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Music Directing 101: How To Navigate A Crisis

Aug 10 2015

Music directing is a craft in and of itself. It encompasses many different skills all at once — playing an instrument, leading a band, reading a service, producing a music team, etc.  Let me start by saying that you never ‘arrive’ as a music director (MD). I’ve been MD-ing at our church for more than 15 years, and there’s still so much more to learn and grow in!

Here are some tips to help take your MD-ing to the next level.  Hopefully you’ll find them helpful, and inspire you to keep sharpening your craft and bringing excellence to your music directing!



We rehearse and prepare and do our best to have a great plan, but what happens when it changes or something goes wrong?

1. Keep a cool head

It’s OK if things don’t go according to plan…that’s why we prepare! Don’t stress, stay calm, and communicate with your team. Don’t panic / stress out / yell into the mic – if you’re panicked, your whole team will panic … if you’re calm, your team will stay calm. Give quick and clear instructions (regardless of if it’s the best option or not), and your team can follow that direction together, rather than going their separate ways…!

2. Plan for anything and everything

Have a plan A. And a plan B. And a plan C. Cover all your bases! If you’re prepared for anything, you won’t be panicked when ‘anything’ happens and when you need to navigate your team through it.

Example: You’ve planned a 20-minute worship set with 4 songs. You’re 15 minutes in, you’ve just started the intro to your last song, and you get a call that your pastor is going to come up at 17 minutes instead of 20. What do you do?

(Here’s my thought process when faced with a situation like this…)

  • Firstly — I realise that we’ve only got 2 minutes to finish a 5-minute song. The objective would be to finish the set strong and hand over to the pastor at a high point. (Therefore, we’re going to need to pick up the pace so that we don’t hand over the service during the 2nd verse of the song ?)
  • Secondly — I make sure that the worship leader and rest of the team is aware of the change. If I have an MD mic, I’ll calmly tell the WLer of the time change, and guide the team each step of the way. If I don’t have an MD mic, I might even pick an appropriate moment to tell the WLer myself (maybe during an instrumental or something).
    • If you don’t have in-ears or an MD mic to talk to the team during a set, it’s important that you work out other processes to help your team through these situations — for example, if you have a graphics screen for the vocals, you could have the graphics person quickly put a message on the screen telling them of the time change.
  • Thirdly — I’ll guide the team to grow the song and build momentum quicker than rehearsed so we can hand the service over with strength. For example, this might mean that instead of doing a down chorus after verse 1, we’ll do a building chorus, into an open chorus, then finish on a big bridge. Something like that…
  • The key is to stay calm, know where you need to go, and guide your team there. Communicate to them so the service doesn’t skip a beat and people can stay focused on worshipping Jesus, not distracted by what you’re doing on the platform.
  • LASTLY — Trust your team and their experience, so that not everything has to rely on you. Teach your team to learn how to navigate moments like these themselves so they don’t freeze or panic when things go off plan. You can help communicate and steer it, but teach your musicians to adapt to changes themselves!

Hope you find this helpful! Watch this space for more music director training, and please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments section below.