A Music Directors Purpose

Leading with purpose… not power.

To be a successful music director you need to understand the purpose of what you’re doing. First and foremost, you are not a MD so that you can make all the decisions and tell the team what to do. This tends to be a common misconception. You, along with the rest of your team, are there to serve. That is the ultimate goal. You have been placed as your teams MD because you show the skills needed to lead a team. So lets talk about how to move forward in this position.
Serve your Worship Leader’s Vision
As the MD, your first goal is always so serve your Worship Leader’s vision. When you put this at the top of your priority list, it creates a cohesive and positive experience for the rest of your team. A trust is developed when you work with your WL at all times and never against them.


With that being said, it is still important to voice your opinion when something is not right or should be improved before service time. That’s why you’re in a leadership position. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The way you handle situations as a leader define whether you are a good leader or a bad leader. These conversations should always show give and take.

Here’s an example of how not to approach a logistical rehearsal conversation. “Hey WL, We are going to end on the (4) chord in song 2 so we can go right into song 3.” There are a few reason’s why this is not the right approach.

1. You’re telling your WL what to do. That is not how to properly work with someone.

You’re coming off as bossy and difficult to work with. This causes other band members to want to steer clear of you.

You’re not explaining why that would be the best option. Without an explanation, you are not telling people the reason this is a productive solution. Explaining why is the most important thing to do when bringing a change to the table. It helps people get on board with the change and resist it less.
The best way to approach this situation is in the form of asking a question. Here’s an Example: “Hey WL. I noticed at the end of that second song, if we would just end on the 4 chord instead of the 1 chord, it would create a great transitional moment for us to move right into the 3rd song. What would you think about doing that instead?”

When you take this approach you are not only giving full control back over to the WL but you’re also showing respect to your WL and everyone in the room by not “running the show”. This is much more effective than just stating your opinion as “the solution”.

Lead Your Team

You are a vital leader on your team. Without you, things do not run as smoothly. It is your job to not only lead your team in practices but also lead them through each service. You can make practices run smoother for your team and your WL when you show up w/ a plan and think ahead.

What song should we start rehearsal with?

What song should we do next?

Do we need to work through that song again?

How are we transitioning through songs?

These are all examples of questions you should be asking yourself every rehearsal.

During service time you should be cuing the band to start at the end of your service time countdown clock. You are also responsible to count the band into every song. Lead the band through dynamic changes. Talk through the transitions. Tell the band how to end the songs. Tell the band when unexpected changes are happening. You translate the WL’s desires if they are calling for something different (repeat chorus).

You are the communicator of all things to your team. How much you need to communicate to your team will obviously depend on how experienced your team is and how familiar they are  with the set you’re playing. But at the end of the day your communication to your team can either strengthen the team or confuse them. Be intentional about how much you’re talking and when you’re talking.

Avoiding “Icebergs”
Everyone encounters a service were something goes wrong. Actually, most services have a few mistakes here and there. It can be something very minor or a serious issue. These issues all need to be corrected in real time while the band is playing live. This is where the MD steps in and takes control of the situation to make sure things get back on track. Live performance is the time in which giving commands (in love) is a completely acceptable form of communication. Its your responsibility to communicate information and communicate it efficiently.

To visually explain how this works I like to think of the band as a ship and think of these moments as Icebergs. Some Ice bergs may appear small at the surface but they become monstrous beasts under the water. Sometimes you can’t see them coming until they’re right in front of you. One thing is for sure. If you do not alter your course, you will sink your ship.

When you see an issue, it is your job to do what it takes to correct it before the ship makes full contact with the iceberg. You will most likely make some contact with the iceberg and maybe even get a small scratch. That is almost inevitable. But the goal is always to keep the ship afloat and get to the destination. What is the destination? Well, practically, I guess its the end of the service.

This means we need to do our best to prepare for anything that could come our way. Singers singing off click, the pastor coming up at an unplanned time, a musician starting a song off wrong… the possibilities are endless. In some instances the only thing left to do is stop, have the WL admit the mistake publically and restart the song. (You can view this as reversing the boat, patching it up, and moving forward). But we want to do our best to avoid that from happening. Always be ready to adapt.

We are the lookout for the ship. Its our job to see trouble ahead, correct it, and keep things moving.

As music director we provide the standard of how it looks to serve. If we lead our teams properly it will cause people to look to us for guidance. If we lead them poorly it will cause people to avoid us. We should be the ones who show up and make our church a better place. From the rehearsal to the benediction of the service, we serve to make it all run smoothly. We do not strive for perfection. We strive for excellence. As music directors, we are who people should look to as examples of that.

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