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Distributing music

music collection and distribution compilation
Original Message:
Dear List,
As I move into my new music room next month, I want to
undertake a better process for music collection and
distribution with my adult church choir. Each choir
member has an assigned number for music and robes. The
two methods I have used for distribution (and am
unsatisfied with) are:
1. placing the octavo/music to be distributed in each
person's box (it takes a lot of time);
2. placing the entire folder of music on a table for the
singers to find their own number (it takes a lot of

My system for collecting music is for my singers to
place music to be turned in on a table in numerical
order (in columns of 10 -- #1-10, #11-20, etc.). The
only problem with this is that if someone is out, they
often forget to turn in the music.

I've thought about using plastic "pockets" (inbox/outbox
style) on the wall, but I'm not sure about the best way
to proceed.

My question is, how do YOU pass out and take up music?

Please respond to me (musicdir(a) and I'll compile
the responses for the list.

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful answers!
The Responses:

I've always used system #1 and been satisfied. I just
consider the time required part of what I get paid to
do. Unless someone comes up with a better system,
however, is it possible for you to get a volunteer
assistant to help with these tasks? There is usually
someone in every choir who would love to give of their
time in such a manner...

Lonnie Selstad
Lonnie Selstad had a good comment about getting a
volunteer to help with these tasks.
Don't forget to consider a spouse of a choir member who
might enjoy attending rehearsals and services and doing
those needed volunteer tasks for the choir while the
spouse sings. There just might be a spouse who
would like "to be on the team" rather than being alone.
Don't be afraid to ask as you might be meeting a need or
a desire to be "together" with the singer. And if you
have "childcare" for the rehearsals, don't be
afraid to ask a "non-singer" mother to assist during
rehearsals. I've had both types of volunteer assistants.

I generally do what you describe in #1 with the
exception of I don't number each octavo for each person.
I just put them in their "slot" or in their folder. I
tell them when we sing a particular song that if they
want to use the same one next time to write their name
on the front and I'll see that when I'm passing them out
again. Then periodically I clean out the folders
myself. It doesn't take too long really and I can
organize when I'm ready and have time.

Another approach I've used is to put all of the music on
a table and tell them when they come in to grab one of
anything they don't have.

Tony Watson
>Each choir member has an assigned number for music and

Yep! Same here

>The two methods I have used for distribution (and am
unsatisfied with) are:
>1. placing the octavo/music to be distributed in each
person's box (it takes a lot of time);

Granted, but you're at least sure that it gets there...

>2. placing the entire folder of music on a table for the
>singers to find their own number (it takes a lot of

Knowing my own choir members... Sometimes they are not
focused and take the wrong number.

>My system for collecting music is for my singers to
>place music to be turned in on a table in numerical
>order (in columns of 10 -- #1-10, #11-20, etc.).

I would have them turn them in by title... In that way,
at least, all of the same anthem is together.

>I've thought about using plastic "pockets" (inbox/outbox
>style) on the wall, but I'm not sure about the best way
>to proceed.

Got any cork board? This sounds like a good idea. Put
the name of the anthem on a sticky note and attach it to
the plastic bag (that way you can reuse them when all of
that anthem is in). Then attach it to cork board or
to cork board strips. It's worth a try, at least.

>My question is, how do YOU pass out and take up music?

Pretty unscientifically! I put the music in the boxes,
for the most part. In that way, I KNOW it got there.
Sometimes when I get caught short, I do have them pass
the music around and take their own. Whatever is
leftover is then put into the boxes by me. After
church or after a large program, they simply take out
what has been used and put in a designated place. Then
I put what is turned in into order and put back into the
folders. Once all of that anthem is returned, I then
put back into the files. Of course, this does
necessitate my "purging the folders" about once every 2-
3 months. I simply do not have enough room in the choir
room to do any better.

