Justifying appropriate Rehearsal space
Justification for new rehearsal space compilation:
This is a long compilation, but don't stop reading
before the end--there are some excellent and thought-
Also, when I mentioned that we have seven choirs (3
children, 1 youth, 1 adult, 2 handbell) and a Worship
Team/Band, I didn't mention that I only have to direct
the Adult Handbells and the Adult Choir. Wonderful
volunteers or other music staff direct the remainder.
My original question:
My Task (for which I desire your input):
The Trustees have demanded that I provide justification
for the new rehearsal space (which has high ceilings,
storage, built-in choral risers that the pre-school
wants to tear out...)
They imply that the new rehearsal space will only
benefit the individuals involved in the music
department, whereas the preschool serves 110 kids plus
more on a waiting list.
So far, I maintain that the Music Ministries Department
serves (ministers to) every member of the congregation
through weekly musical presentations at the three Sunday
services, through weekly rehearsals, and on special
How do you think music influences/ moves/ motivates/
inspires/ ministers to the congregation?
You pose an interesting question. There is no doubt
that your trustees will agree with you that the music
ministry touches the lives of every member of your
church - but that is really not the issue... the issue
has to do with USE of AVAILABLE SPACE - - and, on that
note, I think your trustees have a point re: the 110
kids vs. the choir, etc.
In our church - we have NO choir room or rehearsal
space, etc. We make do. And we are a church of about
700... with a HUGE facility. But nobody ever thought to
create a "space" for the music ministry groups to
practice in - so we don't have such a space. Most
groups rehearse in the Sanctuary - a few practice in our
chapel - some practice in Sunday school rooms - - you
get the idea. Bottom line - we make do.
I guess my feeling is - if you need to JUSTIFY the
importance of the music ministry - perhaps
your "problem" is deeper than simply the use of
Hope this helps.
Often, trustees are linear, practical, no frills
people. They want facts and numbers. If there are 110
being served by the pre-school, count your people and
the people in the congregation and give them numbers.
Will the pre-school bring in money? That may be the
real agenda here. A music ministry usually COSTS money.
> How do you think music influences/ moves/ motivates/
> inspires/ ministers to the congregation?
Sometimes it doesn't, quite frankly! I've left churches
where the music drove me away!
In regards to the following, I may be "preaching to the
choir." You may already do this.
On the other side, as a minister of music & arts, I
emphasize over and over that the people in the
music/drama/dance/arts are ministers. They
have specific needs in order to be able to minister
effectively. As ministers, they deserve the best the
church can give.
The best people to poll would be the congregation and
the other ministers. Ask them to tell you in writing
how the music influences, moves, motivates, inspires,
and ministers to them. Make it an "appreciate your
music ministers" month or a "tell us how we are doing"
opportunity. Put an article in the newsletter and in
the bulletins. Put up attractive posters celebrating
them. Have a monthly "choir member" of the week/month
especially pinpointing those elderly choir members who,
with their heart conditions, failing knees and hips, in
whatever weather have been faithful ministers. Perhaps
have a special evening/service of just music (you can
reuse anthems or parts of cantatas, or bring in
another choir, like a community choir) and as part of
the offering, have cards on which people can express how
music has influenced, moved, motivated, inspired and
ministered to them.
In the end, all you can do is make your needs and wishes
The music ministry of a church is an all-important part
of the worship service. The quality and character of
the music play a great part in shaping the tenor of
a worship service, and therefore have an impact on every
member of the congregation. The music ministry is not
just something that benefits those few members who are
sufficiently extroverted to take direct part in the
One serious mistake which has crept into religious
thought since the Age of the Enlightenment, has been the
assumption that a person is primarily (or even solely)
his mind; that the mind is the most important faculty
(or only faculty) of perception. And so you have in
many nooks and crannies of American Protestantism a
tradition in which a "worship" service is principally a
matter of listening to a thirty-minute sermon; and the
character of such "worship" is simply a matter of the
degree to which the members of the congregation agree
with what is said, how well they feel that it was
said ... the evaluation of ideas, and of the manner of
expressing those ideas.
But a person is a body and a soul, as well as a mind;
there are subtle connections between body, soul and
mind, but the whole person is not served by treating him
simply as a mind.
This touches upon the heart of what music is; to listen
to music is not simply an intellectual experience, in
which we say, "Well, wasn't THAT a charmingly-voiced
dominant-seventh chord in third inversion?" Music has
subtle effects upon the listener (and performer) which
are a matter other than intellect, deeper than
intellect. Music has the power to act so directly upon
the soul, that the mind may not understand what that
music meant, really meant, until years later; the mind
may never understand it.
The mysterious effec of music upon the soul is hinted at
in the old adage that "he who sings, prays twice."
