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Update on Organist Situation

 

A number of parishioners have inquired about the status of hiring a new director of music and liturgy. In January, I informed the entire parish of what had been done up to that point. Allow me to provide an update.

Let me first address what has been done so far. To recap, a “Recruiting Team” was put together. The team consisted of several parish choir members together with non-choir parishioners-in-the-pews.  We all agreed that different people are fed and uplifted by different styles of music. A parish needs to provide as broad a range of musical styles as possible. The team recognized that this presents significant challenges. They initially met to tease out what that would look like specifically at St. Monica. How do we make that happen? What are the liturgy/music priorities? What are our strengths? What has worked in the past and has borne fruit? What is simply not working? What needs to be changed? What is new or different or missing that needs to be included?

The team came up with several key requirements:  The new Director must have a degree in Music. They must have experience directing choirs. They must be comfortable with multiple styles of music including traditional hymns, chant and contemporary. They must also have a background in Catholic liturgy.

The Director we sought needed to be collaborative, committed to growing the church and contributing to the formation of disciples of Christ.  Our new Director would have to be part of the St. Monica parish community. They should not simply be someone who is hired to accompany the music for weekend liturgies.

Based on these conversations, the team came up with a plan. This included developing a series of liturgy/music principles and a preliminary “job scope”. They drew up a list of “threshold” requirements to screen applicants.  They developed a list of interview questions for first- and second interviews. They came up with a list of places where the job would be posted. They agreed on an evaluation procedure to be used once resumes were received. The process was reviewed by several other parishioners for further input and recommendations. A final version of the job description was posted in early December. The position was posted to several universities, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and selected professional organizations. As resumes were received, they were distributed to the team for evaluation.

Several candidates looked promising. The Recruiting Team 1. Reviewed all resumes; 2. Identified which candidates met the basic requirements established; 3. Ranked the candidates in the order in which the team wanted to have them interviewed; 4. Finalized the questions the team wanted to use in initial phone interviews; 5. Identified who would reach out to the candidates and schedule the phone interviews; 6. Identified which team members would conduct the phone interviews; 7. Reviewed how the interview summaries would be prepared and shared with the full team and the Pastor.

In the end, two candidates were chosen for final interviews. The primary candidate was invited to come and play at Mass during one weekend. An offer was subsequently made. Unfortunately, after prayer and careful consideration, the candidate declined our offer. Personal, family, and geographic concerns were offered as reasons.  Immediately the team then reached out to the second candidate who informed them that he had already accepted another offer. As you might imagine, this was a disheartening conclusion to a serious and thoughtful process. 

The team regrouped and reevaluated its approach. We reached out to a parishioner with professional experience in recruiting.  This person recommended a smaller subset of the original Recruiting Team. They also made a recommendation to change our approach. The job description, values, and standards should remain the same. However, rather than asking candidates to come to us, we should actively search out and approach candidates we would like to consider.

Music and organ specialists from a number of prominent music school were contacted. This included the Westminster Conservatory of Music in Princeton, New Jersey, the  Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, the Oberlin School of Music in Oberlin, OH and the Jacobs Music School at Indiana University. Locally we reached out to Temple University’s Boyer School of Music and the Department of Music at St. Joseph University.

Musicians, music instructors, band and choir directors within our local high school district were approached. Similar inquiries were made within the elementary schools in the area. In all cases, we also asked them for any recommendations that they might have, thus widening the “search circle” even further. We reached out to musicians and liturgy directors from parishes – both in- as well as outside- the Philadelphia geographic area.

Inquiries were made at organ companies such as Allen Organ in Macungie, PA and Grafton Organ Company in Souderton, PA.

We advertised at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We posted at several professional music associations both locally and on a wider geographic basis.

This past month we had conversations with three qualified candidates. One was deemed not a good fit. We are in the process of first and second interviews with the other two candidates. Eventually, we would like to have one or both “audition” for the parish in the hope of a final offer to one of them.

The search has been a lengthy and difficult one. As one can see from above, parishioners have been active and diligent over the past several months. Prayerful and dedicated parishioners have been actively engaged in the process through intentional prayer, consultation of the Scripture, market research, advertising, evaluation and interviews.

Their approach echoes the prophet Joel 2:27-28: “You will know that I am in the midst of Israel, that I am the Lord your God, with none to equal me. My people will not be disappointed. I will pour out my spirit on all. So let love be sincere; do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.”

This group of Disciples has personally felt the Lord testing and trying us for a purpose. We have met these difficult months with dedication, a lot of prayer and support of each other. They also sense, as I do, that Christ is doing something in this area.

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