Louise Daniel
I have a music librian that comes every Wednesday and
takes out old music and puts in the new. It works
better than any system that I have ever used. Good
David Wilson
Hi Tony - My method for music distribution and
collection is similar but I think not as complicated as
the one you proposed.
My robes and folders correspond numbers as well.
I have cubbies for each music folder and I "stuff" the
cubbies with new music monthly.
We have a return wall file as they come into the choir
room they return that weeks music. I then file it
during the week. It is an efficient system but I still
have certain members who hang on to music longer than
necessary. Habits are harder to break (the older the
dog) ;-)
Nancy Fontana
We use 3-ring binders with music in performance order.
I collect and distribute music in each folder on a
weekly basis myself. I have found this to be easier in
the long run because less music disappears and it all
gets in the correct stack!! It may be a lot of work for
me, but I am on the payroll and my singers are not. I
also like it because none of our rehearsal time is spent
collecting and distributing!
Preston Sweeden
It seems to me that your question would best be answered
by appointing a music librarian to ensure that all
pieces are received and collected. As well he/she could
maintain the library at the same time. Perhaps there is
a chorus member who would enjoy this. Otherwise, I
suggest, if you must do it yourself, place the octovos
individually in the singer's folder slots and
when it comes time to retrieve the octovo, separate the
collection by song rather than the numbers in the song.
Then, later, you can go back and sort out each octovo
and figure out who still has music according to your
numbered roster. At least it will save time in
rehearsal with your singers, though it seems like more
wokr to you.
B. Kinch
For collecting music, get one or more accordion-pleated
cardboard file with numbered slots. Each choir member is
responsible for putting their copy in the numbered slot
corresponding to their folder number. Then, when you
empty the folder, the music is already in order and it's
easy to tell which ones are missing.

If the music is in order, placing it in their boxes for
distribution should be easier, and you find out ahead of
rehearsal if you're short on copies.
Allen H Simon
We have an assigned slot for every choir member. But
here's the key--I have a sweet senior adult lady who
acts as my music librarian. She comes in every week and
cleans out the slots and puts in new music. She really
ministers to ME as you can imagine!
Andy Fowler
Mine is a smaller group (20 members). We have given up
on numbers. Instead, we pencil our names onto each piece
of music. When it is turned in, we can then,
theoretically, easily see who hasn't returned his/her

The trouble is, who has the time to tally the music and
track down the offenders? Inevitably, some music never
shows up. But in theory, it's a good idea.

Your system seems pretty organized already. I would
suggest you might want to put the piles of music on a
table and let the singers do the work. They can walk
down the row of music, putting each octavo into their
folders and putting their own numbers on each piece. Of
course, some will forget, or not have a pencil, or be

Once in a while we have a "music amnesty day." You'd be
surprised what music gets turned in! Music from
concerts YEARS ago. We also have a volunteer librarian,
which takes the burden off me, the conductor.
Marjorie Drysdal
We have used a choir "Libraian", it is a husband/wife
team that LOVE serving. Maybe you would have a couple
that see music ministry as their primary area of
service to the Lord.
john hancock
What I find to be an easy solution is to find helpers to
go down a factory type assembly line and then after all
the pieces are in their order, take folders and put the
music in those folders or slots and then number them.
That seems to be the fastest procedure at NAU. At NAU we
do the turn in by numerical order. I would stick with
whatever is easier for time and students purpose.
Jason A. Mincy
I usually put new anthems in the folder boxes myself--
I'm usually the last minute getting the stuff out so
it's easier for me to do it. I try to distribute several
week's music at one time just to keep from having to do
it every week. I'm sure if I really wanted it done I
could get a volunteer to do it, but this way I know what
went in the boxes myself.

When an anthem is ready to be turned in, I keep a basket
on a table near the entrance door where everyone turns
their copy in as the return from services. I am
fortunate to have a volunteer who comes in on Friday and
cleans up all the music. He takes what is in the basket,
puts it in order, than checks to see whose copy is
missing and goes to that folder and removes it.

