Thursday, November 16, 2006

New position

As I had promised long ago, here's just a little info about the new job I took in early July.

My reasons for leaving my previous position were numerous, though none made the move imperative. The big ones though were the fact that my pastor was a very poor administrator and the parish's financial resources were falling very quickly. Being a small parish to begin with, I was afraid that in the next year or two they may have asked me to go to half-time, which just wasn't happening with a wife and two young children. Pairing this with the fact that he was way more liberal than I was comfortable with made a move very likely.

And of course, the music situation was less than stellar; I inherited one small choir (approximately 8 singers when I started) with a very low level of musicianship. For example, of my 3 men, one was in his early 70's and could not match pitch consistently, one had been in the choir longer than I had been alive and had always sung melody before I came (!), and the third attended only sporadically. Coming straight from a student teaching experience where I worked with wonderful choirs, this was a tough transition at first. Though we nearly doubled the size of the choir in my tenure, and I brought them as far as I could, we were still a long way from performing any Palestrina.

So we made a move; I am currently the Director of Music at a prominent Newman Center at a secular university in the midwest. Though there are many sketchy Centers throughout the country, I can assure you this one is top-notch. Orthodox through and through. We've been cranking out vocations for years now with no end in sight. It's truly a wonderful place.

Here's what I inherited:

6 ensembles--

1) "Traditional" choir which I personally direct--chant, polyphony, anthems, etc. . . all the good stuff

2) Gregorian Schola--we've had to rebuild this one somewhat as the numbers were quite small when I came--it's going to be a couple of years before it really gets rolling, I think

3) "Contemporary" choir--all Gather-based music

4) and 5) Two ensembles that use mostly music in the "traditional" vein with some "contemporary stuff mixed-in

6) "Praise and Worship" ensemble--this was just instituted as I was coming in--of course, the potential for disaster was high with this experiment, but so far so good--this will probably require a separate post in the future


We have student directors for 2)-6) which I oversee and mentor. As you can see, we have many weekend masses, all pretty well attended. We've got a bit of a juggernaut here, if you will. The music ministry itself encompasses approximately 80 people or so and we hope to build on that in the years to come.

I must say the biggest impetus for coming here was 1), the "traditional" choir. This is an ensemble that was untouched by the musical silliness after the council. They have a history of doing chant, organ-based hymns, and great choral stuff. The group has had its ups and downs in regards to numbers and ability, but I think we're headed in the right direction. I inherited about 12 singers in July and we're up to around 23 after some pretty aggressive recruiting measures. It's a real pleasure working with this group and much more musically satisfying than my previous choir.

Working with the student directors has been a blessing as well. Though two of the five are actually a few months older than me (!), my rapport with them has been very fruitful I believe. We met for an intensive 3-day workshop before the year began and we meet weekly for working lunches in which we discuss liturgical music issues and some occasional sessions for improvement. It's been interesting as I have the whole range of musical preferences from my Schola director to my "Praise and Worship" director. Though we've had some heated moments, it's been a very supportive environment and a lot of bonds have been formed.

The job as a whole is much different than my previous one. I rarely have to touch a keyboard anymore as all the ensembles have paid accompanists. This is a big switch from playing piano/organ for 3 masses a weekend. I also do quite a bit more desk work than before. Come to think of it, I didn't even have a desk at my old job! :) I spend gobs of time sending, reading, and responding to e-mails.

It's very exciting to work in an environment in which young people are given the opportunity to truly make the faith their own. I discovered my own faith in college and so I can empathize somewhat with the struggles that can entail. Our whole pastoral staff is dedicated to preaching the gospel to the whole campus if need be, and we're not afraid of our Catholic identity. We really have a strong presence on this campus and it will continue to increase as our facilities expand in the near future.

Also, my family is very happy in this area. We're living in a wonderful cultural environment without the hassles of a big city (which we experienced before). We live in a nice, quiet neighborhood away from campus and my wife is starting to form a support system in the area. God has truly blessed me and my family. Here's to my next 35 years in this position! :)

1 Comments:

At Thursday, November 16, 2006 9:40:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

Talk about a golden situation!

 

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