Recipients of our appreciation are apt to express their own gratitude to others, lengthening the unending, golden chain of connections-in-goodness that stretches across the world. —Mary Ford-Grabowsky
I love this quote from Mary Ford-Grabowsky. Our calling, as church musicians, has this at its core: “lengthening the unending, golden chain of connections.” We are in continual relationships with our choir members, staff, and the congregation as a whole. I believe our skills in creating and nurturing relationships with all of these people are as important as the skills we need as musicians. We need to work together to make music and praise God in worship, and healthy relationships aid in our ability to produce beautiful music.
The creating and sustaining of healthy relationships is easier for some than others. I believe that the single most important aspect in this process is the building of trust. How can we have any kind of healthy relationship without it? Our choirs need to trust that we are not singing or ringing an anthem that is weeks away from being ready. They need to trust that we will use their time wisely by starting and ending our rehearsals on time. They need to trust that our musical selections are appropriate for their skill level. Most importantly, they need to know that we are trustworthy.
At the beginning of each National Lutheran Choir season, I tell the alto section that we need to sing with the freedom that comes from trusting each other. One of us may not be at our best on a given night. It happens to everyone. The point is that my alto neighbor is not judging me but supporting me on a challenging night. “I’ve got your back this week. Next week will be better.”
Trust comes when we spend the time to find out how things are going for our people. This is tough when our schedules are tight and someone wants to share in between rehearsals, or on a Sunday morning when you are heading to the balcony, and someone stops you with a concern. It is okay to ask if you could catch them after the service or give them a call a little later in the day. The important thing is to really listen and engage with them.
Showing gratitude is another important factor in building and sustaining relationships. Have you ever counted the number of hours that your choir members spend in rehearsal and worship? It is gift that we should appreciate and acknowledge. They don’t do it for us, but we have to be God’s voice and encourage and thank them. A smile and a word of appreciation go a long way. When I am making my rehearsal plans, I often put at the top, “It is good to see you tonight and to make music together.” "Thank you for being here after a long day!”
The first time I observed Helen Kemp in action with a group of young singers, I marveled at how she made everyone feel special and noticed. It was her gift! A smile, a kind word, and the acknowledgment of an individual makes a difference.
The building of healthy relationships with your choir members, staff, and congregation takes purposeful intention and energy. Be a trustworthy servant of God and make this a priority in your music ministry.