It is often at Christmas that church music directors pull out all the stops—and all the special musicians. Special musicians, whether they are singers or instrumentalists, are usually willing to share their talents at this festive time of year. But how can church music directors engage these other musicians all year round?
Special musicians can add a lot to a service, and it is great to have them ready and willing to participate throughout the year. The following are some things to consider when thinking about engaging these musicians all year.
For many years, I have participated in music at the various churches I attended. One of the reasons I was eager to help out was because I had become friends with the other musicians. Be sure to build camaraderie among your musicians any way you see fit. This could include hosting a meal or small party at a volunteer’s house after a Christmas performance. Or you could provide some food and snacks after a rehearsal to give your musicians a brief time to eat, drink, and socialize.
Be Flexible and Cheerful
Although we of course want others to respect our time, be prepared to adjust your schedule a little to accommodate the needs of your musicians. Musicians have many commitments around the holidays, such as family events and traveling in addition to performing at church. It makes a better experience for musicians to work with someone good-natured who is willing to work around their schedules. This encourages them to want to help out again.
After a busy Christmas season, it is important to gather feedback from your musicians. What worked for them? What did they enjoy? What could have made their experience better? Emailing an online survey after the performance or placing a paper survey on each musician’s stand beforehand are two easy ways to gather this information. Listen carefully and generously and make notes for the times to come.
Check Musicians’ Interest Levels after Christmas
As you plan ahead, keep in mind how much each musician may want to perform. Professional musicians who will be paid may be eager to return whenever you ask. Some nonprofessionals perform at multiple churches around the holidays as well, and they may feel overcommitted if they are asked to perform at church several times immediately after Christmas. Understand where each musician is at. Pay attention to whether they are indicating willingness to perform often or if they are pulling back as if they need some time off.
Keeping in mind the feedback you received and where you gauge individual musicians’ interest levels to be, look ahead to upcoming days on which you might want to engage the same musicians. Talk to them as soon as you have an idea of which days you might want them, especially looking to Lent and Easter. Let them know exactly what you might want of them and try to use their skills in the best capacities. Even if you can’t provide a detailed plan of when you will need special musicians, providing a basic outline will give your musicians an idea of how they might plan their year to accommodate your requests.
Although it is often difficult to involve and retain special church musicians year-round, hopefully these tips will give you a starting point at which to begin planning your recruitment of special musicians.