Singers and Musicians? Welcome to My Bad Side.

5 comments Written on September 10th, 2008     
Filed under: Leadership, Music
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I keep telling myself this is a little thing, but in fact, it has reaching implications.

I can’t stand it when anyone in the church refers to “singers and musicians” — as if singing well does not require the same level of skill, dedication, anointing and musicality as playing an instrument. As if we’re not both musicians.

I’m already somewhat of a nerd when it comes to language so I try not to be the guy who is always correcting people. But sometimes I just can’t help it.

I’m thankful that most of the people on the worship team understand this about me, so when I gently correct them with “you mean vocalists and instrumentalists?” they know that I’m not just trying to be a know-it-all.

What do you think? Is there a better way to do this? I admit, “vocalists and instrumentalists” is a mouthful of syllables and consonants, and sometimes it feels silly.

But we’re all musicians.

And language matters… right?

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5 comments “Singers and Musicians? Welcome to My Bad Side.”

Ha! Great topic, Jelani! We used to have this same discussion periodically, but to my knowlegde, no one ever was offended, we would all just laugh about it when the terms came up. As for me – I refer to the two groups as “vocalists” and “band.” When I want to include everyone, I refer to the group as “team” as in “OK, team, let’s take it from the top.”

I wonder how the phrase “singers and musicians” got started and developed into such seemingly universal terminology? Hmmmmm….

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I’ve been playing drums since I was 5 years old and even back than there were Singers and Musicians. At that time I thought it was strange but at that age I just wanted to hit the drum at the right time. From what I can remember if the band had a lead singer who only sang then he was the singer and the people that provided the music were musicians. I don’t like the seperation either because it soon developed into a rating. A singer was important but the musician was 2nd. God gave us the talent to praise him and didn’t rate us as 1st and 2nd.

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When I was leading music/worship full time in the church, most of the “singers” drove me crazy, because they did not act like musicians. In fact, they were not musicians. They had little or no discipline, and little or no understanding of the role of their voice in the ensemble.

Musicians show up to rehearsal prepared to play. They don’t set down their sticks and wander over to other musicians to strike up long conversations about non-music during rehearsal. They don’t stare at the music stand, when it’s possible to memorize their parts. They don’t get mad and hurt if someone asks them not to play on a section where they should not be playing. They serve the song by arranging their part to enhance the music– to contribute to the piece. They learn the arrangement at home, so that in rehearsal they can work on the finer points of ensemble.

You see where I’m going with this? I getcha, Jelani. Any trained vocalist knows that he or she is a musician, and any trained music leader knows that vocalists are musicians.

I posit that this problem in the church harkens back to a poverty of skill in church musicians and music leaders in general, and is a good advertisement for the new NPU School of Music degree.

Let’s keep talking about this.

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Katie, I’m glad you brought it home… there is definitely a deficit in skill and training when it comes to worship music in the church.

Adding to that there is inconsistency in how we use terms… it’s clear to me that you tend to reserve the term “musician” for someone who takes their gift seriously and applies discipline in the manner in which they use it. Whereas, I take the opposite approach… just is there is no such thing as no communication (because everything we do can be construed as a form of communication) I think anyone who has a musical gift and chooses to use it is a musician.

Now whether they’re a GOOD musician or a disciplined musician or an anointed musician… that’s another issue entirely.

And for the record… man, I’m jealous about that new NPU music degree. If I could have majored in that when I was at NPU, I might have had a totally different career trajectory by now.

Then again, maybe I should just thank God for where I’m at now. =)

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Jelani. Thanks for these qualifications. I don’t think we disagree. It’s not the skill, so much as attitude. You’re so right. Anyone who who has a musical gift and chooses to use it is a musician. I think I was ranting about the casual attitude a lot of folks have about preparing their music for church! It drives me crazy, can you tell? Also. The point of your post is most important: It’s best to treat and refer to vocalists as musicians. My daughter just began opera studies at University of Denver. In music school it’s really obvious that vocalists are musicians. I like that. Let’s encourage our church singers that they are musicians. Thanks for the good words about the music degree. It’s gonna be fun to see who/what emerges in terms of new leadership for the church.

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