Interview with Kim Taulbee [Caroline Fernandez]



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00:00:00 - Music background: childhood and college

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Partial Transcript: CAROLINE FERNANDEZ: So, to start, could you just tell me a little bit about your general music background, how you came to Third, and, kind of, why you chose to come here?

KIM TAULBEE: Okay, um…I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, so I’ll try to not go too long. So I was a musician as a child and studied, well, piano lessons and trombone, et cetera, played in band. And then when I got into high school I started playing guitar and played rock music. And I played in rock bands in clubs (laughs) as a young adult. And then at one point I went to school and got a music education degree.

And in that time, I became reacquainted – really, God, I felt, drew me back to Himself. ‘Cause I was kind of out there. And when I really started following Christ I kept getting invited to help people musically with worship: in bible studies, in college. And found out that I loved leading people in worship. I loved worshiping, first of all, with music, and then I loved helping people.

And a church called me, um, and invited me to, um, be their music director. Or to apply for their position, in Dallas, Texas. I grew up in Illinois. And I had just gotten out of school with a music ed degree and was having trouble finding a teaching position because the economy was really bad, this was in the ‘80s and schools were cutting back. And so I flew to Texas and interviewed for the position and did not get it because lack of experience with the large church program.

But that got me thinking that maybe that’s something I would enjoy doing. Because I hadn’t even considered it until that point. And so I did an internship at my home church and found out that I loved it. And then I sending, just started sending resumes around from the college placement program. I went to a small, Christian college in Missouri to finish up, and I landed a position in Fairfax, Northern Virginia. So I served at a church there, it was an Assembly of God church, very charismatic and very contemporary, for 8 years. And then a church called me to – a larger church up in Hagerstown, Maryland – and it was also Assemblies of God. A little less charismatic, slightly more traditional. So we served there for six years. And loved the area, was disillusioned with the, um…it had pretty dysfunctional staff. The pastor was a real strong personality and hard to work for, and it created some…just some unusual dynamics that I felt were spiritually just, kind of…well, just socially and spiritually and in every way it was difficult to serve.

And then I became the district music director for our denomination. So for the tri-state area; so that just basically mean trying to encourage other music directors, and then whenever they had their big events, planning a big worship service, et cetera. And, um, through that…I heard of a church in Mechanicsville that was looking for a worship director. And it was a fairly large Assembly of God, very charismatic, um, worship-oriented church. And so I interviewed for that position and was hired and worked there for about five years.

And then, over this time – so, when I came back to – I don’t know, I guess this plays into the musical side of it – um, I grew up Methodist, very traditional. And when I came back to God, I just went church-hopping, trying to find someplace where I fit. And I stumbled into a contemporary church. And it was really when contemporary music was getting started in churches. And I didn’t give a lot of thought to the theology and doctrine.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee talks about his music education and how he came to the profession of church music.

Keywords: assembly of god; district music director; fairfax; hagerstown; missouri; texas

Subjects: church music; music education; pentecostal churches

GPS: Third Church RVA, where Taulbee works
Map Coordinates: 37.582998, -77.555004
00:04:36 - Transition to Third Church

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: And, so, twenty years, basically, serving in Assembly of God Pentecostal churches, I increasingly was becoming, um, in disagreement with some of their practices. I just…there are some really wonderful things about that movement; there are some things that I think are not helpful. And it was hard to be 100 percent all the way in. And, um, the pastor who hired me left, and the one who took his place was a very different person to work for. And so things were getting uncomfortable there. Plus, I was already becoming disillusioned with the church’s vision.

You know, not that there’s anything wrong with that church; I just…and if you’re interested I could go into more detail about their vision – I just wasn’t in agreement with their vision. And it was a whole lot of work and a whole lot of energy and directions that I didn’t feel were fruitful for the Kingdom. I thought it was – seemed to me more fruitful for putting on a…making the pastor look good (laughs). And I can comment on that, too.

And in the middle of that, I had a mutual friend, musician, in town who had worked on some projects with me and, um, told me that a position was opening up at Third. And so I interviewed at Third and for me it was like a breath of fresh air. And so, they were very – um, they were in the process of, they had a long tradition of traditional music. And then they had started a contemporary service.

So this would have been maybe 20 years ago. They, somebody in a Sunday school class started bringing guitars and singing contemporary songs, and that Sunday school class just blew up. And then a new pastor came from California and said, “You know, we need to have a contemporary service.” So Third had a contemporary service in the fellowship hall and a traditional service in the sanctuary.

And the contemporary service was at a point where it was maxed out and it was becoming a big job for the at that time part-time worship director. So they decided to make it a full-time position and, just right when I was looking for something to do. So it was very interesting to come and to move into that position. Because I had a lot of experience to bear. And I thought I was gonna help them become more contemporary, or maybe a little charismatic, um, but what happened was I became more Presbyterian (laughs). Yeah, it works both ways.

