I explained that I would be expecting full payment for all services played to that point, turned around and walked out. I shouldn't have been surprised, this coming from a priest who had a large Teddy Bear safety-belted into the passenger side of his car. I should also mention that this happened during his second week as pastor. In his first week, he sacked the maintenance staff and the secretary. Brilliant, just brilliant.

    We all have stories like this, and I've long-asserted that anyone who thinks that sexual abuse on the part of priests is the only problem the Church faces are whistling past the graveyard. Professional abuse, unethical treatment, failure to comply with basic standards of fair employment, emotional manipulation and yes, even physical threats (a DM friend of mine, a woman, was actually physically threatened by a priest in the sacristy immediately after a Mass) are par for the course.

    We as professionals have a lot of work to do. In close, let me share with you a quote from Prof. Marilyn Mason, organ teacher of 60 years at the University of Michigan: "Take the higher moral position. It's often the one that's unoccupied."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think our criticisms still stand. Give me 10 years of Catholic experience, and you'll have me fixing parishes in no time. There's nothing wrong with making mistakes, but there is something wrong with not learning from them. Now I've been fortunate to have had many mentors getting started. But all the protestants told me to avoid Catholic jobs. And all the Catholics told me to just give in and do what the congregation wants. Everything I've learned about Catholic parish work has come through experience and research. 4 years ago, I thought the best one can do in a Catholic parish is a single folk song during Communion and the rest organ hymns. Now I know about propers and chant and quilismas. And I think, after 2 years doing the work, I have an idea of some things that work and don't work in Catholic music.

    I'm not stupid. S**t happens, especially to Catholic musicians. I could be at my job a year and get the new priest who fires me in a week or have my orthodox priest go spineless and fire me to appease the congregation (I still say I have the best boss short of the Pope) Some of us may know of the turmoil with the great Gerre Hancock in "the" "episcopal" "church". I could have a conservative pastor on my side and then break my leg and have him fire me so that he doesn't have to wait for me to get better or quit because he tries to overwork me into daily Masses. There are a hundred and one s**ty reasons musicians don't last at Catholic churches, and maybe the author got all of them in a row. But that's not what he describes. He describes a strategy of making priority #1 change and priority #2 doing his job. And he doesn't mention learning a thing.

    When I had my blog, I'd like to think it was valuable not because I had all the answers but because people could learn with me while I worked. Jeff Tucker's comments are worthwhile because he ISN'T getting kicked out of parish after parish for doing chant, but because he's made it work. The article had a lot of good to it, but in terms of this guy's career, let's see some progress. Although things are really looking up since 2003, so I'd at least hope that he's doing better now.
  • *sigh*

    Gavin, let me be blunt.

    First of all, it's to your credit that you've done well and feel that through the blog you had that you provided some solid advice by example.

    Having said that . . .

    This young man doesn't mention learning a thing, because I suspect there wasn't anyone around him to teach him. Between NPM, whose philosophy at its core provides no real, tangible, mentoring formation and the AGO which has some really great solutions at the wrong end (i.e., their grievance process, which only helps after things go off the rails), we as a group of professionals in an admittedly quirky field have done ourselves and the young "up and comers" a great dis-service by failing to provide a "journeyman's" experience, like they did in the "craft" guilds of yore, and some fields still do, such as the plumbing and electrical fields. I'm speaking of solid opportunities for someone like this young man to have been paired up with someone like Jeffrey Tucker, on an interim basis (perhaps a two-year period) to see, up-close, "in the trenches", how to avoid the pitfalls, mistakes, troubles and controversies.

    A modern example: I don't know if it's still done this way, but for the longest time, in England when a barrister passed the bar exam, before he (or she) could actively practice law on their own, they had to be accepted as a "pupil" with a "pupil-master" assigned to him, in an active chamber of barristers. They would be voted into the chamber, and assigned to this "pupil-master" who would take the young pupil around to court, to the jails, on research, etc. Along the way, the unwritten rules, the skills they can't teach you in law school, would be passed on from pupil-master to pupil.

    We don't have this kind of dynamic available (at least not in a practical sense), and I for one would have benefited greatly from it. Granted, the kind of dynamic I'm suggesting would require time, energy, dedication, a desire to pass on the craft, and a commitment on the part of churches to set aside at least a crumb of money to make this worth-while.

    In this case I don't think "piling on" is helping to address the issue that this young man is pointing to: our lack of professional foresight to pick up the ball we dropped, lest the advice of the likes of "formation" gurus like David Haas (of Music Ministry Alive! fame) continue to be proprietors of the wisdom that win the day.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    David, I understand your point, but I really don't think I'm anyone exceptional. I have a host of music course grades and a reason for not being in college now to prove it. You yourself seem to be doing quite a bit of good at your parish, although you probably are an exceptional musician. Most of us on this board, I'd assume, have had some success in fixing up music in our careers. At no point in my formation (which I hope is only getting started) has anyone ever told me "you shouldn't switch to chant hymnody overnight in a parish." But that's likely common sense. No one ever told me "don't use the Gradual in the place of the Responsorial Psalm." But after the Sunday I did it and wound up with EVERYONE in the congregation being angry about it, I now know it. It's precisely because no one has offered me any better way to promote congregational vocal participation at Communion while being faithful to the GIRM that I came up with my idea of a "Communion Psalm". And I'll get back to you in a few more months to let you know how the Introits sung to Mundelein tones works out.