Music has always been a vital component in Christian
worship. In the Orthodox churches, which have taken
great care to preserve the forms and spirit or
worship received from ancient times, the entire service
(apart from a brief five-minute sermon which focuses on
the Gospel reading) is sung, sung by a choir, sung by
the priest and deacon, the entire service is "sung unto
I am a composer and clarinetist, and I have been
associated with a Congregational Church here in New
England as composer-in-residence; I sometimes also
serve as a sort of substitute organist. Whenever I have
been involved in the music of this congregation, I have
been approached afterwards by people who particularly
found this or that aspect of the service music moving,
and you can tell by the warmth of their remarks, that
something in that music touched them. I have had people
come to me in tears to tell me how much they enjoyed a
certain piece (sometimes an instrumental work, with no
words and therefore with no "apparent" theological
Our Catholic brothers have said that one of the things
they love about their Mass is, that it is a worship
experience which engages all the senses: the music
falls upon the ears, the incense awakens the sense of
smell, receiving the Eucharist engages the sense of
taste ... so that the whole person is a participant in
the act of worship.
The sustaining of a good-quality music ministry is an
important part of touching the congregation's souls, and
of not treating the members as though they were just an
assembly of minds gathered in a church building to
listen to a good lecture on religious topics.
Music ministers to the congregation is so many ways! It
is another way of speaking the word of God to the
people. It focuses our minds on the divine. It
comforts, inspires, convicts. The music program also
empowers members of the church to become worship
leaders, true participants, not just idle observers,
particularly the children, who without their
participation in music in church often have no role in
worship at all. I'm sure you can also come up with a
list of folks who joined the church because of the
music. Also, when your music program performs outside
of worship you bring your church into the light of the
community, bringing public recognition to the church,
and thus recruiting new attendees, also known as
evangelism. My church supports my programs wonderfully,
and I wish you the same.
Marc F. Boensel
Founder and Conductor, The Annapolis Wind Symphony
Director of Music, First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis
can only say that last year, when the Music Director of
our church resigned and our Organist of 53 years
retired, the Church Counsel were not able to find a
person right away to keep the choir going. Our Folk
Choir of six volunteers kept the only music program for
1 of 5 Masses per week. The result was disasterous.
Attendance at all Masses dwindled from an average of 200
per Mass to around 60. Families went in search of other
parishes. I need not comment about the receipts in the
collection plate. We now have a temporary
Organist/Director, but the choir size is miniscule
(Director is the Soprano, 3 Altos, 2 Bases). After 4
months, the temporary director has announced that she is
relocating out of the area and will leave at the end of
May. Attendance is only just now starting to recover.
Anyone who thinks that a music program only benefits the
music ministry should look beyond the cost of the
program and see the opportunities for building community
spirit, keeping attendance up at services, and living
the word by doing.
St. Mary's Folk Choir
PS: Look soon for a job posting on the Choralnet
In the (very) small church I attended as a youngster,
there was only one choir, and I began singing with
adults when I was 6 or 7 (more than half a century
ago!). We, too, had to process (all on one level,
though) through the outside to the main body of the
church for the service. The many church choirs I have
sung in since then, including those with paid cadres,
have never had proper music-making space for
rehearsals. The "choir room" has often been in the
basement and generally has simply been the largest room
available in the parish house, or the only one in which
there was a piano.
You obviously have a very large, active, participatory
church with a marvelous music program (and apparently at
least a reasonably healthy financial condition), and
while I am no longer a regular churchgoer anywhere, the
musical life of any church should be encouraged as
strongly as feasible.
That being said, is there any possibility of compromise
that would let the Trustees eat their cake and have it
too? Could you, for example, do with portable risers
instead of built-in? Could the pre-school take
advantage of built-in risers instead of tearing them
out, for example, using different levels for different
activities? Could a mechanism be developed whereby the
choir was not responsible for moving pre-school tables
and chairs and the pre-school staff were not responsible
for disassembling or moving portable risers?
I do believe most strongly in the concept of a joyful
noise. I would not have remained an active churchgoer
as long as I did if it were not for the fact, and when
choice was available to me have always chosen a church
with an active music program. Music absolutely feeds
the soul, and the making of music with a lifted heart
bestows grace upon both giver and recipient. I
found this to be so whether I am in the choirloft or on
the stage of a major performing space singing secular
music. You are absolutely correct that the music
department ministers to the entire congregation; if the
Trustees doubt that is the case, let them try just one
Sunday with no music (and I mean NO music, either live
or recorded). I'll bet they'll come around in a hurry.
Please post a compilation and also tell us the final
outcome. Good luck --
you deserve it.
