Monthly Archives: March 2014

We Need We! Healthy Staff Relationships

Mark CabanissA 7-Step “Program” to Healthier Staff (and/or choir) Relationships
By Mark Cabaniss
Managing Director, Alfred Sacred

File this article under “things they never taught us while majoring in music.” I teach a class once a year in music business at Belmont University, and each year, I tell my students that no matter what we do in life we’re all ultimately in the same business: The People Business. And if we can’t get along effectively with each other, then life is going to be a lot tougher.

And church staffs are filled with co-workers and volunteers. Yes…people! Many bad situations are often rooted in poor staff relationships (which often begin with misunderstandings). Too many times, churches are weakened because of staff relationship problems. People leave, get fired, burned out, etc., so here are seven steps to healthier staff relationships.

Many of these things you already know; some you don’t; all are great reminders of what it takes to keep a healthy staff.

Brethren, We Have Met to…Work Together!

  •  Have a mission statement. Everyone work together to forge it. Everyone owns it. Frame it. Everyone should have a copy of it. It’s the forest…not the trees.
  • Cultivate a team spirit: Socials (baseball game, birthday treats, team goals/contests).

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

  • In general, too much is assumed! One of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • Email is a great tool for effective communication (there’s an electronic paper trail) but be careful not to assume everyone reads everything you write. Important issues: Call or visit in person in addition to an email.
  • Inform your pastor and co-workers constantly. Write a weekly report. Consider a weekly or monthly newsletter.
  • Weekly staff meetings. Important. Keep them structured.
  • Be honest about your feelings. Address unpleasant issues soon before they fester. Choose the right time to express such issues (for the person to whom they need to be expressed and for yourself as well). Don’t dump on someone when you’ve reached your boiling point.

Support your Local Pastor and Co-Workers

  • The Pastor is the Boss. Dissension in the ranks can be contagious and detrimental.
  • Support those events/activities of the pastor/co-workers…great and small.
  • Diplomatic compromise is healthy. When there’s a roadblock, agree to disagree.
  • When large issues are at stake where compromise isn’t possible, one needs to examine and pray if they should stay in that situation. You should feel “called to the church AND the pastor.”

Thou Shalt Be Open to Change

  •  “The only thing permanent in this world is change.” (Helen Cole Krause)
  • Sometimes change is difficult. Be open; be positive.
  • Serenity Prayer: “Change those things you can, accept what you can’t, and give me the wisdom and grace to know the difference between the two.”

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

  • Creeping apathy/negativity…permeates a lot of organizations (big and small!)
  • Apathy/negativity is sometimes inevitable…be on guard against it!
  • Weekly meetings: Inject positive thoughts, scripture, etc. Celebrate triumphs! Talk about challenges and how to handle them. Confront it all! (Even the air conditioning…heating…etc.)

We Need We!

  • Independence: I don’t need you. Dependence: I need you. Healthy interdependence: We need each other. Cultivate this mindset.
  • The sum is greater than the parts. Encourage free exchange of ideas.
  • Have a yearly staff retreat. Get away. Be creative. Have fun. Socialize.

Take Time to be Wholly (Complete, That Is)

  • Balance your life. The personal is interminably linked to the professional. (Just as the spiritual is linked to the physical).
  • Encourage counseling when needed. “We’ve all got baggage, it’s either checked or unchecked.”
  • Engage in keeping the whole life balanced: spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually.
  • Encourage staff-wide (or choir-wide) book readings/devotionals. Share your thoughts in staff meeting (or choir rehearsal) once a month.
  • By doing these things that aren’t urgent (but very important) you’re “depositing” into the emotional/professional bank account and can draw upon those things in the crunch times.

I hope some or all of these ideas will stimulate your thinking to keep your relationships with staff…and your choir…healthy and satisfying.

Piano Teaching Tips from Wynn-Anne Rossi

Wynn-Anne RossiAsymmetry! This is a quality I love to discover in my favorite pieces of art and music. In the Classical Era, beauty was considered to be the result of balance, order, and perfect symmetry. However, the 20th century “creators” challenged these philosophies, composing radically new forms of art. Today, we stand with the wonder of opposites. Balance and imbalance are no longer incompatible. Symmetry and asymmetry can work together “in harmony.”

I am pleased to introduce “Asymmetry” from book 4 of my new series, One of a Kind. This is an intriguing piece to present in terms of opposites working together. Click the image below to see the score with helpful markings.

One of a Kind Solos, book 4The time signature is an excellent place to start, being the rhythmic foundation of the piece. In measure 1, 5/8 immediately sets up an imbalanced nature: 3 + 2. Measures 9, 10, and 11 have the 7/8 pattern while measure 12 has the unexpected switch back to 5/8. Another point of inequality is the 3 (alike) + 1 (different) nature to the measure format throughout the music. This is easy to see via the patterns of the left hand. At measure 13, to counteract the imbalances of the individual measures, the larger picture of a dependable 4-measure structure (3 + 1 = 4) begins to emerge. Also, recurring rhythmic patterns in the left hand brings a distinct sense of order. The musical ear begins to rely on these patterns throughout the piece.

