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Nov 15 2006

Worship Leading Essentials 7 – Selecting Musicians

As a follow up to the last article, let’s explore the selection process of musicians we use at exchange. Instead of using set bands, we have around 25 musicians and vocalists that we call the "musician’s pool." Each week we draw from this pool and create a new band. The pool needs filled.

Somewhere along the way you have to settle on a process for selecting musicians. Get it lined out or when someone asks you if they can play in the band you will be stuck with the uncomfortable "Um, well, I, uh . . .hmmmm." So, how do you screen and select musicians for the worship team? Here is what we do:

  1. Have people e-mail requesting an audition packet. When people walk up and inquire about being in the band, I explain the process and have them e-mail me requesting an audition/interview packet. It’s the first step in a few hoops that we intentionally set up. Setting up a few simple obstacles weeds out those who are not serious. If you can’t take a few steps and be patient with the process, you won’t fit well in the musician’s pool.
  2. Send an audition packet. Once people contact me, I send them a packet that contains a cover letter as well as an audition form. Once they fill out and return the form, we move on to step three. If you would like a sample form and cover letter, just drop me an e-mail.
  3. Schedule the audition.  Once the paperwork is turned in, I schedule the interview.  Typically this is on a Sunday afternoon, prior to band rehearsal.
  4. Audition. This is the most important part of the process. I sit down with our vocal leader (Jeff) and together we conduct the audition. It is an informal deal, but I am looking for two things: to get to know them (1) spiritually and (2)musically. We talk openly about their relationship with Christ, their spiritual journey, musical experience, and life experience. It is also a time that we answer any questions that they have. Jeff also explains the process and workings of the musician’s pool and scheduling.
  5. The verdict.
  6. If no, we tell them they have little skill and should stick to playing at home or singing in the shower. We then scold them for wasting our time. If we make them cry, it’s a bonus. Actually we rarely say "no," but we do say "not yet." It is a tough arena to play with a band and some people are not ready. If they are not ready spiritually, we encourage them to be part of the exchange community for a bit longer and continue their journey with Christ. If they are not ready musically, we encourage them to get some lessons, improve their skills and come back for another audition when they feel they are ready.
  7. If yes, we invite the person to be part of a worship band for a worship gathering. When we began this process, we would give them a yes and they would be part of the pool. Experience has taught us that a person may do well in an audition but not be at the level needed to play with a band. The sure-fire way to find that out is to put them with a band for a night of worship leading. Put them in the fire and see how they do. After their first time with the band, we again talk and decide if the person will become part of the pool on a regular basis.

With everyone we interview, we explain that leading worship is a spiritual and musical issue. We lay out the expectations. We expect each team member to be a follower of Jesus, to Life Journal every day, practice their instrument, be honest, and to be a team player.

I feel fortunate that in several years of working with a musician’s pool, we have not had any significant issues. The success may be in part to this process, but I would guess it is that this whole thing is surrounded by prayer, honesty, and the grace of God.

There are numerous ways to screen and audition people for your worship team.  What is your process?

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