Sue Noble (snoble(a)bingham.com)
I read your post to the TCMR list with great
interest...I have just taken a position at a new chruch
that, while building a brand new 1000 seat sanctuary,
did not plan for a piano, an organ, new hymnals, OR a
rehearsal/music room!!!! How about THAT for thinking
ahead?! At this late date, I am doing what I can to
influence construction AND budget revision, though!
Regarding YOUR situation: at another church, I had a
combination of things similar to yours: an aging chancel
choir and lots of handbell equipment ALL to travel the
length of the building from a rickety old (and
former) fellowship hall to the sanctuary. It was a
challenge and sometimes we would just meet and work in
the sanctuary. However, if your trustees take
away your fellowship hall and stage, this will diminish
participation in the long run AND any growth opportunity
that would come along due to special programs using the
stage would be lost. Many wonderful fellowship hall
experiences have brought about growth in my programs in
the past. On the other side of the coin, the smaller
classrooms would better suit the children...easier
management and control by adults. I have SEEN 110
children loose in a fellowship hall...it's NOT pretty!
(Hope this helps.) The other matter: do you know
someone in Marietta named Judy Brackett? I am trying to
get in touch with her. It's a long story, but I need to
ask for forgiveness...it's been 10 years and I'd like to
lift this burden...
Tony, it seems to me that you have pretty well stated
Look back over what you wrote! Re-write it in terms
that are directed toward the committee!
The aging of the choir members ought to be of special
significance! Tah-dah! Remember Title 94.492 (the
American Disabilities Act - I may have the number wrong -
check with your school principal)! There is
that "teacher" coming out in me again!
Also, enlist the support of your many choir members!!!
With 7 choirs, you must have at least as many people
involved as the day-care does! Members of the church
can often carry more weight than the day-care center!
FWIW! I can't believe you are running 7 choirs and are
PART-time! Sounds like you need to get this church to
moving toward full-time music ministry! I know of many
full-time MoM's who work only 4-5 choirs and enlist
volunteers to do the rest. Sounds like they are running
you ragged! Don't let burn-out get a hold!
As a music director and previous accountant, I have an
idea that you might not win this battle. Here is my
Preschools generate lots of money for churches! The
more kids they can get in their program, the more money
rolls in. Many churches rely on preschool or Christian
schools on the church grounds to make their church
budget. Many churches can't make their budgets without
So, even though your justifications may be very
worthwhile, the trustees may be looking at the entire
picture from an economic viewpoint. They see this space
as a potential moneymaker. In my last church, I ended up
rehearsing in the gym or multi-purpose room. Classrooms
no longer worked for the size of my choirs (90-100 kids
each) and we never had enough room to work on
choreography. So, I understand your dilemma.
I hope that the trustees listen to your needs.
Debbie Wolgemuth, Artistic Director
Riverside Youth Theatre
The Trustees have put you in the truly ugly position of
competing with another department. No one can win this
one. A few thoughts...
1) The Music area benefits ALL the church, and the
current space is highly inadequate. It limits growth,
musically, spiritually and numerically. There is no way
an ensemble can get an accurate picture of their sound
in a small room. It actually hurts the voice. If you
spend any time at all in having to set up a temporary
rehearsal room, then they are wasting time you
should be spending on preparation. As a staff member,
they are not providing the tools necessary to do your
2) Mobilize the choir. In most churches, if the choir
gets involved, things happen.
3) How many do you have in your total program? Remind
them of those folks. Remind them that they are being
asked to prepare a quality *worship* experience in
substandard facilities. Also, this tells the music
people that they are *not* appreciated. Let the
Trustees know the message they are sending.
4) Finally, and only if you feel *very* secure, you may
have to put yourself on the line for this one.
In the end, if the preschool gets the space, your people
have taken a major hit. If you do, you probably will
have a whole new set of antagonists. I envy you not.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Clovis, New Mexico
Wow! The BIG question!!!!! and the only reason I could
imagine that you wouldn't get volumes of response to the
question is that people didn't read the whole letter,
people are busy, what?!
How does worship and music affect the whole church?
Yes it's true that the core of people that participate
in choir or on praise team grow close to eachother -
form lets say, a small body of the body. But
to answer the question, we have to start with the even
bigger question, "why do we sing?" Or...if I may...the
even bigger question..."why do we praise and worship?"
When I am singing a solo I am leading the congregation
to worship or teaching the congregation a thought or
principle. When the praise team is singing we
are leading the congregation to worship. When the
choir, when the childrens choir...
Yes, there is also a "teaching" aspect of music - we
might, lets say sing a solo to admonish the congregation
to pray, or trust, or any other thing. The children's
choir that I direct is doing a musical Dan McGowan wrote
for me and with some of my input called "Created to
Praise" . Our goal in doing the musical is to teach!
