Dr. Mohler of Southern Seminary recently noted that enrollment in our music schools at our seminaries are down significantly over the past few years. As one who graduated from Southern’s School of Music (M.C.M., 1997: Church Music Major, Emphasis in Piano), and now having been in ministry since 1992 both as a minister of music and as a pastor, I believe I can speak to why enrollment is down.
Most of our seminaries’ music schools are modeled after conservatory curriculum. At seminary, you will study hymnology, church music literature, conducting and choral techniques. As a pianist, I would spend hours learning a piece by Bach, Chopin, Brahms, and Debussy. Vocalists would learn other classical pieces as well. Electives would include areas such as composition, transcription, church music drama, arranging, etc.
To Southern’s credit, they have begun some classes such as “Leadership in Contemporary Expressions of Corporate Worship.”
When one looks at the state of contemporary worship in our churches, then looks at our seminaries’ curriculum, some work needs to be done. When many of our worship services are led by guitars, drums, and other electrical instruments which are more in line with what one hears on the radio, they may question the necessity for coming to seminary to be a worship leader and learning how
- to conduct a choir (many churches now simply have praise teams);
- study hymnology (many churches work overtime to divorce themselves from the constraints of the past — which is what the ‘hymns’ represent);
- learn to sing or play classical pieces (what ministry would most people see in having someone play a Bach Prelude and Fuge or a Brahms Intermezzo for a worship service?)
Many simply see the need to lead in a spiritual manner with passion — whereas learning music in an academic setting seems to diffuse the passion that music should help arouse! For many, it just doesn’t seem to fit with being a worship leader.
Our seminary music schools will have to rethink some issues. I am not necessarily advocating doing away with all things historical and classical (my next blog will show the cruciality of having these areas in place). I am advising them to make a stronger case than they have been.
Fortunately, many of our seminary music professors are among the best trained musicians our country has to offer. I’m thankful they are serving the Kingdom of God. Yet, I believe the danger is that since they have been surrounded from an early time in that conservatory, academic mindset that they fail to take seriously the mindsets of those worship leaders in our churches who have their own mindsets of what worship should be. The temptation is to look at the quality of music played and taught at seminary and then simply look at the quality of the music played in our average church and look no further — “Our quality is better, therefore this is the level of quality every serious minister of music should attain.”
Tomorrow, I will blog on what the average church member may think of classically-trained music ministers. Do they encourage further training to help them keep their skills up, or do many passively discourage them in order to play music “of the people”? I believe this is where the bridge must be crossed and a dialogue must occur in order to have greater understanding of why music schools in our seminaries are suffering.
What think ye?
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