About two or thress times a year I go through the
folders myself just to make sure all the old music has
been removed and the ladies have gotten rid of their
used Kleenexes!!!!
Steve Burton
We have a bin at the door of our music suite that we ask
everyone to place their used anthem of the day in before
they file their folder back in their slot. Our music
librarian makes sure that everyone's folders are
updated, cleared, and/or removed prior to each
rehearsal. There isn't a fool-proof way to do all of
this outside of doing it all yourself or getting a
retired person who loves music and serving to do
the things you need. In my opinion, that is what you
need: someone to do it for you who will keep track of
not only just current octavos you are using or
disgarding, but also updating your library
with new music needing to be entered into your library's
Steve Byers
This is a problem, isn't it? We do something similar
with numbering the octavos. When we have a new piece to
hand out, I just have the choir pass the new piece
around during warm-ups and they take their number. I
also have a metal box hanging on the wall that has about
9 dividers in it. It is a couple of inches wider than
an octavo and the whole thing is about 3 feet tall.
Once I've handed out a new piece, I put the new piece in
one of the dividers that I've marked "new music." If
someone misses a rehearsal, they know to go to the metal
bin to get the new pieces there. When it is time to
turn in a piece I have them return it to one of the
slots marked "old music." This is not the ideal
situation since we still have to periodically go through
folders to find missing music, but it is the best
solution I've found so far. I'd love to know what other
responses you get.
Debbie Gilbert
I have a music librarian that is a saint!!. That's the
way to go. Let them do it!!
Neil Brown
I pass the music out at the first (anticipated) rehersal
that that particular piece is scheduled for. When (my)
choir has done the anthem, they leave their copy on top
of the filing cabinet in the robing room/music oriface.
I file the octavos the following wednesday >afterrehersal because someone always forgets to hand in the
music on Sunday after the service. I should note that
I have each choir member PENCIL thier name on the front
cover/title page of the music so that they can retain
their marks for future reference. I am blessed with a
very stable membership and they are very loyal about
being at scheduled rehersals.
Rick in VA
I find the most economical way:

Put the music in each box before rehearsal (it could
even be Sunday, after church).

As each anthem is numbered, and each numbered anthem has
a folder number on it (i.e., #523 27: would be anthem
#523 and folder 27), the anthems can be immediately
sorted; the numbers that don't appear in chronological
order would be the numbers still in folders, and those
could be pulled (also after church). We ask those
present to leave the 'sung' anthem on the table. This
saves a lot of extra time.
My preferred method is to have my Music Ministry
Assistant or a volunteer take the time to put the music
in each person's box for distribution, and to take the
time to clean out old music once a week or twice a month
from their boxes. Sorry this is not very innovative,
but it is still my best choice.
For a large bunch, I have the music librarian prepare
folders for each singer. For 1-4 pieces, I use it as an
exercise in alertness, calling out numbers in sequence
and expecting singers to leap forward the number ahead
of theirs. I have one person handing out each piece by
number simultaneously. Pretty fast.
Joyce Keil
I have worked at large (80 member choir) and small
churches (15 member choir). I always have a volunteer
librarian or group of volunteers to put music into the
slots along with all of the anthems that each choir
member should have. Choir members are asked to return
the music to a central location for refiling. Absentees
make it necessary for my librarian(s) to go into folders
every couple of months to check for leftovers. This has
been the least time consuming during rehearsals. Having
members retrieve their own music is much too
cumbersome. Even so, we still have copies that are
lost, taken home and never returned. If you find a
better system, please let me know.
Hillary Crute Johnson
Wenger has a great cabinet system that we use that has
100 slots and space for 100 more. I assign my kids a
number for their slot and music then they keep up with
it. I never have to touch the music after the first
time I pass it out, until I take it up. At that time
they place their music in the specific piles (according
to piece). Assign someone to be the "music librarian"
if you don't have time to do all of this.
This is a very good question. Thanks for asking. I
don't have a very good system myself. I just read out
the numbers and each singer gets their music this way. I
suggest you may also assign fixed seats and give out
Numbers 1-X from left to right or vice versa. But of
course this arrangement will only work if you can be
more certain of the seating arrangement.
You could pass the folder of new music around with
singers finding their number. As long as we use
octavos and people forget to turn in the problem will
I gave up on the specific numbers of the music years
ago. I put out the pile -- if they want their number,
they are free to take it. On some pieces members will
search out their copy but since I don't necessarily
do things the way former directors do, their markings
may not help.

We have a box that people put old music in and the
librarian sorts and files it.

DO have choir officers that include a librarian for
these sorts of tasks. There is so much more that we can
do with this sort of help.
Carol G. Wooten
I had a volunteer music librarian(s) for years. Usually
persons who were retired and able to come in during the
week or others looking for something to do to help out
at church, often persons who not involved in the music
ministry. It took some time to train folks at first,
then after a while they trained the "new recruits."
They did it all for me from beginning to end once I
chose the music. By the time I left my last position I
had about 5 folks trained to do the library work for me.
They gradually went through the entire church music
library and had it completely organized and cleaned
up. They did all of the record keeping and it was
wonderful! I had one volunteer who developed a data
system for the library and everything was soon
completely loaded into a computer.

