The Role of the Music Director

Luke Barry

May 20, 2021
5 min read

Last month, we published an article called The Structure of a Worship Team. In it, I outlined the three key leadership positions we have on our worship team. These roles are the Worship Leader, the Vocal Director, and the Music Director. These are scheduled roles—meaning different servant leaders occupy them on any given Sunday. We will elaborate on each position in future articles, but today I want to dive deeper into the role of the Music Director.

Here are the expectations we share with our Music Directors:

  • Review Planning Center carefully before Sunday. Stay up to date with adjustments as the week goes on.
  • Listen through the set list. Memorize arrangements, dynamics, and your instrument parts. Familiarize yourself with all other instrument parts.
  • Review music resources and Rehearsal Plan on PCO before Sunday.
  • Participate in Sunday morning Leaders Huddle with Scheduled Worship Leader (sWL) and Scheduled Vocal Director (sVD).
  • Lead Sunday morning Band Huddle. Come in prepared to review notes together, communicate details, and highlight specific items as necessary.
  • Oversee instrumentalists for Call Time, Band Huddle, Sound Check, Rehearsal, Run Through, Team Rally, Platform Huddle, Pre-Service Huddle, Service, and Post-Service Huddle.
  • Work closely with sWL during rehearsal. Offer support and insight on arrangements, dynamics, transitions, and instrument parts.
  • Translate sWL calls throughout pre-service and service. Keep the team on the same page.
  • Anticipate transitions and adjustments. Make strong calls.
  • Guard team culture with instrumentalists.
  • Give feedback to instrumentalists as necessary.

The MD is an essential part of any worship team. We have said it time and time again, at VOUS we believe in leadership. In accomplishing his work in the world, God gives gifts and he appoints leaders. Leaders identify the gifts in others and use their unique gifts to empower and release other leaders. They don’t just do work; they equip others to do work. They don’t just work for people; they work through people. The MD is essential because every worship team is comprised of people and every team of people needs a leader. The MD is the leader appointed to oversee the instrumentalists on a worship team. The title isn’t important—you can call it whatever you like—but the role is vital.

So what does an MD do? Here are three key functions of a Music Director.

1. Pastor The Players

First and foremost, the MD is there to pastor our instrumentalists. He is there to provide support, encouragement, feedback, and coaching. Before we get to the music, the number one responsibility of a Music Director is to develop people. At VOUS, we have a Music Director on our staff. He does all kinds of things, but the most important thing he does is serve and develop the people under his care. It is part of his job to check in on our team leaders and servant leaders to see how they’re doing in their personal lives, to have a pulse on our team’s health and spiritual development. As he does this, he sets an example for the servant leaders who lead in this capacity in our services. They know that, when they are scheduled as MD, their responsibilities extend beyond musical parts. They are there to serve the people on our team.

2. Drive The Details

The second key function of a Music Director is to drive the details. By this, I mean that an MD needs to be a competent musician who cares about the small stuff. In a band, each part, player, and performance come together to produce a sound. Every nuance matters. The MD needs to know the setlist inside out. She needs to know the parts and arrangements, understand the service flow and dynamics, and know her players’ strengths and weaknesses. She needs to care about guitar tone and drum tuning and cymbal selection. Every detail affects the worship experience of the people in our churches, so every detail matters. If the MD doesn’t care about it, who will?

At VOUS, our MD builds our tracks sessions, selecting the track elements we’ll include and crafting the song and service transitions. He updates details on Planning Center and prepares resources for our team. He communicates important information and relays changes. He prepares servant leaders for the weekend and provides them with feedback after each service. He helps our team notice, understand, and improve the details.

3. Manage the Moments

An MD is not just there to make sure everything goes according to plan, he is there to keep us all together when everything doesn’t go according to plan. We’re all for planning and preparation. But we are also all for flexibility and spontaneity. We don’t think either/or, we think both/and. Our desire is to see the best of both worlds on our team. How can we be more prepared? How can we be more spontaneous? These are two questions we are always asking ourselves simultaneously. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

The MD drives the details, but he also manages the moment. The Worship Leader is the oversight for the team but, once our worship set gets going, the MD is really the person in control. He has a microphone that goes directly into the team’s ears, so during the set he is the one person on stage who is able to communicate with everyone most effectively. The Worship Leader gives signals, but it’s the MD who interprets and acts on those signals. It is when we deviate from our service plan and begin to flow that the importance of the MD becomes abundantly clear.

What does the leadership structure of your worship team look like? Does everyone know who does what? Do you have clear roles and responsibilities assigned for what happens on stage? If you don’t have a clear leadership structure for your team, I would encourage you to create one. Change the language. Update, adapt, and improve. Do it the way you do it. But I believe that every problem is a leadership problem—and a leadership opportunity. Leaders make problems their problems and find a solution. If you will empower them, they will make your team better.

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