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Attendance policies for professional musicians who are members of the church

I've encountered a new issue (maybe not new for some) since I have relocated way up north.  I am a professional musician with a Master's in voice and harpist with the local symphonies.  Plus, I do all of the other standard music things, teaching, coaching, gigs, etc.  We have recently been attending a new church that started a choir a couple of months ago.  I went to the first rehearsal and was happy to hear how flexible they were.  I have many opera or symphony rehearsals on Wed. evenings and I explained that I couldn't make the rehearsals, but I would be able to sing on Sundays.  When I'm not at a professional rehearsal, I spend time with my family since they give me up for so many weeknights and weekend evenings.
I'm not a diva (only when required!).  I blend, do my part, follow the conductor, etc. 
There is now an attendance policy.  If I don't come to the rehearsals, I'm not permitted to sing.  I've spoken with several of my colleagues and they are experiencing the same problem.  Some travel with their performing and are not even in town for rehearsals.  I 've spent 25 plus years developing the ability to sight-read, etc.  This is sad to me.  I don't want to be paid by my church.  I have not sought to sing solos or establish myself as "the professional".  The director is a trained amateur. 
The large churches that I grew up in never had attendance policies.  When I was a choral conductor at churches, I never had one.  I was simply happy to direct and if professionals were able to make performances....great!   Can anyone please offer me some counsel on this?
Thank you!
Elizabeth Alpert
Replies (18): Threaded | Chronological
on January 7, 2011 2:19pm
Wow...just when you think you have heard everything.....
WHere to start....okay, when I was a choir director, I had an attendance sheet for everybody, so that I would know when people would be in and when people would not.  At times it made me shift/change music selections in order to fit the forces on hand.  I also made my calendar so that the adult choir got one Sunday off per month.  There was still rehearsal on Wednesday, but I was able to 'catch up' and work on pieces more in depth for special occasions.  As well, by not havin the choir have to sing on Sunday (most often during those federal holiday weekends), overall attendance was WAY UP for all weeks they were required to come.
To address some of the other my wife's choir, there are the 'seasonal' men (one bass and one tenor) who come in a few weeks before Christmas and Easter.  one is retired and I am not sure what his excuse is, the other is a Chiropractor paying off his two daughters' weddings that occurred in 2010 (I'll remind mine not to pull that stunt on me...).  When they come in, my wife has the music all ready for them for Christmas and Easter services respectively, and they sing.  The choir is quite used to this dynamic (it has been going one for at least 5 years) and let's it rolll off their collective back.  If I were in charge, I'd have a different viewpoint, but I am not.
The real crux of the situation as I have read is that there are obviously some singers who are somehow threatened by the professional deportment of our original poster, whose musicianship could actually 'throw' the others 'off' and make them upset.  It appears as if the director involved needs to institute something else I did when I was a DMM, which was music reading lessons (optional) 1/2 hour before choir began.  I went through, using various sourcings, to show the untrained singers how to find and sing intervals, notations, etc.  The end result was that a choir who had trouble singing Bach Chorales (and they were LCMS...LOL) was able to, on the last Easter, sing the Randall Thompson Alleluia in key with just the ringing of a D handbell from the balcony. 
My best advice for the original poster is to do some church shopping within your denomination in the area where you live.  Chances are you are in an area where there are competing churches, and the policy at another house of worship would be more welcoming, even if the other dynamics may be less suitable for you.
Good luck and Godspeed
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