About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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“Oh, the happy choir director who is hired to start work on a brand new choir, or who walks into his first rehearsal a total stranger to the existing group—what a fortunate man he is! The new choir director who is a former member of the choir, or a member of the congregation, or the nephew of the alto soloist, or a former altar boy, or otherwise well acquainted with the choir, is in for a few headaches.”
— Paul Hume (1956)

Are You a Servant Leader?
published 13 December 2013 by Richard J. Clark

URING THIS BUSY LITURGICAL SEASON, when music directors are often overwhelmed, there is little time to think, no less listen to others. However, it still might make sense to take stock of what kind of leaders we are. It is not enough to just be a good musician. We must be smart about our leadership.

A colleague recently sent me this article: How to Become a Servant Leader, by Emma Johnson. Although written for those in the business world, the wisdom here fits beautifully in the world of sacred music. Putting moral, ethical or even altruistic reasons aside, there is a simple pragmatism here of getting the very most productivity out of not only employees but also volunteers, especially if one is a director.

The opening line alone is intriguing: “Bossing around employees is so passé.” The very essence of what a conductor must do is tell people what to do. This doesn’t change, but giving people the tools and emotional environment to accomplish what a director asks is key.

Emma Johnson writes:

“Bossing around employees is so passé. Developing people, treating them with respect, encouraging their talents and input—these are trends that research has proven build strong companies and give them the competitive edge. Servant leadership—the philosophy of focusing first on the needs of employees and customers—has gained popularity in recent years, with numerous Fortune 500 firms like TDIndustries, Aflac and Synovus subscribing to its principles.
“If you really listen to your colleagues and figure out how to get them what they need, they will perform at a higher level, which improves the customer experience, which affects business results,” says Kent Keith, CEO of Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership…The essence of servant leadership—serve the employees first, and success with clients will follow—might appear to be the antithesis of modern business.”

She breaks down the basic areas of “Servant Leadership” into five areas:
• Listen
• Appreciate
• Respect
• Develop
• Unleash (Let the gifts of your musicians shine!)

This model is perfectly applicable to music ministry. Furthermore, leadership and authority are two very different things. Some with authority do not command respect. Many without authority have more influence than those in charge. Servant leadership in no way compromises authority or clarity of direction. It does not necessarily mean making everyone happy. In fact, a Servant Leader will usually earn the respect and trust of others. Do so, and you can change the world.

Finally, I offer a FREE DOWNLOAD (PDF) of a setting of Psalm 96 for the Christmas Mass at Midnight based on chant Puer natus for SATB, Schola, Organ, and 2 Trumpets. Were I a better servant leader, I would have made this tool available sooner! (One may discern much from negative example.)

The multipage PDF includes:
• Full score
• Trumpet parts
• Choir/Cantor part
• Congregation insert.

To find Responsorial Psalms for the entire liturgical year by several extraordinary composers, look to the Chabanel Responsorial Psalms. These are made available for FREE by a true servant leader, Jeff Ostrowski.