Parish hires non-musician to run music
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    This discussion was created from comments split from: Anglican Chant for us Romans.
  • All of my good intentions and hard work just went down the drain. The parish just hired a music "coordinator"/choir director with no musical training. At a meeting last night, this very nice person told all of us that she was no in charge and we would have to do what (s)he wanted or quit! The "Mass of Glory" setting by Hurd/Canedo is now to be done at every mass. It's written for piano and band and is supposed to be played with a "gospel swing". Sure. It'll be splendid on the organ....NOT! And, this new person will choose all of the music for every liturgy.

    When my cantor asked if we could continue with the Propers....well you should have seen the blank look on the faces of the coordinator & the Deacon. They hadn't a clue. I don't know if I want to scream, cry, or go play in traffic!

    If only there was an Anglican Use parish nearby.....

    (Sorry for the rant).
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Steve, I'm sorry for what you're going through. Many of us have been in very similar situations. The optimist in me prays that you will be able to 'educate' the new director, but if that proves difficult or impossible, think about your alternatives. Soon.
  • Thanks, Gregp. I see that I'm in good company. While there may be positive things by having a music coordinator, I'm at a total loss as to why the parish would hire someone with no musical training. She admits it, proudly! What she wants is for people to leave mass "happy". She said to the cantors & other musicians that if we didn't like the music or the way she is going to run things, then we can quit!

    She, the Deacon and most likely the Pastor don't have clue #1 about sacred music and liturgy. Unbelievable to my simple mind. I'm going to start looking for another position, now!
  • Expressing utter astonishment and dismay at the preposterous and irrational cannot really be called a rant. Your predicament is lamentable. Only in the Catholic Church, I think, would a person 'with no musical training' be appointed to oversight of music. I have seen advertisements in The American Organist for Catholic music directors which said things like 'ability to read music helpful'... but not really necessary.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Prayers for you, Steve. I hope you find something better. .
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    Steve,

    I extend my deepest sympathies to you. It is impossible for a non musician to direct and train a choir, much less to give direction to the professional sitting at the organ. Does this person have any training in liturgy? How did she manage to be hired for such a position?

    I have seen this problem in some parishes here in my diocese. In my experience, this cannot last. We let bakers make our bread. We ask doctors to treat us when we are ill. Liturgical musicians are no less experts than doctors, lawyers or engineers. I wonder if your parish would hire an inexperienced person as its cook or plumber. Again, my sympathies go out to you and I will keep you in my prayers.
  • The only parish job I've resigned was a situation where the choir director wasn't a trained musician. It was a very painful experience.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597
    Where are you located?

    Have you considered a warmer climate?
  • Sorry to say this, Steve but it appears that leaving Mas "happy" is exactly what the Pastor wants. This new DM pretender is going to be great for PR, but detrimental to real liturgy.
  • The trouble is that there are no musicians running parish music. I've got one serious diva of a cantor who only sings two masses per month, who cannot sing the D on the 4th line of the treble stave, and struggles to sing the C. She got used to picking whatever songs she liked on Saturday afternoon and really didn't like being told that she had to have them planed a couple of weeks in advance so that I could practice the organ accompaniment (she also asked if the organ has a piano sound.) She didn't like traditional hymns. So I played the contemporary hymns that she wanted and then the complaint was that I play them too high for her to sing.

    I told her that the new organ will have an automatic transposer, and she responds that her pianist (who hasn't been seen in 4 months) transposes to suit her voice automatically. Now she has asked someone to come and play the guitar (without getting permission from either the Parish Priest or Music Co-ordinator.) She also waited just until the parish priest had gone overseas for a month to spring this one on everybody.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    Steve, I am so sorry.

    Have you considered befriending these two ignorami (can't help it, the Epistle of James is running in my head,) and doing a kind of document drop?

    Email them, inundate them with a new extract from the GIRM, various encyclicals, chirographs, constitutions, maybe highlighting important facts or terms with which they may be unfamiliar every day, maybe with questions.
    Ask advice about, or inquire as to their preferences in tempi, keys, rhythmic harmony, registration...

    If you don't manage to educate them, you may at least alert them to the depth of their ignorance, and change their hearts.

    It didn't work for me in a similar situation, but it might have given me a bit of perverse pleasure.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
    Thanked by 1SteveBosworth
  • I've got one serious diva of a cantor who only sings two masses per month, who cannot sing the D on the 4th line of the treble stave, and struggles to sing the C.