I would like to just leave a little addendum to the two churches in a row where the…where the dynamics in the staff were weird and dysfunctional. You know, churches are made up of people and that happens in leadership as well. And so, I’m not dissing that denomination or pastors, I mean, there’s – I know lots of pastors, and there’s just some really wonderful, amazing leaders, and we all have faults, and…problems, and. Um, so…you just, you know, you just find your way and you deal with it.

And somehow God’s given me the grace to not be disillusioned with the church. I still love this church and…people are people and we all have seasons where we…sometimes, where we’re difficult to be around (laughs).

So, this is – I’ve been at Third now for 15 years. And, um, this is hands down the most authentic Christian environment that I’ve ever worked in. It’s a blessing, it’s just a blessing. Of course, nobody’s perfect; I’m certainly not. We have normal, you know, normal things; we’re all sharing resources, et cetera. But, um, everybody respects each other and has each other’s backs, and prays for each other and encourages each other. If somebody’s doing something that’s messing you up, they’ll come and talk to you instead of, like, complaining behind your back or whatever.

All those things are really important. And that happens in any kind of job. You know, in a church you would hope that – especially church, Christian leaders, you would hope that they would have a good handle on that. But they are people like everybody else and they’re finding their way through it.

FERNANDEZ: Um, we’ll probably get back to that.

TAULBEE: That’s not about the Third (laughs).

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee talks about disillusionment with the pentecostal tradition and how he came to Third Church RVA.

Keywords: assembly of god; contemporary songs; pentecostal; presybterian; third

Subjects: church music; pentecostal churches; presbyterian churches

00:09:43 - Blended service; interns and artists-in-residence

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Partial Transcript: FERNANDEZ: Could you – ‘cause I attended a service last year, but could you walk me through, like, specifically for music, um, the weekly rehearsal process or, like, how you pick music? And then on Sunday morning, what’s your role?

TAULBEE: Okay. Um, well this is a – I think unique. Well, I think this is happening more in churches. Um, years ago, the pastor would select a sermon, the worship director or choir director or whatever kind of set-up there is, is picking music. Some pastors work through a long schedule, a sermon schedule; some don’t. Some music directors are super organized. In Pentecostal traditions, it’s very much what they would call Spirit-led. Which a lot of times winds up being – not necessarily doing a whole lot of preparing, just, like, “The Spirit’s gonna lead me.” And, you know, there’s both sides for that, um.

So, in our church, what it has evolved into…so, um…Third’s traditional service had a full-time music director, John White, who served a few years before me. He was their first full-time music director; they had a volunteer choir director of various sorts for years, I guess, before that. And, um, they brought me in for the contemporary. And then, increasingly, the church leaders saw that this wasn’t – well, especially, we developed worship values and we realized that our divided service was not serving our values. Was actually working against our values, especially of unity.

And I think a lot of churches do this, you know, they have a couple of different kinds of services at different times, they try to attract different demographics – and that’s a whole ‘nother conversation – but because we decided that that wasn’t serving us, we converged all the services together. I use that word simply because for a while, a lot of churches, the Trinity word became “blended” music? And…I guess most people weren’t doing it well, and it became – they started calling it, like, “blanded” music (laughs).

So we just kind of – but that’s not really even a great…um, description. I think converged is good; or fused, fusion; or even just come together is a good word. So, because there’s such a strong choral program – I mean, the choir’s not large but they’re really good. And it’s really important for either John or I – so if they had, when we came together, kind of from the outside you could say, “Well, do we really need two full-time people?” And so, um, what it has kind of settled into is John’s position has gotten smaller because it’s not as time-consuming to run the choir, but he’s picked up other pastoral duties.

So he’s some percentage – so he’s actually the music director; he’s technically my supervisor. Um, but, some percentage – I don’t know, maybe 30 to 40 percent of his duty – is pastoral care, which he’s really gifted at. And, um, so our – and then we with our new pastor, Cory, after we were converging –. And then, the other question is, John and I are both middle-aged guys, upper end of middle-aged. And, um…Cory encouraged us to start an internship and artist-in-residence program and to really focus on young worship leaders. So that they can learn from us. Lo and behold, he said, “I value your experience and your wisdom of years,” it was like, “Wow, you’re not kicking us to the curb, that’s amazing” (laughs).

But he wants us to heavily invest in young musicians. And so, um, we…started up summer internship programs. We did two years of that and then out of one of those years an intern emerged, really just such a wonderful person. Her name’s Brooke Winters, do you know Brooke?

FERNANDEZ: I do not.

TAULBEE: Well, Brooke came to Richmond through, uh…do you know David Bailey’s Urban Doxology?

FERNANDEZ: Mm, vaguely.

