Hi, I’m Holly, a musician and a member of the LDS Church in California. With great anticipation I awaited the 2011 LDS Church handbook hoping for more detailed instruction regarding music in the Church. Well, the music section of the new handbook is quite similar to the old one leaving many LDS musicians wondering exactly what is required, expected, and appropriate in their callings. Years ago Church Music Workshops were held at BYU to train church musicians but eventually those were terminated leaving many without concrete resources. When my mother was called as the Stake Music Chairman she spent hours asking me all sorts of questions related to that calling and at one point said, “Why isn’t there a book out there that tells me all the stuff I need to know for this calling?” That’s when I decided to compile a bunch of ideas I’ve learned through organ and conducting classes at BYU, through my experience in church music callings, and through my career as a professional musician and teacher. I’ve also received input from LDS musicians throughout the United States.

Official music callings I’ve held (in 8 different wards throughout the country) include Primary Music Director, Relief Society Pianist, Ward Choir Director, Ward Choir Accompanist, Ward Music Chairman, Ward Organist, Stake Music Chairman and Stake Choir Director. I have been accompanying church choirs and soloists since I was a teenager, which you could say has been my constant unofficial calling. I currently serve as a Ward Organist, Primary Teacher, and a member of the Scout Committee. Professionally, I am a school choir director and independent piano teacher at a competitive level. I have also served in various positions on the boards of local and state music teacher associations.

I hope you will find the ideas, music lists, and links helpful. Enjoy browsing MusicCallings.com.

If you are in a ward or stake music calling and have ideas or suggestions to submit we welcome them. Send your ideas in the comment box below.

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18 Responses to “About”

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I have been working on proposing this idea to the Church General Music Committee. I sing w the Tab Choir. I think what you have on this blog, is a great start. Can you check out the url above and tell me what you think about having lds music chapters like they have lds tech chapters? People could actually collaborate in person if the ward and stake boundaries were not hemming us all in. They don’t even offer a church music workshop at byu anymore. I’m worried that unless there is more training and accountability, we will end up with way more digital instruments and “canned music” in the church.

I love that idea but honestly I can’t imagine the Church doing something like this. Once Michael Moody left and they put a stop to the annual Church Music Symposiums at BYU it seemed all collaboration died, with the exception of the Church Music Submissions, and I wouldn’t exactly call that a collaborative effort. Since this current music committee has been in place we have seen them adopt the mediocre and oversee a general dumbing down of the art of musical composition in the church, as witnessed by the music submissions. As far as training is concerned, the music committee has helped get the training online, but again it is a very general and generic approach to music in the Church. What is desperately needed is hands-on training by professionals, or at the very least, what you suggest, online music chapters. Keep me updated on how your proposal is received.

I have a feeling that the Committee consists of 3 or 4 people. They are almost entirely focused on cultural celebrations for each temple dedication, the new and existing pageants that happen annually This leaves them with little or no time/attention towards weekly ward music where the rubber meets the road. I am getting closer and closer to just asking for forgiveness instead of permission, starting an organization and when they come to rein me in, I’ll cite all the qualitative research I have.

I’m curious, have you participated with MCO? or have thoughts on any experience with the organization?

Yes, it is a very small committee. David Warner is the head of the Priesthood Department which oversees that committee and yes, he is focused more on pageants etc. Diane Bastien currently runs the committee and oversees the music submissions. She and Warner would be the ones to contact regarding this idea of music chapters throughout the country (or world).

I have attended OCMCO concerts and really enjoy them. I live too far away to participate. I love that there are LDS-themed choirs across the nation giving members the opportunity to participate in something more refined than a ward or even stake choir. In my opinion, there ought to be more than one Mormon Tabernacle Choir, allowing members everywhere to experience the joys of quality choral singing. It’s not a Utah Church anymore.

The guideline we use in our stake is to follow priesthood direction with appropriately presented hymns as the mainstay. Other special numbers can be considered for special occasions. That has varied from ward to ward and from administration to administration. There is NO set list for us. We have highly qualified musicians in our stake who contribute to fine community and church events. I think your input has merit for those seeking ideas for application of correct principles.

I grew up in California, born & raised, although I moved away some years ago. The rest of the church doesn’t always roll like the golden state.

I think it’s important that your “ideas” that you don’t “trump” priesthood guidance. I’ve learned during my own years as a church musician (I have directed and taught privately also) that it is best to safeguard the spirit by NOT making Music a Bone of Contention. If we find ourselves at “odds” with priesthood leaders then it takes an element out of that Spirit, which we want to preserve. I am a woman in the church and have never felt slighted or like a 2nd class member. My input and opinions have been sought out, valued and respected. But I think that’s because I have tried to line up with priesthood leaders and not become a Law Unto Myself.

