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Feeling Overwhelmed

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  • Feeling Overwhelmed

    I agreed to become a fill-in organist for a church whose regular organist abruptly quit. I made it clear that I was recovering from a broken foot and a severely sprained wrist and to be honest thought I would only be playing for congregational singing. A month into this they are expecting me to accompany the choir on an electronic piano. The music is difficult to play. I don’t want to let them down but I feel overwhelmed. I’m not a quitter but it might be the only thing I can do. Has anyone dealt with anything like this before?

  • #2
    I'm sure many folks have felt overwhelmed by tasks placed on them by well-meaning churches! But it sounds like you are really in a position that might be over your head. In times like this, one has to decide if you are better off with this job or without it!

    Is there someone in the church you can talk to about this? A worship chair or choir director? They surely knew of your limits when they brought you in, and it makes no sense that they are adding work to your load even after you've clearly let them know that you are working with some handicaps.

    Most sensible people in church leadership will understand that it's better to keep things simple and do them well, than to overly complicate matters, forcing people to struggle and fail constantly. It doesn't do the church any good for the musicians to be pushed beyond their abilities; it only makes everyone look amateurish and incompetent.

    OTOH, if you enjoy and treasure this particular position, you might just hang in there and do your best, try to simplify the music to meet your abilities, and carry on as you recover from your injuries. Nobody but you can decide whether to hold on or to walk away. But perhaps they will listen to you and accommodate you if you talk to the right person. Good luck and God bless!
    John
    ----------
    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

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    • #3
      It sounds like a conversation with your boss(es) may be in order. At least to let them know that the piano (or difficult choir music) is out for the next few months. It would also be useful to figure out who is picking the music (and maybe also who has a say on what music is picked). That way you might be able to head off difficult songs or elaborate musical plans before you get dumped on.

      I find that a lot of people think that playing an instrument is a yes/no thing and if you mention that you play they assume you can play anything at the drop of a hat.

      I try to be upfront with people when they ask me to play something or accompany someone. For example, "This is a more difficult song and will likely take me 3-4 weeks of dedicated practice to play it decently" or "this is way beyond my current skill level and would likely take months to learn" or "I'm recovering from an injury and can play X number of hymns each week." Understanding your limits and using that to help you decide what commitments you make and reject can really help you get out from under that overwhelmed feeling.
      Sam
      Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
      Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pedal pusher View Post
        Has anyone dealt with anything like this before?
        Pusher,

        Yes, I have. When I was a teenager, I was asked to play for my church. I thought I would play the hymns and an occasional offertory or prelude. I ended up accompanying the choir and doing most of the music. What became stressful was when the choir director would say, "Why don't we do this anthem instead for tonight's service?" I would sight-read the piece at the 6:30 rehearsal (instead of the scheduled piece), and play it for the church service, which was broadcast live on the radio.

        Having that experience helped me learn to deal with the stress and inhibitions of playing publicly, sight-reading skills were improved, and I became more experienced as a musician.

        If you truly cannot perform the tasks requested of you, you have 3 choices:
        1. Continue to attempt to do everything to the best of your abilities, while making sure the leadership knows of your limitations and concerns.
        2. Speak to the leadership and let them know exactly what you are able to do for them, and exactly what you are not able to do for them presently.
        3. Give up the position due to your concerns. You can either let them know why or not–it would only be fair to leave them with some information.
        Hope this helps. Welcome to the Forum!

        Michael
        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
        • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Pedal pusher View Post
          ... I made it clear that I was recovering from a broken foot and a severely sprained wrist and to be honest thought I would only be playing for congregational singing....
          I need clarification. You're clear that you told them about the foot and wrist, but did you tell them you thought it would only be congregational singing, OR did you just think that to yourself?

          -- If you didn't actually tell them that, you need to do so, repeating that fact that you're physically recovering from injuries and adding that you thought your duties would be limited.
          -- If you did tell them, you need to remind them of that.

          If they can't deal with that, that is their problem, not yours. You stated your limits. It is their choice whether they respect that or not. If they can't respect it, you don't want to associate with them. If they can respect it, you are in a good place where people care about each other.

          In addition to the other advice already given, there is nothing wrong with the congregation having TWO KEYBOARD PLAYERS. You take the congregational singing; someone else takes the choir. This is more common than you might think. It offers two people the chance to be involved with the music in the service, but neither one has to do it all. One attends choir rehearsal; the other doesn't. On the odd occasion that one of you is away, the other could cover both positions, as long as it doesn't become too frequent for the people involved.

          It's also worth noting that accompanying the congregational singing and accompanying the choir are two very different things. The ability to do ONE well does NOT necessarily mean that a person can do BOTH well.

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