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Church Musicians gather for inspiration at Augsburg Fortress music clinic

Twice a year, church musicians are given the chance to spend a day giving themselves a free tune up. Each winter, Augsburg Fortress offers a daylong music clinic giving both choral and organ musicians a chance to learn from expert clinicians and gather with fellow church musicians — all for free. An expanded, but also free, two-day event is held in the summer.
These events take place in locations across the country. This January, six sessions will be held nationwide, including a clinic at Luther Seminary in St. Paul on January 8. In addition to these events, three modified events will also be tested this year.
The Augsburg Fortress Web site describes the music clinics as “exciting events [which] have been developed for the continuing education of today’s church musicians. … These events provide opportunities for church musicians to network, learn, and be inspired.”

A wide range of church members participated in the 2010 Augsburg Fortress music clinics, this one at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Photo provided by Augsburg Fortress

The clinics are structured to feature a variety of choral, organ, and piano reading sessions to help church musicians plan for the coming liturgical season. In addition to a day of free learning, attendees are given a 15 percent discount on featured Augsburg Fortress music ordered or purchased at the event.
Jane Knappe, music and worship event coordinator for Augsburg Fortress, said that the clinics offer three main benefits to attendees: The first is the advantage of hearing the music as it is being sung by real live people. “Music is a little different than reading a review of a book. Reading a review of music, or even listening to it over the Internet, isn’t quite the same as singing it in the presence of other singers,” Knappe said.
The second benefit is that they will be able to exchange ideas with others they may or may not know. Lastly, they will be able to take advantage of the “really fine musicians leading these sessions,” Knappe said.

The benefit of live music in workshopping

The clinicians hired each year for the clinics will bring name recognition to attendees, and are always well versed in the area they are asked to present. The Augsburg Fortress Web site describes them as “expert clinicians [who] offer valuable insights and ideas to help participants explore ways to revitalize and refresh worship in their local settings.”
At the St. Paul clinic, the clinicians will be Carol Carver, the choral editor for Augsburg Fortress, presenting the choral session; and Cathy Rodland, who serves on the music faculty teaching organ at St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary, presenting the organ and piano session.

The clinics will feature a variety of choral, organ, and piano reading sessions to help church musicians plan for the coming season.

During the morning session with Carol Carver, attendees will receive a packet of music, hear an introduction to each piece, and then sing through the music together. Carver will focus on tried-and-true choral music for Lent, Easter, and spring in her session.
In the afternoon, Cathy Rodland will present the organ and piano session, introducing attendees to keyboard pieces to use throughout the seasons of the church year. To offset the cost of printing, attendees are asked to pay $1 per packet for each of the sessions.
Knappe noted that between sessions, “You always know when a piece of music has been a big hit; experienced people will run right out, buy the music, and put it in a bag before it gets depleted.”
In addition to the choral and keyboard sessions, Cathy Rodland will also present a workshop on introducing musicianship to a children’s choir rehearsal.
“Children can learn to read music and sight sing so much faster than their adult counterparts. This workshop will focus on how to incorporate musical knowledge into the children’s choir rehearsal,” Rodland said.
Each year, Knappe says she is amazed to hear the enthusiasm of the participants between the sessions. “I am always amazed to overhear people talking about what they’ve learned over lunch,” she noted.
Susan Young, a choir director who has attended past events, can speak to that enthusiasm: “I have enjoyed the clinics in years past. … I only recently have taken the position as choir director at my church, so I have a renewed interest. As much as I appreciate the ability to ‘listen’ to the anthems online, I especially enjoy the opportunity to see the printed music, and sing along with all of the musicians in person.”
Those interested in the event can sign up by going to: Event updates are also available on the group’s Facebook page.

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