Today I would like feature our guest music ministry blogger Angus McDonnell. I asked Angus to talk about how to get teens involved with music at Mass while keeping things sounding good.
We have a great band (ensemble) for our 5:00pm Sunday Night Mass. The drummer and piano player are pros and sound awesome. There is no shortcut for a solid rhythm section. Right now I’m trading between playing guitar and bass and leading the group.
We have a few high school singers as well.
There are various teens that want to be a part of our group. It is unlikely that they can make an evening rehearsal every week.
Teens are so busy…throw one sport, play, debate team or other extra-curricular activity in their lives and that is about all they can do to keep everything going without being overwhelmed.
Adding even one rehearsal per week may be too much for them.
But aren’t we supposed to enable the teens to take leadership roles in the Church? Yes, of course, however the Church reminds us, “singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation.” (USCCB document, Sing to the Lord)
Therefore, the value of teen participation does not supersede the value that the role of music is to foster prayer at Mass.
So how can a choir director/ensemble leader engage teens in the group while keeping the musical quality high?
Of course, we must begin with the basics and strive to live a life that is rooted in Jesus and dwell deep in the sacraments, prayer, and scripture. “Seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Matthew 6:33
Here are some practical tips…
- Meet one hour or more before Mass instead of an additional weekday evening rehearsal
- Make sure the teens (and others) have the music materials ahead of time
- Invite them to purchase and download new songs to add to their repertoire
- Hand pick solos and soloists
- Use seasonal songs and psalms to increase familiarity of music so that a song is learned well and able to be proclaimed with nuance, confidence, and reverence
- Make sure they all have pencils and encourage them to jot notes in their music (have them purchase and keep their own song books)
- Teach them basic things along the way such as how to read a lead sheet, time and key signatures, when to breathe between phrases
- If verses are too difficult to proclaim well by Mass time teach them the refrain melody only
- Perhaps hardest of all…say no to a particular person/solo (even a teen) for the sake of fostering prayer in the assembly
- Begin and end rehearsal in prayer
May the Lord bless you abundantly as you lead others in song and prayer!