Teach the singers and the listeners (and we hope
that will be more than their parents and grandparents)
that we are created to praise!
So...who benefits from anything that is provided the
music ministry? I grant you, those of us in music
receive a major blessing when we lead in worship or
teach with song, but who are we leading? who are we
teaching? We are there with the purpose to give of
ourselves in leadership. If the powers that be don't
understand that, then that is where to start praying.
Like you, our praise team prepares, practices, and warms
up on the platform where we sing, and our adult choir
(and childrens choir) train in another building. I know
space is always a challenge for most of us. I teach
music to our preschoolers and do our children's choir -
ajusting to whatever I have to - trying to get them into
the sanctuary at least once or twice before a major
program. Our adult choir walks from chapel to sanctuary
through cold or heat. That part I accept with no
The part that I hurt for you over is the importance of
the worship ministers - choir, praise team, et all! We
are all there to lead the congregation into the Holy of
Holies! We are there to prepare their hearts to hear the
sermon. We are there to give of ourselves to the
congregation. The more we do, the more we have joy
ourselves, true. But even our joy is part of what we
give the congregation.
Sorry if I'm rambling. Pray for your leadership that
they will learn what worship is for.
I certainly can understand your difficulty with
Our church is in the stages of major renovation.
A big consideration was in providing the best facilities
for young children since to adequately reach out and
draw in young families aesthetics certainly matters.
And then major renovations for the third floor youth
facilities were next on the agenda. Now the music suite
is nearing completion! We are very excited. But even if
renovation could have only been done for the children
and youth areas we would have made due with our smaller
music library, closet sized offices because it is so
important to reach the young families with children.
If we can't draw and keep them as youngsters the
likelihood that they will remain in church as adults is
I hope you can find a happy medium. Maybe devise a way
for the space to do double duty. And I feel for your
aging choristers. We have quite a number as well who
have bad knees and have difficulty making it up to the
loft on Sun mornings some time.
God bless you, your faithful choristers and your
laity, 1st bapt garland tx
Recently the church I serve went through a building
campaign and I had to deal
with a "space" issue. A little background ...
The Adult Choir practiced in the choir loft previously
and all music storage was also in the loft. When the
building project was announced, they offered a music
room for rehearsal. The architect got in the way
frequently and the room location was shifted as well as
its size diminished.
The church had 1 handbell choir, 1 adult choir and 1
I began my justification process with location -- I have
elderly choir members and they needed to be as close to
the sanctuary as possible as I am also the organist and
need time to get to the loft after the Sunday am
I also justified location with the fact that the music
office would be in the music room and the director of
music needed to be close to the other offices.
The music room won a prime location.
We negotiated on location and the choir won a prime spot.
Next the architect got in the way about size. I made a
3-D scale model of justifying the space the music room
should be. The committee could not argue the need and
the architect chose to pout.
The compromises then followed:
1. I had no choice about the ceiling height.
2. I conceded to having a divider on the ceiling
because the architect
suggested that some time in the future there might not
be a music room (or music
3. I almost won the battle for a tiled floor, but lost
that one at the last
minute and said OKay to carpet as long as it was
commercial grade without
The last thing I've been involved in is reconstructing
the choir loft which was offered to me last fall. With
that I got into justification through giving actual cost
estimates and floor plans of my design. I throw this in
because if there is a way one can talk $ and cost
effectiveness, I believe it really helps sell your case
and keeps one from the appearance of being short-sighted
to the other needs and considerations of the
Your situation appears to be similar yet different from
mine in that you have a much larger ministry at your
Perhaps you can talk about the cost for ripping out the
storage and risers as a justifying point. Get an
estimate for tearing out and replacing floor with new
Then talk about the people in the choirs and their
needs -- age, flights of stairs, inclement weather.
Talk about your rehearsal schedule and justify the space
by how much time it will be used -- that always helps
because if the room is only used 3 hours a week, you're
less likely to get the space than if it used 10 hours
You're absolutely correct that the department serves the
whole congregation, but I find that a more "business-
like" approach often goes further in the "sales pitch."
Hope this helps!
DEAR LIST AND RESPONDENTS,
THANKS FOR ALL THE HELPFUL RESPONSES. THIS GIVES ME
A "JUMPING OFF" POINT AS I WRITE MY PROPOSAL TO THE
TRUSTEES. APPARENTLY THE FACT THAT IT WAS APPROVED AND
DESIGNED THREE YEARS AGO ISN'T ENOUGH FOR THE NEW
Tony Bernard, Music Ministries Director
St. Andrew United Methodist Church
3455 Canton Rd.
Marietta, Ga 30066