Asymmetry, from One of a Kind Solos, book 4

Asymmetry, from
One of a Kind Solos, book 4

Like the rhythm, the melody also follows a distinct measure format: three simple notes (m.1), retrograde (m.2), repetition (m.3), then something new (m.4). This 3 + 1 configuration continues at measure 9 when the piece switches to 7/8. Notice the strong use of sequencing in this section: mm.9-10, mm.13-14 and mm.15-16, which acts as a transition into a new key. The new section, beginning in measure 19, introduces a hybrid melody, nostalgic of the opening, as the 3 + 1 structure continues. Melodic sequences can be spotted in several measures, bringing “soothing” order into a seemingly imbalanced musical atmosphere.

At a glance, the harmonic language defies expectation! The music starts in A minor and ends in D major. Minor and major interact to the point where the ear wonders which one is actually in control. A melodic minor emerges as a strong force with the D (IV) and E (V) major chords in measure 4. Measure 9 is a surprise with the introduction of the A major chord. However, it is immediately followed by a C major chord, hinting back to the minor key via the C natural. Yes, it is complicated! Measure 16 offers a gentle transition into D minor. Note that A is the dominant key of D minor. At measure 27, the original A minor returns. After a recap of measures 9-16 at measure 35, the coda leads to D major. This offers a refreshing surprise ending. Contemporary music often weaves in and out of keys. I consider this to be a unique form of asymmetry.

I have always appreciated the age-old idiom of “opposites attract”. Through the musical fundamentals of structure, rhythm, melody, and harmony, opposites work together in complex ways, similar to life itself. Symmetry mixed with asymmetry can express new forms of artistry.

I send my best to you and your students as you discover new perspectives into what makes music truly beautiful!

Musically yours,
Wynn-Anne Rossi
Author, Arranger, Composer

Learning to Listen to My Heart

Katie KriedlerA Student’s Reflection on Selecting Music as a Career
By Katie Kriedler

The world has always encouraged us to “do what we love to do.” At age seven, I remember standing on stage in church to sing my first solo. Although I was incredibly scared of everyone (and my nerves were so bad that my legs were shaking), there was something bigger keeping me up on that stage. That was the first moment I decided that music was what I loved to do.

I was lucky enough growing up to have all the encouragement and inspiration a little girl could dream of. It has always been the people around me that have kept me moving forward—my mother, most of all. For as long as I can remember, my mother was driving me to and from hundreds of music practices, dance lessons, and dress rehearsals. She was the one who picked out the songs for my winning performances, the one who sat in the living room and listened to me practice over and over, and the face in the front row each time I got on stage.

I was also blessed in being surrounded by the best musicians during my time at school. Most importantly, my music teachers have been a huge impact. They are the ones who deserve the credit for my musical successes. Teaching me to sing or to play an instrument is one thing, but they have done so much more. They took a timid, seven year old girl who loved to sing, and instilled in her all the best qualities of determination, perseverance, and passion for music. There is no greater way to grow as a musician.

Junior year of high school is notorious for being the most difficult year for any high school student. My junior year, I was faced with many challenges in my life. I was trying to balance AP courses, running for student body president, auditioning for the school musical, and still trying to have a social life. I was applying for every scholarship I could get my hands on, deciding on one college, and choosing between majoring in something “realistic” or following my passion—music.

Meanwhile, my family was dealing with bad news that flipped our world upside-down. In June 2010, before the school year began, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. So this year, rather than getting rides to rehearsals, I was giving my mom rides to chemotherapy. Rather than being an average teenager at night, I was taking care of my ill mother. On Christmas Eve that year, my parents sat us down and told me, my brother, and my sister that there was nothing more the doctors could do—the cancer was terminal.

I lost so much when I lost my mother the next year. I lost my motivator, my inspirer, and my number one fan. The year ended with my decision to pursue something other than music. I turned all my musical ambitions into nothing more than a dream I once shared with my mom. I thought I was done with music, and that I could never follow my dreams without her.

During my first year at the State University of New York at Cortland, I heartbreakingly set aside music as a hobby. Yet no matter how much my studies piled up, I found myself craving to perform, reaching out for every opportunity to play my music. My friends and classmates noticed even before I did—they saw what my mother and teachers had always seen in me. Everything that I thought I had lost with my mother was actually still with me because of my music.

I am proud to say that I have chosen to pursue music as a career. It has carried me so far in my life, and I am excited to see where it can take me in the future. The way I see it is this: the world has always encouraged us to “do what we love to do.” But other forces in the world will tell us to “find a good paying job” or to “be more realistic.” We have to be careful of who we listen to. I chose to listen to those who love me and those who inspire me. And even more so, I chose to listen to the music in my heart.