Again I reiterate that your ideas have merit for those seeking application but I feel it’s important to help church musicians be reminded that we operate under priesthood direction AND inspiration. Public and Private Performing Organizations have a different hierarchy and purpose where we may find fulfillment in our creative longings..


Janell Heyburn

Like all callings in the church, musicians are called and set apart and that gives us the right and privilege to receive inspiration for our callings. Is there a priesthood line of authority for music callings? Of course, there is for every calling in the Church. Should we respect that authority when questions arise with regard to our callings? Absolutely. Should we run to our priesthood leader to seek approval for every single hymn or musical number we wish to sing or present? Not necessarily, it’s not the direction we have received from the church handbook nor how the line of authority works. I understand there have been some wards or stakes where a priesthood leader has been particularly micromanaging regarding the music, perhaps due to mistakes that have been made in the past? Who knows. It has been my experience however, working with many church leaders in many states, that most trust the trained musicians to plan and contribute to the music in the ward using the inspiration they are privy to within the scope of their calling and there is little micromanaging with the exception of the planning of stake conference music. With the idea of seeking inspiration for our callings, I am reminded of this scripture:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned” D&C 58: 26-29

When we find ourselves at odds with a priesthood leader over music, we should prayerfully consider their viewpoint and if we are still at odds, sit down with the leader and discuss our feelings and opinions. Remember, our priesthood leaders are not dictators but leaders and open, honest, humble communication with those leaders is an essential part of callings in the Chruch. When I was the Stake Music Chairman my Stake President wanted our stake choir to do an Easter performance of Michael McLean’s The Garden. He was not a trained musician and Michael McLean was, in his mind, an incredible composer. I wanted our stake to do an Easter performance of Handel’s Messiah, a work by who I considered a “real” composer. We discussed this at length and after several weeks finally came to a compromise. The stake choir and orchestra presented an Easter performance of Handel’s Messiah and our newly-formed (for this purpose), very large stake youth choir presented The Garden several months later. Both performances were successful, faith-promoting, and the participants in both choirs had some amazing spiritual experiences. The formation of that stake youth choir, which is still in existence these many years later, has been such an incredible blessing in the lives of those youth and it occurred because I was receiving inspiration for my calling and was willing to communicate with my priesthood leader about that inspiration even though his views originally differed from mine.

Actually we do offer an annual BYU Music Workshop every year at BYU. It’s not called the Church Music Workshop. It’s a BYU Music Workshop. We have classes offered for every level

level of what? organ, singing, art music, ?

The BYU summer workshops for adults (run through the BYU Conferences and Workshops) include the Organ Workshops, Kodaly workshops (for classroom music educators), and Clayne Robinson’s vocal camp. With the exception of the week of organ classes, there is no BYU training for church musicians to assist with their callings of music chairmen, choir directors, etc. For many years the church used to run a Church Music Symposium at BYU where church musicians were trained in their various callings. Today musicians must be trained at a local level which is why it is so critical that Stake and Ward Music Chairmen take that part of their callings seriously and either train, or enlist the help of another qualified musician, to train those who may have little or no experience how to fulfill their music callings.

Amen. It is critical for stake and ward music leaders to train or find someone to offer training. I feel that one multi-stake workshop per year is realistic, but I have only found or been invited to one in 18 years. Not everyone can visit byu.

What a great idea. I wouldn’t know how to put one together. Any ideas Ben?

Hello Holly, I just found your website and am adding a link to it from the LDS music page at the Harold B. Lee Library. I would like to give you a better attribution than just “Holly.” What would you like me to put there?

You can just put “Holly,in California”.

Thanks for putting this together Holly. I have enjoyed reading all the comments below. I have been calling around to various Stakes to discover what others are doing with their calling. So, this site has been absolutely perfect.

Here is some of what I have started…and have thought.

Our Stake has not had a Stake Music Chair until very recently. We have also discovered that most of the Bishops don’t know what a Ward Chairman is. So, We are focusing on getting the calls issued and teaching/ learning the “good, better, best” in music.

The Handbook 2 has been our tool for knowledge and training. We are encouraging those with music callings to search Section 14 and try it out, try the reasoning, the examples, the recommendations … See what ideas come to their minds, Try to see what blessings come their way.

I see the Handbook as a springboard to amazing opportunities.

What I love about the guidance in the Handbook, is that we get to “counsel” together. We look forward to communicating with our leaders. (We aren’t the only one learning 🙂 and the Bishops won’t always be Bishops….I want to see them singing afterwards).

When we recommend music for our meetings, it gives us an opportunity to discuss spiritual progression of the saints of our ward and stake. It’s the one on one time to talk about the Hymns the Bishop likes…How cool to see the Bishop singing his favorite hymns also. As I am typing, I have just come up with a great idea for us. I’m going to send around a request for people’s favorite hymns. Then as topics present themselves, we can submit those hymns.

