I’ve done my share of choir directing in church, plus playing organ for weddings. I belong to the Greek Orthodox church and thus, my being a singer makes me a desirable candidate for choir directing. My organ skills are modest but they suit the Orthodox church well since the weddings do not involve lots of music or big music as in the Roman Catholic or Protestant churches.
That being said, when you read this first paragraph, you already know that as a professional musician, I know what I can do and what is not my strength. Anyone who has become their own business and attained a level of achievement qualifying them to go into business and make a difference in their craft, understands this very well as they think the same way. What is it then about music in church that makes everyone feel they are somehow an expert on the subject? As a voice teacher with a Master’s Degree in the stuff, please don’t tell me it’s because you sing. Ummm…no!
Plus, there are real rules and job descriptions for employees of churches which need to be respected and followed, at least if the church expects to keep good musicians in their employ. This is something church people don’t quite seem to understand…the parameters of someone’s job. For example, it’s not ok to steamroll over an organist so you can have your aunt’s sister’s son’s girlfriend’s acquaintance play a wedding when the proper protocol is that the church organist plays all weddings and funerals, unless indisposed, at which point the organist will find someone for you. It is also not ok to have another choir director conduct choir behind the current choir director’s back or the priest’s back. That’s just ugly! So you get the point…people have to follow proper protocol, and in every employment situation, not only church. “I want what I want” doesn’t give you the right to bulldoze over someone else’s job and benefits, and profession. All it serves is to make you look like an ass. A well-deserved description.
It’s no joke when one becomes an artist and goes into business for themselves. We are our own business. We have to set ground rules for ourselves and stick to them, no matter how wonderful some of the people you engage with are and how much they feel for you, and want to work with you. If the situation basically stinks and doesn’t define how you operate, in my case how I make music, time to go! And it’s too bad because a person’s love for church and wanting to make beautiful music in it falls on literally deaf ears when every untrained wannabe is there to be sure you don’t succeed!
I’ve written several blogs on this type of situation. It’s quite common in church jobs, and I am in no way the only person who has gone through a rancid situation nor have I endured the worst of them! But it gives a disturbing picture of how professionals are viewed by religious organizations.
So I unapologetically advise all of you independent artists out there to feel as confident and proud as you can of what you are and what you do. Stick to your principles of who you are and at what level you perform. Don’t back down or compromise with those who have no understanding of what gifts you bring to the table and moreover, don’t want to. You’ve worked hard and done your homework. You will find your niche. And you will be who you were meant to be.
Pep-talk here, for me and as well as you. So now, carry on!