For students preparing for the Ministry of Music, the new and evolving programs offer more options than ever before.
Christian colleges, like higher education institutions, are feeling increasing pressure to offer specialized training in lucrative fields like business and science, sometimes with cuts to humanities programs. At the same time, several major music programs are developing, in part because the demand for students and the job market are there. The church will always need writers, performers, leaders, and creators.
âWe feel compelled to develop these resources,â said Michael Wilder, dean of the Conservatory of Music and the Arts and Communication Division at Wheaton College. “I think there is a need for this, and there is interest for sure.”
While most institutions have retained their Bachelor of Arts in Music or Bachelor of Music as traditional pathways for performance-oriented students, many students who enroll in these programs are also interested in cult leadership training. . They can enter university with a vocation to conduct, but without the same skills as those who aspire to become professional musicians.
When the conservatory introduced its cult art certificate program in 2019 (a degree that can be added to another undergraduate major), faculty saw immediate interest from students, many of whom were already involved in leading worship in local churches or church programs. school chapel.
The University of Cedarville, within its school of music and worship, offers separate courses for students in âmusicâ and âworshipâ. Likewise, Colorado Christian University (CCU) has retained its distinct specialties in the areas of performance, education, composition, and the arts of worship.
At Cedarville, students in the Worship Arts program can receive private instruction tailored to someone who plans to conduct and perform contemporary worship music (with a focus on vocal styles and instrumental techniques influenced by the pop). This specialized professional training attracts many students, but would not prepare a student to audition for a graduate program in vocal performance at most conservatories.
Paige Senseman saw a call to the Music Ministry as soon as she started learning to play the guitar at the age of eight. Even though young, his musical training had one specific goal: to serve the church. âI was learning to master my craft so that I could lead the cult,â she said.
When Senseman applied for Cedarville’s Bachelor of Arts in Worship program, she found herself in an audition struggling to read and sing an unfamiliar tune. “I was failing miserably,” said Senseman, who assumed she had disqualified herself. Instead, the patient and supportive faculty member who walked her through the difficult hearing became her future teacher.
For students like Senseman, who feel called to the music ministry and desire formal training, there can be many barriers between them and traditional post-secondary music education.
What about high school students who find they feel called to the ministry of music but have never taken piano lessons or participated in a group or choir? Can these passionate, self-taught musicians make their way to a full-time music ministry that includes formal training and a college degree, even if they haven’t followed a traditional trajectory?
More and more, the answer is yes. Christian colleges and universities are offering new programs designed to welcome and develop musicians with a variety of musical backgrounds.
Cedarville offers a highly ministry-focused Bachelor of Arts in veneration, while Colorado Christian University Bachelor of Music in Religious Arts focuses more on traditional academic training and music technology courses. These curricular differences will have a real impact on the students’ experience and their professional development.
New accents of these worship arts programs include internships or internships and songwriting. Religious arts students at Cedarville, CCU, and Wheaton are all required to complete an internship or internship.
âA lot of students grow up seeing cult leaders on stage, you knowâ¦ it’s a really big production and they write songs that go around the worldâ¦ but they lack a lot of the cult leadership components. [for] two people or a service of fifty, âsaid Daniel Wakefield, director of worship arts at CCU.
Wakefield noted that leading worship can be difficult, and students in training for the ministry should face some of the challenges they might face later. âIt’s not that I want our students to go through bad things,â he said, âbut to experience real life. How do you create real engagement? “
At CCU, worship arts students are required to take at least one songwriting course, and earlier this year Cedarville announced it would offer a minor in songwriting starting in the fall semester of 2021. .
âWe preach through our songs as cult leaders,â said Senseman, who plans to enroll in the songwriting minor at Cedarville. “We put words in people’s mouths, so we have to be very, very careful about how we do it.”
Cedarville also announced that Dove Award nominated singer and songwriter Matt Papa, known for favorites like “His Mercy Is More”, will join the music program as Artist in Residence. Dad will be working with students in Cedarville’s various music programs, specifically their Bachelor of Arts in Worship and New Minor in Songwriting.
Cedarville’s recruitment of Matt Papa for its worship and music programs may represent a growing trend in Christian institutions to seek successful writers and musicians in the worship music industry to help train hopeful students. serve in ministry. Cult artist Tommy Walker joined Biola University as Artist in Residence in 2019. Azusa Pacific University’s Angeles Worship Initiative includes a Worship Arts Lab, which offers guest lectures and events with performers and songwriters.
Experienced leaders in worship ministry, music education, and academia certainly have varying opinions on what type of education is most beneficial or needed for young musicians. Proponents of the traditional conservatory model will cite the value of rigorous theoretical and historical requirements, the development of skills such as orchestration and mastery of a stimulating recital repertoire.
Advocates of specially designed music training for cult leaders stress the practicality as well as the importance of spiritual training. Redesigning or creating new music programs to incorporate leadership and theology courses will prepare students for careers in the music ministry, not musical performances.
Wilder doesn’t believe that one style or accent is inherently better than the other. “I want all of these Christian schools and all of our conservatories, whether denominational or not, to prosper,” he said, “and I think there is room for them.”
Kelsey Kramer McGinnis is a musicologist, educator, and writer who covers worship for CT. She holds a PhD from the University of Iowa and was an Assistant Professor at Liberty University.