This meant that I had to plan in advance (which we
should be doing anyway) so that they could come in on
their day to do the work for the Music Ministry. I had
to make sure that I thought through everything I needed
to have pulled from the library and anything else I
needed to have done was on my "list" ready for them when
they came in to work. And I had to make sure that I said
thank you on a regular basis. I always remembered
birthdays with a card and provided special small treats
around holidays as a surprise thank you. My choir
members really appreciated them as well and became much
more conscious of the work involved in music library
I gained some wonderful friends (and major supporters of
the music ministry) and loved not having to spend the
time chasing behind folks for their copy of the music.
Debi Tyree
Right on Debi. Music Librarians are a big help to our
programs. And in a very REAL sense, they are assisting
in the worship life of the church in a tangible,
appreciable way.

Because our librarian is SO good, whenever a choir
member says "I don't have..." I can almost guarantee
that he/she, in fact, DOES have, because the
librarian put it there.

She even helps me out on some of the music for the other
choirs on occasion, most of which I do myself. But,
that always is her call, because her primary
duties involve our adult choir.
I am thinking of enlisting and training a teenager or 2
to become librarian for the youth choir, because I think
it is a wonderful way for them to learn the inner
workings of the music program.

My librarian and I are already thinking ahead, because
we will have new music facilities within a couple years
(Lord willing): how are we going to organize? what
kinds of cabinetry? etc.
Peace to you all
Neil Brown
I don't think there is a perfect system, since any
choir, through absences, forgetfulness, etc, will screw
it up. I put all the music in their boxes, and have
them return it in the numbered slots. I don't bother to
collect each anthem each time. I collect 2 months worth
at a time, and then go to the folders and collect the
missing copies.
I hope there is a better system out there!

Tony Bernard, Music Ministries Director
St. Andrew United Methodist Church
3455 Canton Rd.
Marietta, Ga 30066

on June 12, 2002 10:00pm
Dear Colleagues,

Situation: I am the director of a 35 member adult church choir. We have a "skeleton crew", if you will, of 20 members. These 20 members have been with the choir for almost 20 years. They are DEPENDABLE to the "n"th degree. I have another 15 that are seasonal members, that is they may sing just for the Advent and Christmas season OR they'll sing for Easter OR they'll sing just during the summer.

Problem: Music is walking off and not coming back when a particular "season" is over with. Of course, I'd like to think that they are practicing their music at home, but realistically they have lives outside of choir. So, . . .

Question: We have a locking music cabinet ordered, should be here in about a week. What sort of protocol and procedures do you take in issuing music and what consequences do your members face should they lose or damage their music?

Thank you for any advice and ideas you can give.

I'll post the replies I get, in the event that some of you may be facing the same dilemma.

Liz Keller Glissman
Director, Saint Patrick's Catholic Church Choir
Rolla, MO
on October 7, 2002 10:00pm
I lay out the octavos and service music weekly for up to 4 weeks ahead. The collection of octavos is done by the choir librarian immediately after each worship service. He also collects the music from those who are absent by removing it from their folders. I then can file it appropriately on Monday.
on September 5, 2004 10:00pm
We have a 65 member choir and the only way to keep track of all music is to number it. Each member has a number for music and robes. All music is stuffed in the slots assigned to each member, by the librarian to insure that all receive a copy. For collecting the music we have "tone clusters".
These are groups of 5/6 choir members assigned to each month of the choir year. After a piece is turned in the "tone cluster" puts the music in order and pulls any not handed in from the slots. With this method I lose almost no music and it takes no more than 10 minutes after a Sunday service to reorganize the music for me to file in the library later.
on August 12, 2008 10:00pm
I am a member of a church choir that has 30-35 members at present. Another lady and I pass out music each week (we don't use hymnals in choir but use the individual hymnal pages for a 3-ring binder) - we place the music in the performance binders in order of performance. This includes hymns and special music. We have practice binders for the music we're getting ready to perform. I put the music into the practice binders in alphabetical order so the members can easily find each piece of music. Sometime during the week, usually before practice on Wednesday nights, I remove the music from the performance binders and refile it. We number the individual anthems, collections, cantatas, etc. Each choir member has his/her own number for choir robe, binder, and pieces of music. We have a wooden "bookshelf" that houses the binders (both practice and performance) in individual slots. Numbering the pieces of music assures the members of getting their own "marked" piece of music each time we sing that particular piece. Numbering the music keeps people from "borrowing" someone else's music, and it encourages us to keep up with our music. Because the other lady and I do this "chore," our minister of music has more time to do the ministry God has called him/her to do.