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MEFGOX: Fostering Church Music Education

 

The Mid-Eastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians

Fostering Church Music Education

One of the primary goals of the Mid-Eastern Federation (MEFGOX) is to encourage learning about the hymnology of the Orthodox Church – its melodies, its theology, and its forms and structures. Because our hymns are so rich in theological information and are structured to draw our attention to daily, seasonal, and yearly variations in the ecclesiastical calendar, it is important that those who sing for and in the Church have these underpinnings, given their important role in our services. In that light, the Federation sponsors several types of activities to support church music education in the Detroit and Pittsburgh Metropolises.

MEFGOX periodically provides many WORKSHOPS for church musicians. Their content blends information about hymnology and theology with skills and techniques about music. A typical workshop might have a priest explaining the content and theology of the cycle of eight Resurrectional Apolytikia that chanters and choir members sing each Sunday, followed by a musical clinician helping them to produce better sounds, enunciate more clearly, or add appropriate dynamics and feeling to best interpret the hymns. These workshops can occur during the year at various parishes and/or during Federation meetings. 

More intensive instruction is available during longer CHURCH MUSIC INSTITUTES, which usually occur  during the Federation’s Convention in July. These allow for more in-depth exploration of hymnology, the structure and hymns of services other than the Liturgy (such as the Paraklesis Service or Vespers), and/or techniques to improve singing, chanting, or directing. This year in particular, we are seeking parishes willing to host such CMI’s as we try to bring this type of learning experience closer to the local level. Local CMI’s are six hours or more in length, and the Federation assists the parish with curriculum, instructors, and costs.

Another avenue the Federation uses to promote church music education is through its MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP program. Since the early 1980’s, with an Endowment Fund created by Charles Michaels from Annunciation Church in Dayton, the Federation has provided scholarships to students who have had experience with church music and wish to continue their adult stewardship in church music. Most of these scholarships have supported student tuition to colleges and universities. The Scholarship’s Endowment Fund continues to be maintained through memorial donations.

A new CONTINUING EDUCATION GRANTS program for church musicians interested in furthering their skills is our newest initiative. Its focus is towards supporting church musicians who wish to extend their knowledge and skills in non-college programs. To this end, we have created a restricted line of Continuing Education funds which will be available to fund grants for private study in areas such as voice or organ lessons, attending seminars in Byzantine music or choir directing, or composition.

All of these opportunities are available to church musicians of parishes that are current stewards of the Federation. Truth be told, however, many fail to take advantage of these offerings, or are unable to because of distance or funding. Our hopes are that we can change from a church music “culture” where these learning opportunities are not a priority for volunteers to one that values such experiences because of the key sacred role choirs and chanters play in our services, regardless of remuneration. We seek the support of our clergy and parish councils to encourage and motivate their church musicians to participate, and help make that possible whenever necessary. We also are willing to work with parishes that are willing to host local workshops or Church Music Institutes. And last but not least, we encourage church musicians to apply for scholarships and continuing education grants.


 

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