    Sounds like someone I've got as well. Unfortunately, you cannot change this person's mind in terms of what they want to do. They feel they are the expert, and know EXACTLY how to do their job (which they probably do, but they're only ever going to be able to do what they can do right now, which is probably all they care about). It's frustrating to deal with cantors like that, and I feel for you. Although you may change this person's behavior, you will never change their attitude. That's been my experience YMMV.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    I think the question is less "how" did she manage to get hired, but rather "why" was she hired?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    I suppose that people in the congregation who want better church music have to learn to sound off to the pastor and be the squeaky wheel as much as the clueless people whom the pastor is already hearing.
  • So you are a parishioner? And the newly hired staff person for music said "It's going to be my way, or you can quit?"

    Ohhhhhhh the field day you can have with this! You are now more powerful than you can imagine.

    Start an e-mail campaign; a Facebook campaign; start working the telephone lines. Talk to every single parishioner who you can get face time with. Encourage EVERYONE that - although they and you don't always agree on exact music choices - surely everyone can agree that an arrogant, divisive staff member is the LAST thing your parish needs! What the parish needs is UNITY.

    If this is an especially liberal and/or activist minded parish, be sure to throw in the fact that this smacks of authoritarianism and clericalism, which is totally ignoring the needs of the community in favor of one person's vision.

    Point out that "all the members of the choir are now going to quit, if for no other reason than the attitude of the director." Oh, yeah - encourage them all to do just that.

    This isn't a bad thing for you. You're going to come out on top.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    NO.
  • Yes?
  • Let me be clear.

    A new "coordinator," "director," whatever who says, at the beginning of her tenure "If you don't like the way I'm doing things, you can quit," should be run out on a rail immediately.

    I don't care if said director is an Eastman trained organist and polyphony expert or a guitar strumming self taught "musician."

    To manifest an attitude like that from the get-go ... Is inappropriate. And she needs to go. And the Pastor needs to be convinced that this is the case.

    I've been at my place four years, and I enjoy the backing of a strong Pastor with the same vision. And I would never in a million years actually say the words "If you don't like it, quit" to anyone.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    You don't combat bad behavior by organizing an uprising. For one thing, it turns the parish into a bed of scandal. For another thing, it's sort of like arming the Mujahadeen. What happens to the next person who comes in and tries to do something good?
  • "If you don't like it, quit"
    =
    Unprofessional and BULLYING

    Was the pastor there to hear her say that? I'd be in his office ASAP. I'd want to know why she was hired. I might be asking about how diocesan HR would respond to this...

    Really sorry to hear you are on the receiving end of this, but I think you might have a few charitable and professional angles of resistance while you are looking for another job.

    Totally agreed with Chonak's 6am comment. You can encourage people to do something positive, and speak their mind.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen kenstb
  • Yes MaryAnn.

    Adam, however it's done, she does need to go.

    Like I said, someone with an actual tenure somewhere shouldn't speak like that - let alone a brand new hire.

    Imagine - "The new pastor arrived at St. Mary's with a message: If you don't like what I do here, leave." Uh yeah. That's how things should be done.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    "The new pastor arrived at St. Mary's with a message: If you don't like what I do here, leave."

    You have never heard that done. I have, actually. A number of times. And sometimes it was the best thing that happened to the parish.

    Be careful what you wish for......
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    There is nothing Christian about PGA's advice above.

    Don't let that dissuade you, but it still should be pointed out.
  • There is nothing un-Christian about it either.

    Fine, you really want it above board? Call a meeting, get everyone together, Pastor, music director, and say "The way that you have conducted yourself since you got here is arrogant and divisive. What do you have to say for yourself and what does Father think about this? We've chosen to do this rather than talk behind your back."

    Being Christian doesn't mean just saying "oh, ok" and going home.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • Kevin, Yep, I've heard it done. The pastor often loses half the congregation, sometimes is removed.

    A bishop in a neighboring state did exactly that with his diocese. About two years later, he resigned from the episcopacy - at something like the ripe old age of 60, give or take - and stepped down "for the good of the diocese" and so that there could be "peace in the diocese."
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    Not necessarily. In some cases the priest was sent there to clean up a mess. Dictatorships have their merit sometimes. There are three in an un-named diocese that I know. They are doing very well.

