Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Current Position

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I have recently accepted a new job, to begin in July. Before I give the details on the new place, I'd like to give you some background on my current position.

I took the job here approximately 3 years ago. The parish is one of the smaller ones in the diocese actually, about 600 families. The demographics are very diverse: I would estimate about 65 percent caucasian, 25 percent african-american, and 10 percent other (mostly filipino and hispanic). In my adult choir, for example, I have about 8 caucasians, 2 african-americans, 1 from the Caribbean, 1 from Africa, and 1 of Hawaiian descent. The upside to the diverse population is that the crowd is very accepting of all different styles of music; gospel, contemporary, traditional, chant, etc. The downside is that a mix of styles is expected, which has been more difficult as my liturgical sensibilities have changed.

The parish is wonderful in that it is small enough that I know most of the people now and they are extremely warmhearted and appreciative of what I do, yet large enough that they can afford to pay me:) 3 masses on the weekends, about 12 funerals a year, 4 weddings, 1 adult choir, 1 seasonal youth choir . . . very manageable for a young man who is trying to be a good father and pursue a master's degree. I get oodles of time with my family unlike some of my colleagues in the diocese who have 6 weekend masses, 3 funerals a week, and five choirs. Now they're making quite a bit more dough than me, but I wouldn't switch places with them for anything.

The place has many upsides, but a few downsides which have caused me to decide to leave. For one, my choir is very limited. I consider myself a very fine musician, and one who can work with almost any group and make them sound decent . . . but this has been a tremendous challenge. When I came, they had about 8 regulars; 1 soprano, 4 altos, and 3 men. Of the three men, one had been in the choir for about as long as I had been alive and had never sang anything other than the melody! Another one is about 70 years old and has a very difficult time consistentlymatching pitch (even after I've given him voice lessons for about 2 years--talk about humbling) and my last man is by far the best musician but he's only here about one Sunday a month. So coming from directing a college campus choir that could easily sing in four parts, the fact that I could barely muster two with this group has been frustrating.

Another downside is that there's not much of a network for young couples with children. It's a very grey parish and the ones that do have young children tend to be significantly older than my wife and me. It's been harder on my wife who has had to go outside the parish to find a support system.

(The rest of this column has been deleted. I wrapped up this post by complaining about my previous pastor. No need to keep that in here . . .)

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