Church Music Association of America

Tips on organizing a one or two day workshop

• Most people coming will be novices when it comes to real sacred music. You need to meet them at their level. Even if you end up with a group of skilled musicians and music directors, chant will likely be brand new to them. And although most will be enthusiastic, you’ll have a few skeptics. Things need to be kept light and fun and not overly academic or you’ll lose your audience

• You need to build in plenty of time for chant – learning from the ground up. This is the primary reason people will be coming.

• Start singing right away – people need to be involved – especially the skeptics.

• Keep lectures at a minimum. One guest lecturer is probably enough for a one or two day workshop.

• Have all materials prepared and published ahead of time. Don’t try to save money by making copies of music at the parish office- homespun efforts usually look like just that. Save yourself the headache and go with a professional service – a few dollars more, but less work for you and the presentation is so much better.

• Don’t spend too much time brainstorming with large committees about repertory and logistics. This often amounts to a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas and wasted time, which none of us have. Do your homework, and have two or three people make educated decisions about the needs of your audience. Make up the schedule, stick to it, and things will fall into place.

• Think of all costs for inviting faculty – travel, accommodations, wining and dining, and honoraria. This is probably a lot more than you think.

• Consider starting the workshop on a Thursday evening or early on Friday and then doing the vigil Mass on Saturday instead of the coveted Sunday morning Mass. Most singers and music directors will have trouble staying over because they need to return to their own parishes for their own Sunday Masses.

• Make sure all music and liturgy plans are laid out clearly for celebrants and local MC’s ahead of time.

• Centralize practical efforts (two or three people is enough), and don’t count on additional volunteers to make decisions or do more than act as gophers on d-day. If you need additional personnel on the day of the workshop, considering hiring a local or two at a nominal fee. This money will be well spent. These individuals will be on call to assist you in anything that might come up. N.b. Persons handling registrations need to be privy to all of the details and be excellent communicators. Everyone will be writing or calling with questions, or a special situation or need. Those fielding the calls or taking registrations need to be thinking of only one thing – public relations.

• Plan on accepting online registrations. This will give you a good idea of the number coming. People can mail in payments and registration forms if they wish, but most will opt to pay upon arrival. Having to download a form and find a stamp, not to mention a mailbox, will only delay the process, and can act as a deterrent to attendance. Look into the possibilities of hosting an online registration form on your own website. If you use WordPress, for example, information on putting together a registration form can be found here .

• Local workshops usually fill up in the two weeks prior to the event. Last minute decisions to attend are par for the course.

• Success on d-day has everything to do with careful and decisive planning ahead of time. It should all appear effortless – no one wants to see the sausage being made.

Lastly, remember that the success of your workshop, and of the sacred music movement in general, is more dependent on this than you may realize:

• Make sure your local parish community is prepared for and feels itself a part of the event taking place – the closing Mass will be their Mass, too.


Church Music Association of America