    It all depends on the personality. Don't paint with such a broad brush.
  • donr
    Posts: 940
    I told a member of the choir that if they didn't like the way I do things they could leave.
    All I got was complaining to the other singers and to the pastor ... for a while, now I have a great group of singers with no attitudes. It was the best thing I ever did.
  • Yes you are correct. I could imagine the scenarios where this would be called for. Such scenarios are also few and far between and even then should be handled with the utmost care and sensitivity, probably to the point of clueing in the bishop and making sure he agrees with the plans for how things will be handled.
  • Donr, did you use those words?

    I've told people that I have a vision and that we might have to agree to disagree. That might be a better way of saying it than "if you don't like it, leave."
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Steve, look for something better as you smile and try to be charitable. Then shake the dust off your sandals as you leave and commit the place and its staff to God. I seriously doubt you can reform the staff. My guess is the new person is doing what the pastor wants.
    Thanked by 1kevinf
  • And should the pastor be allowed, unchecked, to use that tact? If it were me I'd say "this is MY parish, not yours, Father. I can outlast you."

    Nothing un-Christian or wrong with that.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Nothing un-Christian or wrong with that.


    No, there isn't, but...do you think this battle worth fighting? What will the stress and strain do to your health and wellbeing. Will you be spiritually undamaged if you stay and fight? Do you need the income from a better job in less stressful surroundings? All good questions to ask.
  • Well I'm operating on the assumption that the OP is a parishioner, isn't he? This isn't a full time job. If it's a job, then yeah, you move on. If it's your parish, I think you fight.
    Thanked by 1Spriggo
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    It is important to remember that we are attempting to win souls for Christ using the gift of music. I have found that threats and bullying (which are more present than we might like to think) only cause division. In the end, all of us learned what we know about liturgy and music from someone who took the time to teach us. We for our part, took the time and effort to learn this craft and to use our gifts for Christ. While it is impossible to teach anyone who thinks that they know everything, perhaps this is an opportunity to politely introduce the choir director to the rubrics and to use patience rather than to react with the same ignorance that she has shown.
  • It is a hard reality, but sometimes the ministry might be better without certain people in it. Either that, or certain people should be limited in how they can serve as a musician. Example: if a cantor isn't a team player, they probably shouldn't also be in the choir (although really, cantors SHOULD also be in the choir, but if he/she isn't a team player, they often won't work out very well).
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Each of us is ultimately accountable only for our own individual behaviors, responses and decisions. As francis often reminds us, we each and all are known by name to the Trinity and already knows what has been in our heart from moment one. So, I see a simple case of which most of us have seen many times of an overwrought pastor making an ill-conceived and likely expedient decision with this unskilled (in many more ways than music) person taking a leadership position.
    We can wax prolific as in the past we have, and offer all sorts of advice and solutions, but in the end, all those affected will make their own choices on how to respond to this negative stimulus. When they do, they should be mindful of last Sunday's gospel.
  • Regarding the op and the church hiring a music coordinator with no music training, brings to mind sacrosanctum concilium:

    115. Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music.
  • the coordinator & the Deacon


    The pastor wasn't there? The deacon was?

    This person was hired to clean house by a priest who doesn't have the !@#$ to do it himself. It's that simple.

    This indicates that there are people who the pastor wants out of the choir loft.

    Steve, you HAVE played in traffic.

    This is such a typical CATHOLIC situation unfortunately.

    This isn't a bad thing for you. You're going to come out on top.

    Um, no he's not. And if he follows your advice he will never work in that diocese again.

    PGA, are you working in a parish at the present time and what is your position? It's be interesting to know to better understand where you are coming from.
  • My understanding is that he's not paid staff - or if he is paid, he's basically a parishioner paid to play one mass, or something like that. But I thought it's his parish.

    As I said above, if he's a paid, professional musician - assistant director, staff musician, whatever, then my advice changes.

    My advice assumed he is a PARISHIONER of the parish in question.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • Many thanks to all of you for your sympathies and advice! Our Monsignor Pastor is very hands off and has given many of his duties to this new Deacon. This guy went to Seminary for 3 years and quit...for reasons he won't say. He claims that he knows a lot about liturgy...but he didn't have a clue what a Proper is, nor did the new DoM.

    Anyway, this was my parish, (we've since moved) and I play only for the Saturday Vigil mass and I'm paid (I play at a Lutheran church on Sundays). Actually, I'm paid more than any of the other musicians (2X more). However, they pay me as a sub-contractor, not as an employee, which could be a big problem for them in the near future.

