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Work week for new church music director

Looking for ideas of what a work week should look like for a full-time church music director. What type of activities should days consist of? Rehearsals, score study, new music search, lessons, meetings, etc... Any insight or ideas would be most helpful. 
Replies (14): Threaded | Chronological
on February 25, 2016 5:11am
I'm not sure this is what you are looking for, but having done such work for about 10 years, I HIGHLY recommend that you make Fridays your day off so that you can have two-day "weekends" (Friday-Saturday) like your non-church-working friends. It also has the benefit of requiring everything for the Sunday services to be completed before the last minute.
 
Tom Bookhout
Applauded by an audience of 4
on February 26, 2016 6:59pm
Thanks for the advice. The general theme I'm finding is to take a break at some point. Thanks again! 
on February 25, 2016 5:43am
This may be a bit useful. Starting on page 5, it lists typical duties of a church musician.
 
 
And here's a fairly comprehensive guidebook.
 
 
on February 26, 2016 7:02pm
Thanks! I downloaded both of the files for my records.
on February 25, 2016 10:49pm
You don't mention whether you are also the organist, although I'd guess the majority of full-time church musicians are, and I have been throughout my career. So right there you should plan at least 10 hours a week practicing at the organ and piano.
 
For your ensembles: plan to have weekly prep time for each of your rehearsals equivalent to the length of that rehearsal. If your adult choir rehearsal lasts 90 minutes, you need 90 minutes of prep time for it. EVEN MORE for children's rehearsals, which I find must be planned down to the minute.
 
I disagree with the recommendation to take Fridays off, again particularly if you are the organist. I find that there is no way I can even remember what I chose for Sunday morning, let alone play it, if the last time I saw it was Thursday afternoon. I've always taken Mondays off. Sundays are exhausting for me and I need the rest! It's just part of the territory of being a church worker that you don't get a two-day back to back weekend. I take Monday and either Friday OR Saturday, depending on what's going on at the church any given week.
 
Make sure everyone knows and understands that you will not have 9-5 office hours. Presumably most of your rehearsals are in the evenings, plus you work on weekends. Other than Tuesday, when we have a 9 am staff meeting, I am never at church before noon on a weekday.
 
Beyond all that: Yes, you'll have meetings. Endless emailing. Planning, both long and short term. Submitting bulletin materials to the secretary by her/his deadline-- if you don't actually produce the bulletins yourself; some musicians do. Proofreading the bulletin before it is printed. Writing newsletter articles and council reports. Teaching classes (adult ed, retirees, women's circles). Managing the music library.  Lunch and coffee dates to get to know your church members. Team building with the other staff. A stunning amount of setting up and rearranging chairs.
 
But it's all the most amazing fun... even with all the chair moving! I've been at this 20+ years and still look forward to almost every day!
 
Tim Getz
Grace Lutheran Church
Palo Alto, CA
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 26, 2016 12:19pm
Yes to Mondays off. As a Catholic, Saturday's a work day, too, so if I get a "weekend," it's mostly likely Monday-Tuesday.  Sometimes I stay home 'till Wednesday! Sometimes I have 12 hour days.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 26, 2016 7:05pm
"Really enjoyed your thoughts! Thanks. Really appreciate this section...
Make sure everyone knows and understands that you will not have 9-5 office hours. Presumably most of your rehearsals are in the evenings, plus you work on weekends. Other than Tuesday, when we have a 9 am staff meeting, I am never at church before noon on a weekday.
 
