About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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"It would be contrary to the Constitution to decree or even to hint that sung celebrations, especially of the Mass, should be in Latin."
— Annibale Bugnini attacking "Sacrosanctum Concilium" (§36)

Choirmaster’s Life: “A Life of Sacrifice”
published 10 October 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

779 Sperabo HE LIFE of a choirmaster is a life of sacrifice. Indeed, directing a choir is one of the most difficult jobs—and our readers hardly require an explanation from me, since many share this vocation! However, if we look deeper, we realize this is actually a good thing.

For example, it was necessary for me to work very hard to put myself through college. I had earned scholarships, but there were additional requirements for those who received them. Looking back, I’m so glad I applied myself to the fullest—but would I have done so if it weren’t required?

Those of us with small children know how difficult this can be. The fact that I have been suffering due to a serious illness (in spite of many expensive medical procedures) makes things even harder. Sometimes my wife and I get so overwhelmed we just stare at each other: “Is this really happening right now?” Yet, God always has a plan. He knows these trials will bring us closer to Him, so we can be with Him in Heaven one day. Let’s be honest—would anyone choose the difficulties associated with raising children if they were given another option?

Due to human nature, I believe most of us wouldn’t reach our potential unless we have to. 1

AS A CHOIRMASTER, nothing would be easier than having twenty paid professional singers present each week. I’ve done that in the past, and it’s really awesome. On the other hand, working with volunteers is quite challenging. You must work very hard—or they stop coming. You must introduce new music—or they stop coming. You must not overwhelm them—or they stop coming. You must accept their quirks—or they stop coming. You must make sure the level of performance is acceptable and doesn’t sound horrible—or they stop coming. You must be flexible, adjusting to their needs as they are revealed to you—or they stop coming. You must be energetic and happy, bursting with energy and knowledge and excitement—or they stop coming.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

These challenges force us to become better at what we do. As I mentioned earlier, most of us would not push ourselves—unless we have to. Most importantly of all, these efforts please God.

And when the choir sings well, it’s all worth it. And when you see the transformation in people who have learned so much from your directing, it’s totally worth it!


1   If you examine the great composers, you will notice that—almost without exception—they wrote their best works out of necessity. They often had an urgent purpose: compose this piece, or you don’t eat! We hardly ever find composers “going off into a corner” and composing a piece without an immediate purpose in mind. Performers are the same way. When Horowitz had very little money, he reached the zenith of his career. After he became extremely famous and rich, his playing suffered tremendously. (The drugs didn’t help matters, either!) Horowitz could sit in his pajamas all day if he desired—and often did—and this was his undoing.