    Somehow, the other organist, found out how much I'm paid. He was mightily P.O'd. and he started some B.S. campaign against me right before Christmas. He portrayed me as some traditionalist who was out to overthrow the whole music program. I think Noel is right...they want me out of the loft. This isn't a battle, just a P.I.T.A. If these people want junk well, they can have it. I've already started to look for another church job.

    Thanks again to everyone, and please pardon my abbreviated expletive's.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • MatthewJ,

    I'm in Southern California.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597
    Too humid. Come to Phoenix.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Well then if it's more trouble than it's worth to you and you don't have strong "paternal" feelings toward the place as "your parish" then yeah, just leave. Sounds like you don't need them and can just go somewhere else.
  • Steve, I'm sorry the parish is handling the sacred liturgy in this way.
    And I'm sorry you're in the recieving end of an unworkable solution.
    Sounds like one of those "Father X heard 4 loud complaints and now wants someone else to handle it" scenarios. Argh. Been there.

    Whatever you decide, I'm glad to know there's an organist on this forum with liturgical savvy in southern CA.

    I'm in San Diego, at St. Anne Church. Come to think of it, it has been rather humid in the city the last few years. But it's the traffic that irks me- just a little bit. :)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Steve, I'm in the Central Valley of CA. 23 years at current parish (actually 4 parishes.)
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    Actually, come to think of it, we have a "manager of musicians" at our parish who is not a trained musician. But he just organizes musicians and prevents us (musicians) from annoying one another too much. We have five Masses and various cantors or groups at each of them. He doesn't get involved with choosing music and was put in place because the poor pastor was elderly and didn't want to deal with the bickering.
  • The saga continues. I had a 1 hour talk with the new DoM today. She is a very nice lady who does have an agenda, however she is very open to alternatives. I've calmed down quite a bit and have decided that I'll give a good try to enlighten her with church documents on sacred music and liturgy. I'll dole out the honey in small doses so that maybe she'll digest it and act accordingly. Actually, we're in agreement on several issues and I hope we can be in full agreement with a little enlightenment.

    Regarding that "gospel-swing" mass. I told the DoM that since it was written for piano & guitar, it is impossible to play on our present organ. (If only I had a Hammond!) I asked if I could adapt the music to make it work and she agreed. So, I have now taken the "gospel-swing" and turned it into something much more reasonable and singable.

    Many thanks to each and everyone for your kind words, support and prayers. I certainly hope that things will work out.
  • Interesting that 'she is a very nice lady...', agenda included! I've found that quite a few otherwise objectionable persons are 'very nice' people: once you fully understand that if you don't like their agenda you can leave. Still, I hope that your new-found hopefulness isn't, after all, ill-founded.
  • Steve,

    You may just be one of those rare people that can turn a "sow's ear into a silk purse." If she's willing to take some suggestions / guidance from a "real" musician then you might possibly have a cordial working relationship. I'm sure she's very aware of her lack of basic music skills, and probably feels threatened by you.....which means you may have the upper hand. It won't take very many rehearsals and liturgies to discover than she doesn't know what she's doing. If, in the long run, this situation doesn't work itself out, some dioceses have an "Office for Worship", usually run by priest. He will understand all of the "ins and outs" of music and liturgy....including the guidelines for hiring DOM's.
    I hope you don't have to take it that far, and that she will walk beside you and learn what you have to offer. If not, make yourself a bowl of popcorn, sit back and watch the show. I'm sure it will have a "short run." :) Best wishes.
  • I'm not sure if a pastor who is too hands off is worse than one who is too hands on. I would venture to say the former, although my pastor is very hands on and makes life difficult at times, but at least we're on the same page. He doesn't pretend to be a musician, but has a definite agenda as to where the music should be.

    We're not here to wish that people have short runs, but, rather, to bring sacred music back into the church. I can say that in my parish, which has had definite opinions about NOT liking what I've brought in terms of sacred music, people are now beginning to sing the dreaded hymnody, and even learning some chants. At the beginning, I tried quoting all the papal encyclicals on sacred music, only to be shut down. So, I tried just playing the music and letting the chips fall where they may. While some people were VERY loud about their dislikes, others took a look at themselves and at the music and began to trun around.

    The bottom line is that we are called to be servant leaders, and if that means eating a piece of humble pie to some musical ignoramus who has been put in charge of music, then so be it. In the long run, things will turn around.

    God bless to all. Nobody ever said this profession would be easy.