Have you ever been in a situation where you’re about to finish a section of a song, but aren’t really sure about what comes next? You look to your fellow band-mate and they look even more confused than you do, you look to your lead singer (whose eyes are shut, and is giving you no sense of direction), and by the time the next section of the song comes everyone on the platform goes into a different part of the song. This my friends, is what we call a train wreck. One of which could’ve been easily avoided if only we had someone who would take the reins, communicate, and steer everyone in the right direction.
The role of a music director is far greater than just being the point person on the platform. A music director translates the musical desires of a worship leader before, during, and after a worship set, bringing clear communication to musicians, singers, and at times even the production team. It’s important that a music director knows what the end goal is before these communications even start. It's much easier to effectively and clearly communicate the small steps when you know what the big picture is.
Here are a few practical tips that may help you be a more effective music director:
Establish a Language: Have you ever had to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you? I have, and it wasn’t fun. For some reason, I thought speaking slower and louder would help them understand me, but the barrier here was that we weren't speaking the same language. Making the terminology known amongst your team is extremely important in order to communicate effectively. Things such as the Nashville Number System and knowing the difference in between Stage-Right and Stage-Left (I’m still confused as to which is which) will help you communicate your vision.
Think Ahead: Remember that you are the worship leader's mouthpiece to the band when on the platform. It's your job to keep close attention to whoever is leading during the set and communicate to the band where they want to go. If the worship leader wants to repeat a section, it’s up to you to make sure the band knows, and that it's executed well. Anticipate what is about to happen so that you can clearly communicate to the rest of the team. If there is no direction from the worship leader, you'll have to take the wheel and guide the team.
Be Prepared: As a musician, it's vital that you come to rehearsal prepared, that you know your parts, and that you are able to perform them well. As a music director, however, you'll need to know everyone else's part as well, not just your own. Make sure you take some time in the rehearsal to listen to everyone else—it’s your job to make sure the song sounds like it should. Also, take some time to figure out what the worship leader’s vision for the set is before rehearsal, so that you’re not changing arrangements on the spot and wasting time.
Set Your Team Up for Success: Supply resources that can help them better prepare as they practice on their own. You want to make sure you are a good steward of your team’s time, and preparation is key to accomplish that. As much as you can, have accurate charts, MP3's, and arrangement notes available beforehand.
Relationships: This may be the most important part of being a music director. Leadership is all about relationships and showing God's love to others. When addressing your team be kind and uplifting, remembering that we are called to build people up, not tear them down. If people know that you genuinely love and care for them, they are more likely to trust and follow you. Send out a text during a week when they’re not serving just to see how things are going and if there's anything the need prayer for. Remind yourself constantly that they are more than a name filling a position on Planning Center, but a brother/sister in Christ and a child of God. Be their shepherd, and they will respect your leadership.
Lead in Christ: Remind yourself of the why behind the what—you are helping lead God’s people into His presence. It’s important for our hearts to be in the right place as we continuously seek excellence and exalt Jesus Christ through music. Everything that we do on and off the platform must point to Christ. Don’t let the truth of His love be overshadowed by pride or arrogance, but let the love of Christ pour out of you as you lead your team. Do everything in your power and ability to give God your best—but don’t lose sight of what is most important in the process—worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus did everything well. As His disciples, we are to do the same thing, knowing that it's only by the Spirit that we're able to do so. May God be glorified in every part of our lives. Mark 7:31-37
Jay Alves is the Hollywood Campus Worship Leader at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale. He is originally from Sao Paulo, Brasil and grew up in Boston, MA. He is a loving husband, father and teacher, and absolutely loves ice cream.