Let me walk you through a situation that I encountered earlier this year..
Church pre roll is on and as a band we’re waiting back stage to come out onto the stage and start our service. We usually have about 1.5 -2 minutes to get tuned up and prepare for service while pre-roll video is finishing up. In that time I make sure the team is ready and call for the drummer to prepare to start the track. At this point we have about 7 seconds before blackout and start of the service. I call to start the track so its playing by the time pre roll is over.
The next thing I see is one of the worship leaders who happened to notice there was something wrong ran over to me and signaled the computer isn’t working and we don’t have a track. We were playing Real Love by Hillsong Y&F so obviously we cant play that without a track considering there are approximately 14,586 synth layers and drum effects we would be missing.
Its go time. What do I do? We have a back up song but this is a very young & new drummer and he might not know how it goes. Another second goes by. We have to get going. I need to make a call.
Next song is Behold by Hillsong Worship. That’s not ideal because we like to start services off big with excitement and praise. Its been about 3 seconds now of dead space, a dark room and we need to do something. Nothing else I can do. I start swelling up on the B, call the click for Behold and call the team to swell up on B.
Thank God we have quick a quick thinking worship leader who started praying into his mic over the service right before we started playing and continued to as we played the intro to the song. This made things much less awkward and made it seem like we planned to start the service off this way.
We start Into Behold and play the service as planned from that point on.
Now… That wasn’t the best it could have gone. Ideally we would have wanted to get that all figured out before it was time to go so that we could of had a plan before pre-roll had finished. But in all reality, 3 seconds of silence isn’t really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
Now what actions did I take in this situation that mattered.
There are 3.
1. I made a call.
2. I knew my set well.
3. I knew the abilities of my musicians.
Make a Call
As MDs, we lead our team through disaster. We are the communication. When disaster strikes, we are responsible for making decisions quickly and decisively. It doesn’t matter if its the right call or the wrong call. You make a call and you go from there.
Its important to make the call while keeping calm. If your team senses panic, they panic. If they sense frustration, they will become frustrated. If they sense confidence, they will be confident. You influence how your team reacts in difficult situations. Always take that seriously and never be the reason your team reacts negatively to issues.
Know your Set
If I didn’t know my set I would have panicked when this situation arose. I wouldn’t have had the ability to call out the next song because I wouldn’t have known what it is. When you don’t know your set and a wrench gets thrown in the middle of it, it is much harder to react and adapt under that extreme pressure. The goal is to prepare well enough that when something goes wrong, you’re aware enough of your options that you can pick a plan B within 1-2 seconds. After that, it starts to get awkward in the room and we all hate that.
Know Your Musicians
The call I made wasn’t the best because we like to start our services off with excitement. But I knew that if I called “One thing Remains” which at the time was our back up song, our drummer wouldn’t know it. If I call a song that starts driven with drums with a drummer who doesn’t know the song, there’s a chance disaster is going to strike. Before you make a call, its important to briefly think through the abilities of your musicians. Will they understand you and be able to do what you’re asking. If the answer is no for one vital team member then that call is not an option. Think of something else.
This is next level music directing we’re talking about. This is not just leading the team through songs correctly and getting a service done. This is thinking under pressure and its not easy to do the first few times. It won’t come naturally at first so don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a wrong call. I make wrong calls all the time but its important to make a call and make it confidently. Your team cant move forward without you telling them what to do. Be prepared for anything so when that moment comes you know your options.
Prepare to music direct this week as much as you prepare to play your instrument. Think about things that could go wrong. Prepare for them. Think of options. Memorize your set list & song keys.
The more you prepare on the front end, the more effective you are for your team and the easier your job will be come service time.