Beyond all that: Yes, you'll have meetings. Endless emailing. Planning, both long and short term. Submitting bulletin materials to the secretary by her/his deadline-- if you don't actually produce the bulletins yourself; some musicians do. Proofreading the bulletin before it is printed. Writing newsletter articles and council reports. Teaching classes (adult ed, retirees, women's circles). Managing the music library.  Lunch and coffee dates to get to know your church members. Team building with the other staff. A stunning amount of setting up and rearranging chairs."
on February 26, 2016 10:46am
Good thoughts here.
As I prepared for interviewing, I pondered what myself,  and other Music Ministers I've observed, might have done more frequently in past positions, in order to be highly effective:
(This may sound like simply un-requested advice.  It is meant as a suggested reminder-list of the things you may need to allow time for.). Some things, like #s 2 and 5. I simply did not edit; they may be helpful.  Ignore, , if you prefer.
1. Always have 2 adults w children or youth.  Always!  ( You'll need time to call/ procure these folks, or be sure keyboard artist will take over while you step out with Little Darling who has An Issue. ;)
2. Start warm-ups in the middle of their range.
3. Unless it's someone else's job, meet w artists and theatre-dance people to plan worship enhancements.  Get some color in there, if your worship space is drab.
4. Have a Hymn of the month. (Week one: solo it; wk. 2, choir; wk. 3 choirs sings vs. 1-3, all sing 4; wk 4, All sing all)
 5. No "pull-down" of mouth. (Over-covering kills brilliance and makes them work/push too hard.  Communicates grumpiness.)
6. Positive talk; no making fun of ....(Plan how you will introduce/encourage this)
7. Audition solos. Tell them, privately, in a very supportive-loving way,  what they might work on.
8. Publish an Anthem schedule that tells who sings when, and what will be sung - include instrumental offerings.  Little phrases/ blurbs about topic/sermon on anthem schedule.  Do this as far ahead as possible, as you may need a sub if you or a relative (God please forbid, but Life happens) becomes ill.
9. Blurbs for church newsletter about music, composers, soloists [child, adult, professional] activities, etc.
10. Go on the church website occasionally,  as if you are a member searching for a church...a choir.  What could be changed to be more effective?
11. Go on www.choral.net.org. .... as you have wisely done.  Continue doing so regularly.
12. Give music to collaborative keyboard artist (accompanist). Ahead.  Well-marked with your interpretation.  Rehearse ahead with them.
Become skilled [if you are not already] with Finale or a composition program.  You'll have to arrange/re-write parts, [esp. for youth choir boys] occasionally]
13. ( This should have been # 2). Read and heed Marie Gras Amenta's Choral Etiquette on this site.
14. Find adult and children/youth anthems.  Singing together builds community and commitment. (This can connect well with Hymn of the Month; have a children's refrain or verse, youth verse, etc.)

15. Publish office hours - times you will discuss music, personal quibbles, pastoral/music issues
        theatre planning, dance,  what will be sung for Ladies Circle, times you are not available....
16. Smile a lot
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 26, 2016 7:09pm
I really appreciate you're reply. I will definitely be referring back to it. Thanks a million!
on February 26, 2016 12:24pm
This is entirely related to one's personality, but I find I have to make it a point to do music practice first when I start my work day. Admin can easily swallow up the day! Besides being musically prepared, and doing the important stuff when you're at your sharpest, it's good to start with inspiration and remember why all the admin even needs to be done.  I start with voice then keyboards, etc. "Schedule recapitulates phylogeny." : )
Applauded by an audience of 3
on February 26, 2016 7:10pm
Nothing but agreement from me! Thanks
on February 27, 2016 7:10am
All great advice above.
 
Try to avoid those 12 hour days. If you have a midweek choir rehearsal in the evening, that day begins after noon. Post your hours, and be sure that the 9-5 staff understand why you're not always around. Actually, most of that group will have odd schedules including Saturday and Sunday tasks as well.
Treat the volunteers with care - a happy volunteer sticks around. Make their life easy, make sure they always know what they're supposed to be doing.
Take 2 solids days off a week. Any church large enough to employ a full-time music director will have a weekly staff meeting, where the previous service will be digested and the next one fine tuned. You need to be there, and that will affect one of your days off.
If you're confident that getting ready on Friday and then taking Saturday off will work for you, do so and have a day off when the rest of the world does. But, be aware that Saturdays will be the day that everyone else will want a piece of you - wedding couples, rehearsals with instrumentalists, etc. So, Friday might be a better day.
Count Sunday morning as a full day, especially if you're doing multiple services with different music. You've earned the rest of the day off.
You cannot overestimate the time you will spend on various administrative things along with your own preparation. In my current job I put together a custom Psalm for the choir every week, usually Anglican chant along with a refrain pulled from various sources. Just that can take me 5-6 hours. (this gets easier as you go around the liturgical cycle since they do repeat, but the first time is a time sink.)
To keep track of things, I start a folder for each upcoming week, working 6-8 weeks out, and I put everything in the folder as its finished, my copy of the anthem, psalm, service planning sheet, etc. And I have a spreadsheet where I tick off everything as it goes into the various folders. For example, the first thing I usually do is print out the readings for each week since they form the basis of the rest of my planning, and they go into each folder. Then I might choose all the anthems at once, etc. Keeps me sane. I tend to work by season, so I'll do all of advent sometime in October.
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 27, 2016 11:08am
Wonderful that you are thinking about this, rather than just being reactive!
 
