So you’ve had a chat to your parish priest and your fellow music ministers and you’ve agreed that your parish needs a children’s choir. What do you do next? What are the first steps to founding a parish children’s choir?
Developing a budget
First, establish with your parish priest and pastoral council what level of support the parish is willing to provide: what funding will be provided, what personnel and what other support will be committed. Put together a plan outlining what will be expected of the choir, the director, manager, other volunteers, resources, rehearsal spaces, funding for regular celebrations and recognition, awards, Christmas party and so on. Develop a budget and be realistic about the figures. Once you have established the Choir’s financial base, you will be able to determine which roles will be remunerated and which roles will be filled by volunteers.
The first consideration is the Choir Director:
- A volunteer or will they be remunerated, and at what rate?
- Would an annual gift, monetary or otherwise be sufficient?
- Does this person already exist in the parish or will they need to be sourced from outside the parish?
- Are they already employed by the parish?
- Would they be willing to expand their role and responsibilities?
An accompanist will be needed, and the same questions will need to be addressed.
A choir manager can assist the director with administration, fund-raising and accounts, managing choir volunteers, keeping records, printing and copying, copyright and reporting, preparing slides, liaison with parents and with parish staff if the director is based outside the parish, and so on.
A technician may be needed if rehearsals and Masses require access to data projector/ sound system/ video screens/ digital devices, etc.
Software and hardware
What resources will be needed?
- Hymn books?
- Licences for copying, printing, performing, accessing rehearsal tracks?
- Downloading costs for sheet music?
- Music for the accompanist?
- Is there a keyboard available in the rehearsal space?
- Is the keyboard in the church of an acceptable standard?
- Microphones and sound equipment?
- Training courses? Safeguarding training, 1st Aid?
- An annual or one-off training camp or retreat for Choir members?
It is not unreasonable to expect that the parish would also provide an annual Christmas party, Easter eggs for choir members at Easter, and thank you gifts for volunteers, choir manager, volunteer accompanist and volunteer director. All these need to be factored into the proposed budget for approval by the parish priest and finance committee. What proportion of funding will be provided by the parish, and how much will be expected to come from active fund-raising in the parish, such as cake stalls, busking, ticketed concerts, membership fees?
The far-sighted parish will also consider funding a scholarship program which will enable talented and interested choir members and other young parishioners to train as assistant directors or accompanists, instrumentalists or young composers. Additional resources may need to be set aside if the director also undertakes to train choir members as cantors.
The Children’s Choir is part of the mission of the parish, to bring families and young people closer to God and spread the message of Good News, but like every serious parish undertaking it needs to have a sure foundation of parish support, which includes financial support.
Written by Patricia Smith, Children’s Music Advisor for Willow Publishing