Easter 2024

25 February 2008
McKinney, Texas - First United Methodist Church of, music director search

Performance Appraisals are an
integral part of church music

I've seen some weird church musician position descriptions in my day but the one that I saw today from First United Methodist Church in McKinney, Texas is particularly a doozy.

Now, let me just add here that I understand that churches all have their own way of operating, but some of them jump off of the deep end in terms of institutional language, and this seems to me to be an instance of that.

It's one thing to list "essential duties and responsibilities", but it's quite another to list the "Performance Appraisal measurements" by which said duties will be evaluated.

Take a deep breath:

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned. Performance Appraisal (PA) measurements are noted in brackets [ ]. 1. Plans and selects vocal, instrumental, and recorded music suitable to type of program and to musicians who are to render selections. [PA: Appropriate and complete presentations consistently produced.] 2. Supervises Organist and Associate Director of Music and recruits volunteer staff. Issues assignments and provides leadership in such areas as rehearsing, scoring, arranging and copying music, lyric writing, and vocal coaching. [PA: Tasks completed by incumbent, staff or volunteers in a timely and complete manner.] 3. Auditions and selects vocal and instrumental talent for musical presentations. May also perform as soloist or with group in musical presentations. [PA: Appropriate presentations made at all times required.] 4. Auditions and hires musicians or orchestra personnel for special events. [PA: Appropriate presentations made at all times required.] 5. Positions members within choirs or musical groups to obtain balance among sections. [PA: Appropriate presentations made at all times required.] 6. Directs vocal choirs and bell choirs and musicians at rehearsals and performances to achieve desired effects such as tonal and harmonic balance, dynamics, rhythms, tempos, and shadings. [PA: Appropriate presentations made at all times required.] 7. Directs and/or supervises children’s and youth choirs including handbell choirs. Works with youth minister to coordinate youth music program. [PA: Activities conducted in an appropriate and professional manner consistent with church needs.] 8. Transcribes musical compositions and melodic lines to adapt them to or create particular style for choirs. [PA: Appropriate presentations made at all times required.] 9. Schedules performances and arranges for proper publicity. [PA: Performances complete and appropriate with publicity arranged as needed.] 10. Oversees care and appearance of the choir room, choir robes, musical instruments and other accessories. [PA: Choir supplies and other musical supplies maintained in a clean and orderly manner.] 11. Maintains music library in an organized manner, assuring adequate and appropriate musical selections are provided for all musicians and choir members. [PA: Library maintained at all times with sufficient musical supplies.] 12. Serves ex officio on Music Committee and Worship Committee. [PA: Attends and participates at meetings, completing assignments in a timely manner.] 13. Attends church-sponsored training programs. [PA: Satisfactory participation, retention and application of training program subjects.] 14. Develops work area budget and administers all area budget expenditures. [PA: Expenditures are within budget amounts and are appropriate for the work area.] 15. Consults with the Choir Council to foster communication between the choir and the director. [PA: Attendance and participation in meetings.] 16. Oversees the church arts program [PA: Additional specific Arts responsibilities will be defined along with PA measurements. Part of the job responsibilities will be to develop these specifics.] 17. Attends weekly staff meetings. [PA: Attendance and participation in meetings.] 18. Other duties as assigned as needed. [PA: Efficient completion of assigned duty, responsibility or task.] SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITIES Directly supervises the Director of Children’s Choir and Organist. Carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the organization's policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include interviewing, hiring, and training employees; planning, assigning, and directing work; appraising performance; rewarding and disciplining employees; addressing complaints and resolving problems. QUALIFICATIONS To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. EDUCATION and/or EXPERIENCE Master's degree (M. A.) or equivalent; or four to ten years related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience., emphasis added

Aside from being one of the longer position descriptions I have ever read, this position description comes off as arrogant, disorganized and redundant. Of course the person hired will be expected to fulfill his essential duties and responsibilities. You have, in fact, already identified this with the word essential.

Putting in the performance assessments (or Per Asses, as I will refer to them here) raises the hood on what I can only assume is a bloated, numbers-based Sport Utility Church (SUC) atmosphere.

This wouldn't be all that surprising. MacTown, as McKinney is known, has doubled in population in the last six years, and the parish probably can't help but salivate at the rich fields of wheat springing up all around it.

Intrigued, I dug deeper via the web. The church's website boasts that "there are three Sunday morning [traditional] worship times to fit your life." And the adult choir is labeled as "outstanding" yet they are not given a page of their own on the site. In fact, given the description above, I found the dearth of music department information to be completely incongruent with their expectations.

The visitor's page is full of success expletives superlatives:

We have something for everyone and that’s what makes us unique!

visitors page

Yes, just like a shopping mall.

When you arrive, there are many opportunities to make you feel at home. If you have small children, we have a wonderful nursery where you can drop off your child with skilled workers who are doing what they love. You can also receive a pager when you drop off your little one to help you feel connected to your child while you worship.

Ah yes, the technicization of intimacy -- a cardinal Christian virtue.

We have exceptional programs for both our children and youth. Most recently, the youth program was nominated as the Best Youth Program in McKinney! We also offer a variety of adult Sunday school classes for all ages and walks of life! Outside of Sunday morning worship, we have a variety of exciting ministries, classes, opportunities for bible study, and fun-filled church events. The fellowship at First United is amazing, and there really is something for everyone! We truly want to welcome you to our church family, and would love to have you visit one of our worship services.

emphasis added

Did you catch all that? Exceptional! Variety! Amazing! Something for everyone! Love to have you visit!

I think we're only scratching the surface of what's going on with this church, but whatever it is, it has made its way to this hiring process. The part of the position description that said that one's ability "to achieve desired effects such as tonal and harmonic balance, dynamics, rhythms, tempos, and shadings" would be appraised is extremely off-putting. One has to ask, who will do the appraising? The arm-chair music director?

Perhaps the music director's supervisor will ask that he wear a pager so that he can be notified mid-liturgy if the desired effects are not being achieved.

All of this makes me wonder, where is the gospel in all this? I am not sure that First United Methodist, McKinney and I understand church music to be the same thing. Whereas I understand it to be a imperfect yet thrilling and fluid exercise in creativity and grace, I think they see it as a more of a legalistic enterprise.

If the music director does wear a "pager", so to speak, he might then ask the choir members also to wear the device. (This is a nice thought, isn't it? During communion: "Altos: your entrance in m. 43 poor")

Ah yes. Pagers Per Asses.

Author's note: I am not actively looking for another job. I have always studied the American Guild of Organists position listings as a way of keeping abreast of the state of church music in this country. (Thanks Will!)



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