Sunday, December 31, 2006

Starting A Church Orchestra

Having started playing piano at the age of eight, my interest in music began long before I had any inkling what I may do for a living. I had wanted to play violin for several years, but my mother thought piano at a reasonable age was more practical. So I started the lessons that I would continue for only three years before moving to flute lessons. I played flute for about 10 years until part of the way through college, where I was in the orchestra and wind ensemble. I also played piccolo and oboe in there for a couple of years. Then I gave up my music to pursue my activism.

Now as an adult I am looking for a place to use my musical talent. I talk to many adults who loved to play and would love to continue but are unsure what to do. They enjoy the playing, but there are few places where adults can continue to play. I have been thinking of this problem for a while, and I have come up with a solution for my situation. Because I attend a very small church but one with enough people for activities, I am going to use my church as an outlet for my music through forming a small orchestral group there.

The first step in forming a church orchestra is to research. Churches need to know what their budget will be so that they can begin to prepare for it. Your orchestra, if approved, will be a line item on the budget. Begin by sketching a brief plan. What do you want the church to pay for related to the orchestra? You will need a way to play any music, but you may be able to use equipment the church already owns or bring your own. You definitely will want to buy music. Decide how often you think your orchestra can play. In the beginning, you probably will play no more than once a month, and you likely will be playing only one song. That works, but you will need to price sheet music for a few pieces that you may consider.

Those costs probably are the only ones associated with an orchestra that are required. Some churches may be able to sponsor an annual dinner or other program for the orchestra members, but you can get by without it. You can even get by without music stands if needed; you will just need a little extra planning.

Once you have an idea on the cost, approach your minister. Explain your plan and listen politely to what he has to say. Now, it is rare to find a minister who will not jump at the chance to have church members more involved. Church attendance is down these days, and many people cite the lack of activities for them as a reason. Here you are stepping in and asking to take on responsibility that could get more people involved. You may have to present your budget plan to the church board or elders, but you really should not have a lot of problem getting past this initial meeting.

When you go to the church board, be prepared with copies of the proposed annual budget. Have answers for questions about saving costs and about fundraising ideas for the orchestra. The church may be willing to have a special start-up offering, and you may be able to come up with good ideas for the members themselves to raise the money.

Next will be getting members. If you know that there are church members who play, whether they are teens in their high school band or older people who have not played in years, go to them directly. The minister will want to announce the new organization, which of course is great, but you probably will have to twist a few arms to get everyone involved. Make yourself available to answer any questions anyone has and have an introductory meeting to gauge interest. Then you will need to get started quickly. Give everyone folders with music and send them home until the next rehearsal. Hype the church orchestra, and you should have no problem finding willing participants for your new venture.

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