Some of this will be reiteration of what others have said, but after 2+ decades of this kind of work, here is my advice:
 
1. Have a day off, at least one, that is yours and absolutely sacrosanct, during which you will not show your face at the church or respond to emails; make sure the full staff knows what day that is. (Beyond that, as others have said, it is often a personality issue.  I personally would prefer to work 6 usually-shorter days in a week, or 4 and two half-days, than necessarily have a two-day weekend...to each their own.) ("Absolutely sacrosanct," of course, unless your day off is normally Friday and it's Good Friday, when you pretty much will have to work. :-) That said, make sure you find and take another day to make up for it.)
2. Keep your own running time-sheet of how much you work and on what you spend your time--the purpose of this is twofold: first, it enables you to watch your own boundaries, and if you find yourself working ridiculous numbers of hours every week you need to attend to that to whatever extent possible. Second, we who work odd hours often hear under-the-breath references among 9-5 staffers to "we never know when (s)he's going to be in here" with the implication that we're not actually working full time; having it in writing helps, even if it's only one's own righteous spirit that gets to benefit. :-) And you never know when you'll be asked. Also, if you have a two-week period when you find yourself working 60 hour weeks, keep in mind this means you probably ought to try for a 20-hour week or two to balance things out.
3. As stated by others: schedule your practice time, and stick to it; schedule your rehearsal prep time, and stick to it. These will be the first things that will fall by the wayside as the administrative detail encroaches on your professional life.  (Disclosure: this is a "do as I say, not as I do" piece of advice. But it's a good one, and I ought to start following it myself.)
4. Decide upon and post official and consistent "office hours" when you will be at your desk onsite working. To whatever extent possible, match these hours with the times when the largest number of other church staff are onsite working as well. If you can, limit desk work, scheduling, administration, and emailing to those hours.
5. Avoid, if you can, morning meetings on days when you have a night rehearsal; our choral rehearsals, assuming you are the choir director, are probably one of THE most important things we ever do in our job, and all too often we find ourselves doing them exhausted at the end of a long day, when we are not our best. 
 
None of this exactly answers your initial question about "a week in the life"--I know for myself, though, if/when I don't attend to the above, my work week becomes an endless cycle of scheduling, meetings, emails, coordination, and everything but music-making. I would suspect that once you set aside the time you need for these things, plus actual services and rehearsals, the rest of your schedule (and then some!) will rapidly fill with the dreaded administrivia that makes up so much of this kind of job.
 
I also (and this is sort of another topic and I'm curious on others' takes on it) work very hard to keep myself to a regular 40-45-hour work week. The job is never actually done, and there is always more work to do, but if I'm habitually working 50-60 hours a week, then either I'm not doing my work efficiently or the job I'm attempting to do requires more than one person to adequately accomplish it, and an additional part time person, or administrative help, should be considered by church leadership. (See #2 above.) The burnout level for church musicians is alarmingly high, I suspect because many of us have a tendency to work ourselves into the ground and neglect our own self-care. Boundaries are crucial, and martyrdom is easy to fall into, but the fact that you're asking the questions is a great sign.
 
Peace,
Jennifer Budziak
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 2, 2016 5:25pm
I double-applaud this!
 
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