Many song leaders define their role in the public assembly primarily in mechanical terms. They believe that they are a success if they correctly pitch each song, correctly beat the hand motions for each song's time signature, and sing with a strong voice. Furthermore, they feel that their job is to select songs for the assembly that fits the church's rigid, mechanistic agenda (opening song, song before communion, invitation song...). Many song leaders see no other dimensions of song leading that are important.
This mechanical self-image has been apparent to those of us who train song leaders. Most students attend a singing song to acquire basic mechanical skills. When they have realized that goal they immediately lose interest in receiving any further training from a singing school.
We need to enlighten song leaders about the nature of their ministry and promote the thesis that there is more to song leading than mechanical competence. My dynamic ministry of song leading also contains an artistic dimension. Let us briefly define artistic song leading and contrast it to the mechanistic-only paradigm.
The artistic song leader is able to capture the emotional spirit of Christian music and project it to the church in such a way that the entire congregation can experience that charismatic atmosphere. The mechanistic song leader is so focused on the technical side of music that he projects correctness of form while being either unaware or unable to project the emotional atmosphere of his hymns.
The process of sensing, projecting, and leading the church in the experience of the emotional atmosphere of hymns requires skills that transcend mechanical competence. Many song leaders discover that it is much easier t develop mechanical competence than it is to develop artistic competence.
There are a few people who seem to have a natural talent to lead singing in an effective artistic manner. If you were to ask these leaders how they do it, they would likely confess an inability to explain how they do it. People with natural talent are often unable to explain their skills. This is because they are able to perform without needing to think in an anylytical fashion.
But many people who become artistic song leaders develop that skill in a systematic learning environment. One can develop artistic skills by becoming aware of the components of artistic performance and methods of performing.
Advanced classes in song leading at the Singing School at Abilene Christian University stress this systematic development of artistic skills through lecture, lab, and coaching classes. We urge you to survey your own skills and consider the pursuit of this advanced training.
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