TAULBEE: Okay, anyway, she came to a program in Church Hill. Anyway. So, Brooke is a young adult who’s a really gifted musician and worship leader. Just a passionate young woman, and she’s involved in all kinds of ministries around the city and stuff. So she started out as an intern, and then we made it an artist-in-residence for a year. Which was, in a sense, sort of like a part-time job and…but she brings great talent, she brings a youthful perspective. And she’s really involved in a black gospel church, so she brings a black gospel perspective.

And, so she brings a lot of perspectives and then in return we can kind of iron sharpen iron, you know; we kind of sharpen each other. And um…so we love her so much we keep hoping, you know, as the church grows and as the budget grows we can keep adding to her hours. And we’d love to, like, just kind of pull her in. So we don’t know where that’s gonna go; just all depends on where the budget’s go from year to year.

We’re also looking to…some year when I retire, I think it would be just great to have people coming up through as opposed to, like, me or John retiring and putting out a search and pulling in somebody completely from the outside who doesn’t know the heart of the – or, this – church.

That’s kind of my vision, I won’t have any say-so in that (laughs) but, but I love that, how that can work.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee talks about Third's blended worship style and its attempt to bring future music leaders up through the church via internships and artist-in-residence programs.

Keywords: artists-in-residence; blended; brooke winters; church hill; david bailey; interns; john white; urban doxology

Subjects: blended church music; church music

00:16:34 - A week in the church (Monday, Tuesday)

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, that was maybe more background to justify what we have right now. So we have part-time Brooke, and we have John and myself. And, so our week starts, well…worship planning, um…so Mondays are kind of my day after Sunday, and I’m just kind of catching up on email and going over my schedule for the next couple weeks, who’s on the team, uh, fill in any holes in the musician schedule…. Um, I’m picking up plans that we’ve already made for this coming week and working on those. And, um…yeah, getting ready for Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting day, so we have, about this time we have full-staff meeting with the entire staff. And, uh, that’s about 20 some people. And then in the afternoon we have worship planning. So, the cycle kind of overlaps, so it’s hard to tell you when to jump in. But so, for a given service, um…so we will on Tuesday afternoon, we will look at this Sunday’s coming service. Which we should already have everything planned, and we’re just going over the plans.

And that plan’s like, the order of the service, um, what songs we’re singing, what the sermon is, you know, if there’s baptisms, what songs the choir’s gonna sing, what music we’re gonna sing, how the arrangement’s gonna go. I mean, we don’t go over those kind of details with the worship planners much, unless it’s a question we have of, “Do you think this will work?” kind of thing.

And then we look at two weeks out. And the sermon is discussed. And so the preachers will do a quarterly preaching schedule. And they spend – it’s pretty neat, they think, they spend a lot of time praying about and discussing and hashing it out; what do we think God is saying to our congregation in this season? And then they, they’ll pick a book. It’s expository preaching, so it’s gonna follow a book – like right now we’re in the book of Ruth. And what are the lessons out of that book, you know, how many sermons do you think that, you know, how many weeks do you think that’s gonna be?

And then what makes it complicated is they say, “And then how does this fit into the church calendar?” Like, “Will this lend itself well to Lent or Advent or Christmas or whatever?” And so they try to align it in a way that the particular lesson that might really work for Lent will line up for that week, or whatever. So they put a lot of thought and prayer into it.

And then, in that Tuesday afternoon meeting they – and this is, I think, amazing, and it shows a lot of humility and wisdom – the first church I’ve ever worked where preachers will talk about their sermon and allow other people to speak into it.

So there are several really well-schooled theologians on the staff, um, as they’re talking about this passage, what it means. Uh, but at the same time those of us who are less well-schooled in theology…are also allowed into the conversation. Which is a healthy perspective for me to be able to say, “Well, you know, as a middle-aged white guy, here’s how I – this is how I would respond to that; if you said that, here’s how I would respond.”

Or, something came up with the whole, with Judge Kavanaugh – just the timing of it came up in a way that one of the really salient points of Cory’s sermon had to do with, um, males having power of women in situations. And so he was able to say, you know, “If I talk about this, what all do you think?” And all the women, they had a lot to say about, “Well…here’s how I’d take that if you said this,” or “Here’s what I would love to hear my pastor say.”

So that’s…so each Tuesday afternoon, we drill down on this week to make sure we’ve got everything good. And then we look at the next week and really get a sense of what we think God wants to do two weeks from now.

And the whole time that that discussion’s taking place, John and Brooke and I are kind of nudging each other, saying, “What about this song, you know, what about –” you know, we’re getting song ideas.

And then, um, and then we spend the last third of that meeting debriefing the previous Sunday. And that’s always just, like, you know, it can be so good and it can be so…because it’s like, “Really? You can’t push the button and get the microphone to come on at the right time?” And then the sound guy is like, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea how many details we’re trying to do and we’re working with volunteers.”

