Posts Tagged ‘band


potential in people, not programs

I’ve seen this happen a hundred times and have been a willing participant in it as well:

A person comes up to you and says they play an instrument or sing. You instantly do that thing where you think you can tell by the way they are talking if they are any good or not. You tell them you’d love to hear them sometime and tell them more about your program to see if they’d be a good fit. You do one of the following:

1) take their number and lose it on your desk later,
2) tell them to call your office with the less-than-thrilling idea of a screening,
3) tell them to find you on Facebook and then you lose their message amongst the hundred that are already sitting in your message box,
4) have them play or sing fairly quickly for you right there on the spot and instantly realize they’re either ready for your program or they are not,
5) kick yourself realizing you need a program or a system for finding new players and singers,
6) repeat a combination of 1-5

Trying to find people who would “be a good fit” for my programs (services, choirs, orchestras, bands, etc.) can be a very dangerous dead-end street. If we are constantly focused on the potential in our program, we will only be building the kingdom of our program, and not the Kingdom of God. What about the potential of that person that came up to you? What if we shifted our focus and investment to instantly seeing potential in people instead of programs?

If we don’t have a place for people to go who have potential but are not quite there yet, how do we ever expect them to get anywhere? We send them away thinking they are going to come back six months later magically better and ready to be able to hold their own. No wonder most of them never come back – we never offered them help.

The disciples didn’t have it all together when Jesus invited them to follow Him around. In fact, they were a glorious mess. But Jesus saw the passion and potential in every one of them, and He knew that if He just gave them a place, if He just gave them a chance to learn from Him, they would grow. Never once did Jesus think about the gravity of saving the world and think, “Nah….these guys can’t cut it.” He let them follow along, fumbling a bit here and there, putting their foot in their mouth every once in a while, but they kept learning…so they kept following….and they kept learning…and kept following…do you see the cycle?

The most important students in my band development program are not the students who are already playing main stages here in our venues. They are not the ones who have the best equipment plus the ability to use it well. They are not the ones who can play blindly without charts even if I transpose on the spot. I love all of my students, but the most important students are the ones who aren’t ready yet.

The most important students are the ones who are working hard every week in small offices with coaches just learning how to sight-read rhythm charts and keep up with a song. No lights, stages, or loud amps – just hard work. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing yet, but they are learning more and more every week. And when it’s time, their coach will tell me “They’re ready,” with a big smile on their face. But those students have to have somewhere to go, and somewhere to grow. Those students have to have someone who see potential in them and believe in them enough that they will create a place where that development can happen.

They’re the most important people in my program because they are the future of The Church. Long after my programs are gone, long after I’m gone, there is a good chance these students will be somewhere in the world leading worship. If I’m really going to walk the talk and be a Kingdom Builder, I cannot see every player through the filter of the holes I need to fill in my program. I have to trust God to fill those holes at the right time. I have to have a season where maybe I don’t have a player who can pull off leads like John Mayer.

I have to get my focus off the vision of a stage that sounds perfect and instead have a vision of people simply making it to the next step in their development. Jesus never asked me to turn every student into a professional player. But He did ask me to see them like He sees them, and to help train them and disciple them and give them a chance to connect to Him in worship through their talents. And I’m finding at the end of the day it’s a much better view from up here.


training up the next generation: part 1

How many times has this happened to you?

A student comes up to you and says they play an instrument, and they want to be in your praise band. You have no idea how this students ranks skill-wise, or where he or she is at spiritually. You tell them to call your office, or message you on Facebook, or you take their number. You lose their number, or they never contact you.  They find you the next week, and you set up a time to “audition,” and one of you has to cancel due to scheduling issues. You never see the student again.

All too many times I have let students slip through the cracks because I did not have a system in place that was geared towards handling these kinds of approaches from students.  I kept putting off launching a “system” because the idea seemed too daunting of a task.

