Music is Life

Should Church Musicians Be Paid?

Even though I think it’s hilarious that this is even a question I can understand why it’s an issue for many churches. I’ve come to the conclusion that these sorts of thoughts derive from a lack of education, people simply don’t know how to value the arts.

I was surprised to see many articles on Google regarding this and there are good arguments to be had on both sides. Author Joshua Weiss has a short but great list of criteria (see article here) that helps answer this question: Are the musicians truly professional? Do you value them and their time/skill? Can the church afford them? Are there alternatives?

In my personal experience I played for a particular church for many years without pay but was grateful to do it. I never really thought about getting paid until I was finishing up my MFA. At that point in life I just could no longer afford to perform for free anymore. I gave them a year’s advance notice that I would need to start getting paid or else I would have to leave, not as a threat, but simply to earn a living elsewhere. Sad to say they let me go. Even though I felt disappointed I was glad. You see, it had become a burden in many ways: the time, the travel, dealing with toxic behavior from some of the other band members, and the feeling of “carrying” the whole band. If I wasn’t there the worship was mediocre at best. It’s a flattering notion but a burdensome one as well. One of the things Weiss alludes to is people getting “ground up in the church machine” which “leads to burnout or a calloused view of church and Christianity.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, this is exactly how I felt. It didn’t even feel right to lead worship for FREE, my heart simply had no more joy.

At this point in life I see things not necessarily as right vs. wrong but more in the vein of beneficial vs. destructive. Applied to this case the question turns from “is it right/wrong to pay church musicians” to “is it beneficial/destructive to pay church musicians”. The answer becomes much easier to answer now. Most Christian churches today strongly rely on music as part of their ministry. I can’t see how paying skilled musicians a fair and reasonable amount for this vital aspect can be destructive. In my case the church wasn’t wrong for not paying me but that turned out to be non-beneficial for them. If this story is true of me I’m sure it’s true for thousands of other people and churches across the states.

Best Dance Floor Routine of All Time!

It’s not often that a gymnast comes into my studio asking for a specialized mix for her routine but when Sophina DeJesus from UCLA walked in I obliged. Little did I know how big her routine would get! I’ve even read that her routine might be the greatest of all time, crazy! Check it out.

and the original performance here:

I love seeing my clients putting their talents to work. Great job, Sophina!

Is it worth it?

At my studio I tend to get a lot of the same questions from clients; “Is it worth it?” is one of them.

What they’re really asking is if spending a few dollars to record their own music is worth it. I think it’s best to start with another question: What does worth mean to you? Typically we use the word in regard to the world of finance. In this case ‘worth’ would really mean ROI—return of investment. If I spend a few hundred dollars making my own music is will I make my money back?

To others, including myself, worth means a bit more. In fact it originates from an internal source. It starts from a sense of self-accomplishment, of knowing that I’m good at doing a particular thing. Then it grows into receiving feedback from others who share that they too like my creation, or receiving a warm applause after a live performance.

This isn’t to say that I don’t want to earn a living from my craft, in fact I believe I am worth some discrete dollar amount for my work, time, and services. You too should want the same but the important thing to take into account is that the financial return cannot be the foundation of a motive for creating music. Walt Disney put it best, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” The same should go for your music.

The heart of a child

A month ago as I was researching the recent events with Pomplamoose I watched a video of Jack Conte speaking at an XOXO festival. One thing in particular that spoke to me was him talking about his period of time shortly after ‘making it big’. He had been putting out material frequently up until that point and then he felt the pressure of everything he created from then on having to live up to big media’s standards, what he calls an “artificial paradigm.” He didn’t release anything for at least three years because of this fear. In retrospect he says that he should’ve just kept doing what he was doing.

The way I look at that is that him and Nataly were simply having fun in their parents’ house making music, they didn’t quite care what people thought of their output. They had very cheap musical instruments and gear and did the best they could do with what they had but then all of sudden they entered the realm of ‘the big guys’ and felt they didn’t measure up.

I’ve been experiencing this same sort of pressure for quite a while as well. Which is weird because although I know I’m nowhere near being one of the great musical forces in the world I also know that I’m nowhere near being one of the worst. Even stranger is that when I remember setting my first steps on this musical journey I had such a willingness to share not only my grand ambitions but the very results of my creative output: my piano and guitar playing, my scored compositions. Naturally most of it sucked! But I didn’t care, I was having a great time unravelling the mysteries of music and felt good while doing so. Even better I knew I was getting better with each new challenge I undertook whether it was learning a new song or writing a new composition.

So as I enter this new year of 2015 I will do it with the heart of a child, bold and unafraid. Not that I don’t care about the quality of my work, God knows I do! But I want to trust gut when it comes to putting my work out there and not be afraid of the naysayers. Like the great philosopher Kat Williams said, “Haters gon’ hate, that’s they job.” That’s right, so while they’re hating I’m just gonna stay busy putting out dope music, hit after hit Happy

Pomplamoose — gate, or something like that

People don’t know what good music is, our schools are partly to blame.