Summer Conferences for Church Musicians (2019 Edition)

Summer Conferences for Church Musicians (2019 Edition)

For those of us who teach during the year, summer is the perfect time to learn and develop our own musicianship skills and catch up on some professional development.

Summer conferences are a great way to do this. They help us stay connected with others in the field; learn new things about playing, singing, directing, and teaching; find inspiration for creating meaningful and engaging worship services; and hear about all the latest music releases: choral, handbell, children's choir resources, curriculum, instrumental collections, etc.

Three New Habits I'm Cultivating This Year

Three New Habits I'm Cultivating This Year

This year, like many of you, I set out to create a few new habits in my life. You know what it's like: those things we do, the routines and structures that shape our days—our habits are patterns of learned behavior that are so second nature to us, we don’t even think about them.

“Out with the old and in with the new!” we say, as if it were that easy. But what does it really take to form a new habit?

According to Charles Duhigg, former New York Times reporter and author of the book, The Power of Habit, every habit has a cycle or loop:

  • The routine (the thing we find ourselves doing automatically)

  • The reward we get from that activity

  • The cue or trigger that starts the cycle

How We Structure Our Freelance Work Retreat (+ a Free Workbook!)

How We Structure Our Freelance Work Retreat (+ a Free Workbook!)

Every spring, my husband Steve and I set aside a few days for a work retreat.

We’re both music freelancers, so this is a time for us to take a step back from our businesses, reflect on the successes and challenges of the past year, evaluate what’s going well and what could be improved, and do some creative planning for the year ahead.

Often, we try to tie this in with a short getaway (because by March or April, we usually have a pretty bad case of cabin fever). In the past, we’ve found affordable rentals on Airbnb (a business expense!) within an hour’s drive and bring our dog Rory, our laptops, a few books, and food and snacks for a few days. 

How to Add Instrumental Parts to Your Choir Anthems

How to Add Instrumental Parts to Your Choir Anthems

Opportunities to play and hear different instruments has numerous benefits for your choir members. Here are three notable ones:

Benefits of Including Instruments

1. It helps singers be actively and creatively involved in the music-making process.

We learn by doing, by moving, by experimenting. For children, music is a form of play, and interacting with it by singing, moving, clapping, and playing instruments only deepens their experience.

2. It gives singers an opportunity to connect and engage with music in new ways.

The chance to experiment and try new things is a crucial part of the music-learning process, for learners of all ages. For children, clapping and playing instruments gives them an opportunity to improvise and even compose their own rhythm patterns and short melodies.

Four Pieces for Easter: A New Handbell Collection

Four Pieces for Easter: A New Handbell Collection

Easter is a joyful day in the church year. It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and victory, the gift of new life, and the hope of everlasting life to come.

All of this makes Easter the perfect time to pull out all the stops (no pun intended). From handbell acclamations to soaring soprano descants, brass ensembles to triumphant fanfares, there are lots of things you can do to help bring Easter to life in your worship services.

The good news is, Easter is more than just one day - it’s a 50-day season.

It’s kind of like celebrating your birthday all month long.

That’s why I’m excited to share with you Four Pieces for Easter - a digital collection of four pieces for 2-3 octave handbells (12-21 bells) designed to add a creative element into your worship services, both on Easter Sunday and in the season that follows.

Go-To Warm-Up Resources for Busy Choir Directors

Go-To Warm-Up Resources for Busy Choir Directors

Warm-ups for choirs are like stretches for athletes: they help prepare the muscles and engage the mind for focused, active work.

But more than simply warming up the voice and preparing to sing, choral warm-ups are a practical way to prepare and introduce new musical skills and concepts before singing them in the context of a piece of music. This not only saves you time in rehearsal, but it also creates a more cohesive learning experience for your choir members.

20 Tips for Working with High School Youth Choirs

20 Tips for Working with High School Youth Choirs

As a youth choir director, you know what it’s like to balance the responsibilities of being a teacher and a friend, a spiritual leader and confidant.

You know the challenges and rewards of building community and creating a safe, supportive environment where all can be seen and heard and valued.

But how do you approach musical growth and development at this age? How do you handle the unpredictability of changing voices? In the age of smartphones and short attention spans, how do you keep them focused and engaged during rehearsals?

Here are a few helpful tips for working with 9th-12th grade singers:

Life Lately: Winter Edition

Life Lately: Winter Edition

There’s something about winter that causes us to slow down, to reflect. I suppose you could say the same thing about any season: it’s really a matter of being intentional with your time and attention and being present.

I’m making it a practice to sit and write out some of my thoughts during each season this year - a practice I hope will help me cultivate a sense of peace and gratitude, recognize and acknowledge things I’m learning, and be more present.

We’re all works in progress, right? This is me, sharing where I am and what I’m learning along the way.

So, let’s pretend it’s the weather and say this reflection was inspired by quiet snow days and clean, winter-white landscapes, okay? This is life lately:

An Inside Look at My Superhero-Themed Studio Incentive Program

An Inside Look at My Superhero-Themed Studio Incentive Program

Every year, I plan and create a 6-8 week incentive program for my piano studio. Mostly, this is for my beginning and elementary students (through 5th grade), though my middle schoolers (6th-8th grade) have been known to join in!

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I’ve found, while it's a great way to mix up our weekly lesson routine and give my students something fun to look forward to each week, it’s also a helpful way for me to assess their musicianship skills, take time to recognize their musical growth, and really tailor my instruction to each student.

Music for the Festival of the Christian Home (Mother's Day)

Music for the Festival of the Christian Home (Mother's Day)

Mother's Day, though not a sacred holiday, is often observed in some way in churches of various denominations.

The day actually originated in a Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia in May 1907, when Anna Jarvis, organized a special service to honor her late mother. The next year, Anna advocated that the second Sunday in May be a day to honor all mothers. Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1912.