Everyone knows the answer to that right?

It’s not JUST green, but it is greener. 


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.



While I can argue that it is important to be aware of what is going on outside your circle.  And, it is important to see what is available out there.  Sometimes the BEST thing to do (instead of jumping the fence)  might be putting a little fertilizer on your OWN grass, instead of looking at your neighbor’s.



OK, Randy, so what does this have to do with Youth Choirs?



There are several aspects:


First!  What’s the latest?  What’s the newest?

Sometimes while we are in pursuit of the latest and newest we can miss the BEST!


Second!  Sometimes we need to establish new patterns, new traditions, but “tried and true” has a place in your ministry as well.


Third!  Stay put.  Stay invested in youth choirs, and, to our younger readers, why not make it a career?


Let’s look further at the first one—what is the latest and newest?


I am the first one to say that, my favorite part of the “Alleluia” conference at Baylor each July is the incredible opportunity to sight read some of the coolest new music being published, surrounded by great singers and sight readers, and accompanied by great artists.


We all like hearing the latest music, and I often come away from that conference with 8-12 brand new pieces that I can hardly wait to get in the hands of one of my groups.


But balance that with this. 


Do you have an extensive library of anthems at your church?  Use it.  If you don’t have one, start it . . .  yesterday.


There are several advantages to using your library.


First, it is an automatic budget stretcher.  Music that you have paid for in previous years is . . . well. . . already PAID for.


Secondly, I have discovered that well-written anthems from the 80s and 90s that skillfully took into account the limitations (advantages) of young voices, still work!

AND if the kids LOVED them then, they will love them now.


We have 30-40 anthems that have been sung by 5-6 different Heartlights (junior high) and 5-6 different Sonlights (high school)


And every choir that sang them- loved them.  (or we wouldn’t have repeated it the first time.)


A blog posting later this spring entitled “Singing Music that Guys Like to Sing” will cover some of those titles specifically.


Now, a word of caution, notice that I said that the kids LOVED them before.  If an anthem really worked 20 years ago, it deserves a look from you.  But sometimes, music styles can become dated.  Kids love music that is “retro”, “classic” but, if the anthem was a “dog” 20 years ago it probably still is.


I write on my music the reaction that the students had to the anthem, so that I will remember in the future.  Sometimes the adult sponsors LOVE a song, but the kids really don’t.  Remember that.


Look at your choir’s music packet.  Out of the 7-10 anthems currently in rehearsal, is there a good balance between songs written between 2010-2015 and songs written in the previous two centuries?


You will be amazed that songs written before anyone in the room was born, just might fit that “classic” and “retro” niche.



Another “grass is greener” awareness is establishing new traditions, while holding on to the old, beloved ones.


Some of you know that I also direct the high school drama team at our church—Tallowood Players.  The group is currently in its 29th year. 


In that very first group one of the kids, Mike Wesson, determined that when the Players finished our group prayer at every rehearsal and performance that we should DO something physical, unique, and verbal (not unlike a football team coming together and shouting “TEAM!” before heading out of the locker room)


He came up with a series of movements and recitations that is currently in its 29th year—at the end of every prayer.  The kids love having their very own thing that says, “we are Players, and we stand on the shoulders of every ‘Player’ who has come before us.”


Mike is approaching 50 years old now, but his influence is still evident. . . . at every rehearsal.  


Yesterday when I saw him at church, we talked about how he developed that–he can’t believe that we are STILL doing that!




It is the same with your choirs and every one has a different set of traditions. 


At Tallowood, we create new traditions almost every year. (in a previous blog I mentioned the selfie stick and performance selfies that have run throughout this year), but we also find those traditions that stand the test of time.


At the end of every anthem in rehearsal (if we have been standing to sing it) I will say, “as you are sitting down, say something to someone in your section that you haven’t spoken to yet today”


It’s a tradition, they know that I am going to say it, and it is an easy way to get the marginalized kid . . . . noticed. 


It also builds identity within the sections.


Another tradition— food.  Food is ALWAYS involved in every rehearsal.  As soon as we finish rehearsing, adult sponsors who serve as our food coordinators, have food and drinks set up in the room adjacent to the Choral Hall, ready for the kids.  Sometimes it’s one of their favorites—7 layer dip, or gueso.  Other times it is store-bought cookies, chips and dips.


It’s a tradition. . . that is well loved.


Finally, a word about staying put.


I remember in graduate school there was this one guy who knew every church in every city in every state. . .  . that was without a Minister of Music.


OK, perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit. . . but not that much.  He REALLY kept track!


It was his “thing” he was always looking for that “greener grass” at another church.  It will come as a surprise to no one that he has served a dozen different churches in the last 30 years of ministry.  And there is nothing at all wrong with that!


There are some significant advantages of changing churches every 2-3 years, but , since I have been at my current church for 33 years, I am probably not the right person to write THAT blog.


I will say this.  There are significant advantages to staying in the same church in the same ministry for decades.  I am going to write more extensively on this subject in the June blog, but suffice it to say, investing in a church and its people allows God to do significant work in families for generations.


Further, it develops a level of trust that can not be duplicated.  I have parents who sang with me on choir tours in the 80s whose children are taking choir tours with me now. 


There is just something really special about that.


I am sure that there are directors who can’t wait to get old enough to hire someone ELSE to “take” the youth choir.  I just hope that YOU are not one of THOSE!



Randy Kilpatrick


April 6, 2015