    When someone is at least 15 years older and wiser than I and has had a career for 5 years longer, I'm not at all impressed if they haven't figured out how to introduce chant hymnody without getting run out of the job. (Hint: don't waste your time, work on using propers instead) I never encountered a dearth of musicians willing to do some mentoring of noobs, as I mentioned I received a good deal of it myself. And as for folks like us, there's simply not enough of us yet. I'm sure if a high school student studying organ came to you, Jeff, Michael Lawrence, or myself in 10 years that we'd be willing to help mentor them and point them in the right direction. I think there's a fantastic spirit among CMAA folk of primarily wanting to help others. So that's not the issue.

    But in the mean time, there's still something to be said for learning from mistakes. And I've still got a lot of mistakes to make; I still have no idea how to behave in an office setting: all I know now is that if I'm working for a female pastor I shouldn't call her "babe". But I'll learn, and that's the point. To use a comparison, I'm sure you are VERY astute about hitting the general cancel immediately following any playing. And you've been like that ever since you stood on the pedal board with the Sffz on. We learn and we grow as musicians and as professionals. When someone shows me that he can't grow or learn, he loses his right to whine about the whole Church being against him, even if he is ultimately right.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Let me throw out one more good analogy that'll apply to anyone. Let's say (this isn't the case at all I assure you!) that I have a time in my life during which I have a total of 12 girlfriends, with each relationship lasting an average of a month. And then, after a messy breakup with the woman of the past week, I tell you, a friend, all about women: women only want tall men with expensive cars, they lie, women are all unfaithful, etc., and of course I say "and they're not worth my time anyway". Given that I have had 12 failed relationships, do you pay ANY attention to my rant? Doesn't that have to kind of make you look down on me a bit and say "Gosh, not only is he bad with women but he hasn't learned a thing about them after 12 of them!" There's something wrong with NOT improving your skills with women a bit after 12 in a row.

    I'm not saying anything the guy says is wrong. I just think his writing should be taken with the salt granule of him not learning anything from his positions. God help us ALL to do a little better than that.
  • G
    Posts: 1,383
    Gavin, just bear in mind that your current girlfr.... um, your pastor, is, IIRC, knowledgeable and supportive of good and appropriate music.
    Not all are, and in Michael's defense, it is not always possible to discern ahead of time who is and who isn't.
    There are remarkable numbers of girlf.... I mean, priests out there who are not; or who are on "first-date behavior" and then pull a bait and switch, as it were.
    (I think a sometime contributor here has written on his blog about several such recent work experiences which ended abruptly and unhappily.)
    And liturgically abysmal parishes do seem, at least IME, to be concentrated in certain areas, so I don't find it at all unlikely that one could find oneself in fairly quick succession in a dozen such parishes, all in the same deanery, and all suffering from a lack of decent liturgical leadership that would make a new MD tear his hair out.

    And what did you mean by this, I am confused: "but surely the author can do better than Catholic churches? I at least intend to in my life."


    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,529
    Gavin's analogy between jobs and girlfriends only extends so far. Girlfriends don't routinely have their heads replaced, but parishes do. We probably all know music directors who have done very good work and lost their posts after a new pastor arrived.

    I suppose the best thing I can do to calibrate my expectations is to replay Professor Mahrt's introductory talk from the '07 colloquium: in it he spoke about the slow spade-work of making the music of the Mass more beautiful over a period of years. Beauty and dignity are essential; everything else, including Latin and traditional ceremonial, will have to follow in due course. It seems so much harder to build than to destroy.

    To return to the original thought of this thread for a moment: is it possible that we parishioners who support traditional church music are letting slip opportunities to influence our parishes? If a handful of vociferous complaints can lead to the destruction of a good music program, how much good could we do with some salutary advice for pastors and music directors? Is it possible that we have been too polite and too tolerant of abuses?
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I do think it only fair to remember that the original article in question was written several years ago. I know Michael as a fine musician and an enjoyable individual. He's probably mellowed quite a bit over time. However, not all of us are cut out to "gradualists." For some, it's temperamentally impossible. For others, it will seem like a betrayal of principles. For those with the capacity to persevere, it's a difficult path.

    "Beauty and dignity are essential." Ah, there's the rub in many parishes. Sadly, in many places it seems as though neither of those are considered liturgical essentials. It's very difficult to bring those qualities into worship services that have declined into a get-together of like-minded people celebrating their like-mindedness. Of course, there is always the prospect of a priest coming in and turning a bad music program on its head. That must happen somewhere.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "If a handful of vociferous complaints can lead to the destruction of a good music program, how much good could we do with some salutary advice for pastors and music directors?"

    I'm not terribly open to "advice" at this point from any non-musicians. BUT thanking those of us trying to do work for what we do goes farther than you can imagine.
  • Beth
    Posts: 53
    I happen to be a friend of Mr. Michael ,and must say that I find humor in what he wrote 5 years ago. I do not take all of it too seriously, considering it was written on the emotional aftershocks of being fired. What seems to be lacking is perspective.
    5 Years,
    the man is older,
    happy in his current job which is a Ucc church,
    and remains a devout Catholic.
    Michael is sensitive to pastoral concerns regarding music, and even keeps myself in check when I build my soap box a little too high.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,529
    Gavin wrote:
    "I'm not terribly open to "advice" at this point from any non-musicians. BUT thanking those of us trying to do work for what we do goes farther than you can imagine."

    I'm sure you inspire thanks!

    Alas, most of the musicians in my suburban church just make me want to encourage them -- to get lessons.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    **...taking a deep breath...saying 'Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...and a good 'Act of Contrition'.**

    We're all in this together. We all want good music. Keep the Faith. Keep on 'truckin.' Have you hugged your child
    today? '...The long a winding Road, that leads...' It's all uphill from here. You guys are the best! You give
    me strength because you really care. Never give up. Thanks u'all!