We had ward choir practice during the week…it was really a music class. We had the toneless to the musical. We set up times to work the toneless up to pitch. They have done amazing since learning how to get pitch themselves. Sunday was just good ‘ol singing time before church started.

We all worked and shared. I don’t like to call people to attend choir, so I rarely had to call..one less thing to do. We always had a prepared choir number once a month. It felt like family. It has been very cool to have members still in varying degrees of musical abilities, and yet… the Sundays we sing, the sound is amazing.

I have sung with wonderful choirs at BYU, Community Events, choirs, etc. I love the full sound feeling. We can get that, if we begin teaching. This is a gift they will each take with them. It’s a gift that will keep on giving.

I also, think music is an under-utilized tool in teaching the gospel to members and neighbors. We are using it. We find the newly-baptized and those who are learning about the church and we sing together.

One option to consider/ challenge… incorporate sharing the gospel through singing, and you’ll not worry so much about what to sing, or who has to approve it. You’ll want to maximize the spirit and capture every opportunity to enhance it.

As you’ve mentioned having an orchestra, I could imagine the musical flavors that you’ve enjoyed. One thing I do know, that if your desire to perform a certain piece of music fits with the Lord’s ideas, he can make it happen. I believe in counseling with Him about it. He’ll help you find a place to sing or perform it. And that is what we do with music that is not the best for Sacrament Meeting… We find a place and we sing it.

Also…you mentioned having another Tabernacle Choir. As that is a mission for them (I’ve heard), There are many members creating great sounds. Minneapolis and Oklahoma Saints are doing a great job. Brett and Brandon Stewart are the largest organization I have heard so far. They are definitely bringing great music in the Concert Halls. They are a great example for those with the knowledge in Creating and Maintaining Large Choirs. Those brothers are amazing!! Their momentum is inspiring.

Also, Holly, I wonder where you live as I too live a bit far to participate in OCMCO. 🙂

And Ben, I think it would be great to have Music Chapters….we could Skype, FaceTime or anything else that would allow discussion, especially for ideas on music. Training is huge as it seems very few have time for it. You’ve just made me wonder who the other Stake Music Chairs are in the Neighboring Stakes:-)

Thanks for listening and letting me share.

In January, our stake hosted a multi-stake music workshop for our stake and the 4 that border us. As stake music chairman, I arranged for qualified professional LDS musicians to teach classes on children’s music, basic conducting, choral conducting, and organ technique. When word got out it was overwhelming to say the least. I spoke with so many on the phone who weren’t even from our area who felt that they really needed more training, and wondered if they could attend. A common question was, “why isn’t there regional training for stake music chairmen so that they can better train those in their stakes and wards about not only appropriate musical selections, but also organ techniques and conducting techniques?” It is not unusual for the church to hold trainings, and even broadcasts. I realize that there are some cultural differences throughout the world, but it seems that a regional training could best address the “norms” of a particular region.

Obviously, ward and stake musicians are hungry for training and assistance with their music callings. Bravo to your stake for providing such necessary training. I have heard of other regions doing the same with great success. In my area, a neighboring stake arranged for the BYU organ department to come for a weekend to provide workshops and training. Several organs from a local store were brought to the church building for the workshops. It was well-attended by organists as well as pianists wanting to learn organ in several of the surrounding stakes. We need more of this throughout the church.

I was wondering if you could help me with a question. My wife currently serves as the Stake music chairman and also as the ward chorister. Our bishopric would also like to call her to the young women’s presidency.
My question is this, can you hold a stake calling and ward calling also?
In my experience the answer is no but there is anything official written?
Thanks in advance.


Until recently, my husband was the Stake Athletic Director, a very time-consuming calling in our stake, as well as the Ward Choir Director. My brother is a Stake Music Chairmen and an early morning Seminary teacher. In my stake, they wouldn’t dare give an early morning Seminary teacher a second calling. I guess it depends on the need in your area, the expectation for your stake calling, and what you can handle personally. At the time I was Stake Music Chairman and Ward Organist, I couldn’t have accepted a third calling because Stake Music Chairman was so time-consuming, requiring many hours each week as we planned and rehearsed for Christmas and other shows throughout the year in addition to preparing music for stake conferences and other meetings. There isn’t anything official about holding ward and stake callings at the same time, but personally, I don’t think it is out of line to discuss concerns with your bishop. Having experienced a YW Presidency calling as well as Stake Music Chairman, I can’t imagine doing both at the same time. Both callings for me were 10-20 hours a week, basically part-time jobs. If you are working, have children in the home or other family needs, have health concerns, etc., this could create problems. Talk to your bishop.

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