Several months ago, I was at a Tuesday night rehearsal for one of our main services, and noticed a technique I hadn’t seen before. The worship leader had invited players who expressed interest in joining the group to come on Tuesday nights and play “unplugged” alongside other members.   I was on acoustic that night, so I had one of the new folks shadow me.  He was a high school student who was passionate about worship , and really wanted to improve his skills.

Over the next few weeks, Brandon and I became training buddies. I let him play right next to me and pointed out things during practice – like how to read a tricky chart, or where to listen for a change in the drums, etc.  He was learning more and more every week, and we were also getting to know Brandon’s heart, in addition to his skill level and dedication.

I began to think…what if?  What if this shadowing technique could work on a bigger scale with my student bands?  What if this was the solution for receiving the constant influx of potential new players?

In the next few blogs I will let you know what happened to the “what if?” revelation I had.  It has revolutionized my approach to training and mentoring, and I have never been so excited about raising up young students to be worship leaders!


managing your band: empower

Time and time again, my students continue to show me that they are capable of much more than I expect out of them. I am learning that the more I push them in the areas of empowerment and responsibility, they rise to the occasion.

I have help during office hours, but when it comes to the weekends if there are issues or fires that need to be put out, it’s all me. In order to survive a busy season over the next couple of months, I decided to try something new. I appointed one of my upperclassmen as the “band manager” for my worship band consisting mainly of high school students.

Imagine if you had someone to help handle the following:

a player calls the night before and cancels

a song set isn’t working and you need help making an executive decision

you realize right before service that charts are missing or in the wrong key

substitute players need to be called at the last minute

service flow changes need to be communicated to weekend staff

lyrics need to be loaded or emailed

These are all examples of things that I would love to have help with, especially during a busy season. I have to remember that the things I don’t necessarily like doing, someone else might actually enjoy being tasked those things.

I am going to try it out as a “pilot” program during the next couple of months, and if it succeeds, I am considering keeping the position. I will let you know how it goes!


Adapting Marching Band selections for worship

WHAT DID I JUST SAY – Adapting Marching Band arrangements for use with an instrumental group in a worship setting?!?!?!

Yep, you can do that!  There is a wealth of material out there that has been written for marching bands.  There is so much of it that there are even arrangements of traditional songs and hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and other songs of a general nature. There are also arrangements of Christmas carols and patriotic songs…new charts as well as classic concert band and orchestra library selections that have been transcribed/simplified/adapted for marching bands.  The scope of musical voicings and other concepts of marching band arrangements are much more concise, but less elaborate, than full concert band and orchestra.  The pieces tend to be much shorter – most are no more than two minutes in length. Also, they are written to be playable and sound good with any size group – in easy key signatures and time signatures.  The woodwinds are usually written in unisons and octaves, and the brass are (usually) written “in the staff,” which means they’re in the most powerful musical range of their instruments.

So, how do you ‘adapt’ a marching band piece for a church orchestra?  Well, it takes a little bit of effort, but it can be done.  And the payoff can be 100% worth the effort. Here’s what you’ll need to do: 1-replace the drumline and multiple percussion parts with a drumset and rhythm section that consists of keys, bass, and (optional, depending on the style of the song) guitar (acoustic, electric, or both).  If you have string players in your group, you’ll need to write parts for them.  The easiest way to do that is to have the violins play a flute part (if range is a problem for some of your younger players, you may need to write in octaves or just write the line down an octave), the violas play a 2nd or 3rd clarinet part (which you’ll have to transpose) and the cellos can play a trombone 3 part.  This will give everyone a part to play in the quickest and least labor-intensive manner.  If you can’t or don’t have the time to do the writing yourself, contact a local public school or college band or orchestra director and ask them to help you find a writer.

These days it has been getting harder and harder to find fresh, new, and interestingly written literature for the church orchestra.  The process written above hopefully will help you in that quest. The same adjustments as above can be applied to a concert band piece to make it suitable for church instrumental group.

Blessings to you as you minister the praises of His Holy Name!

Ron Blount

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