Research Question

To date the level of academic enquiry into the role of the modern worship singer has been minimal. Those who choose to interact with these singers (church music directors and singing teachers) seem to have few role specific tools with which to develop these singers and enhance their vocal capacity.

Explicitly, church music directors are generally volunteers chosen from within the local church community. Their role can include team administration (rostering, licencing), repertoire development and musical leadership (directing musical practices and mentoring individual team members). Understandably, beyond their limited time, these gifted and generous parishioners rarely have specific knowledge, experience and training which might be focused on the Contemporary Worship Singer. The training of the Contemporary Worship Singer is often a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’. Sometimes the time-poor church music director applies his or her low levels of understanding about the Contemporary Worship Singer in a haphazard manner, drawing on broad contemporary vocal pedagogical standards in keeping with the ‘pop’ idiom of the modern church chorus.

At other times church music directors, acknowledging the limits of their own capacity to train the Contemporary Worship Singer, encourage the church vocalists to seek vocal instruction from professional singing teachers. It is my observation that, albeit unwittingly, this trend has led to further confusion for the Contemporary Worship Singer who may be exposed to a range of pedagogical persuasions. This is most evident in the discipline of vocal instruction (classical or contemporary) employed by the professional singing teacher. Given that the Contemporary Worship Singer can be practicing their role in a range of worship settings and singing a variety of musical genres, a professional singing teacher (who may or may not have experience in the Christian worship cultus) might be drawn into delivering broad pedagogical instruction which does not adequately service the role-specific task.

Secondly, is the identity and development of the Contemporary Worship Singer only a matter of vocal task? My preliminary observations would suggest that the Contemporary Worship Singer is influenced by a range of concerns including theological positions held by denominations and the sub-cultures that form within individual worship teams. Are these observations valid? If so, academic scrutiny is required to explore both the positive and negative effects of this matter.

Finally, is there an observable interplay between the culture and context and the more tangible matters such as the technical development of the voice? Is the Contemporary Worship Singer desirous of balance between these two seemingly independent domains or are these spheres to be maintained with tension: self-evident but never intersecting? The study will seek further understanding of this problem.

Accounting for the issues outlined I developed the following research question in order to govern the enquiry:

In what ways do the multiplicity of worship settings and the diversity of environmental factors influence the role and identity formation of the Contemporary Worship Singer; and how might pedagogy be designed for this type of singer?

View the full dissertation here –

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