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses a week in his life at Third, starting with Monday and Tuesday and talking about the cooperative environment at the church.

Keywords: advent; christmas; kavanaugh; lent; ruth

Subjects: churches

00:22:02 - Selecting music

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: And you know, when you’re trying to, um, pick new music every week, you know, there’s this whole rhythm of you’ve got to keep it familiar enough that people know –. An overarching thing for us is, and a trend that I just really do not think is healthy is, um, kind of a return to the Middle Ages where the priests do the work of worship and the people just come and sit and watch. Um, put it all in Latin because they didn’t trust the people – “They’re gonna mess it up, we’re the only ones worthy to bring this to God” or some – I don’t remember the exact philosophy behind that. It’s become that again, in a sense, instead of robes it’s checkered shirts and tight jeans.

But it’s like, the music can become – uh, you can engage emotionally but it’s more difficult to participate with your voice in a lot of churches. It’s loud, it’s pitched really high, the songs have got to be the newest song so they’re harder to learn – I mean, they’re not hard to learn if you’re – for a certain demographic, you know, if you’re 20 years old and you’re listening to all the same music all the time, um, the latest and the greatest from whoever’s the latest and greatest, you know, Bethel and, um, Hillsong, and, you know, these keep bouncing around, whoever the latest and greatest is –.

If that’s driving the song choices and the music style and the sound and the volume – I love to rock out, but I think that should be an addendum and not replace the congregational voice. And so…all of our musical decisions are driven by, of course, the song has sound theology because we are the gatekeepers; we put the praises on the lips of the people that are singing – we put the words in their mouths. And, uh, with the repetition, it shapes your belief system to varying degrees. And so, um, if we have insufficient or incomplete theology, or just flat wrong doctrine or theology –.

And it’s really difficult, it’s really tricky, because sometimes there’ll be a really good song that…it hearkens to a kind of weird doctrine and people don’t even realize where that comes from and it just kind of ends up getting into the song. And that’s not always the worst thing in the world, but anyways.

So we’re looking at a lot of things and really, right at the top of the list is, “Will people be able to sing it?” And so we toss out song ideas in there and get people’s reactions to it. And then in our debriefing we’ll say, “Well, that didn’t go so well,” or. So, I mean, we’re not edgy but we do push our envelope. And so we’re always trying new things and different things; and sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

And this is a really, pretty nurturing environment – I got kind of sidetracked there – we debrief and talk about, we celebrate what we loved about the sermon or the service…. You know, this past week, Joan Ko, young adult, read scripture for the first time, and it was just amazing. She’s so, the right amount of emotion, not overdone, but you just sat there and go – I could listen to her read scripture all day.

Or, you know, whatever. How we manage that time, because you only have that, you know, 70 minutes or so with people once a week. And it’s hard to manage that time well; there’s so much we want to do, and try to do.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses how he and his team select music for Sunday services and what criteria they consider when doing so.

Keywords: bethel; doctrine; hillsong; middle ages

Subjects: church music; music selection

00:26:02 - Accommodating two different worship styles

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: And, so anyway, we debrief and then we come running out of there and try to get caught up on all the things – and so, so, in the midst of that, that means like today I have – I’m looking at songs that we are for sure gonna sing unless something changes tomorrow, which can happen…. I’m looking at the music that’s gonna go in the bulletin and for the slides, for the words. And so, one of the things when we converged that we realized was important was to help people with the transition logistically, resource-wise. You think about changing up styles, uh, of music…all of the things that you normally changing: you think about people’s likes and dislikes.

The nuts and bolts side of it…it took over a year to figure it out, some of these things. Was that a lot of it was just, um, learning styles. We realized that we’ve got one congregation that they have been conditioned for a decade, or, depending on where they came from, maybe their whole church life, to learn songs by rote. Where the singer, you know, singing songs and teaching songs by words on the wall and singing in repetition. You know, maybe introduce the song a week before, you know, as an offertory or prelude or something, and then.

And then you have this other group who, by and large, they read music or they at least are kind of used to looking at the notes going up and down. And also, they have a catalogue of music that they’ve been singing for a century, of um, you know, the catalogue of hymns. Even though the hymnbook has five – any hymnbook’s gonna have five to eight hundred songs in it but if you really analyze a church, you’ll find that out of the 800 hymns in that book, there’s probably 50 that they sing all the time.

And then there’s the odd ones out there that they sing occasionally. But most people, they either read music or they’re used to looking and seeing the notes go up and down, so all of the sudden, now, we’re expecting them –

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. To mesh.

TAULBEE: And so, one of the things that we do is, um…so I type stuff, it’s actually music engraving – engrave is the right word, it really feels funny to say that, people think I’ve got a chisel and a hammer –.

Like, I’ll set the, just put it in the bulletin. And it seems like a small thing, it takes time to do it, but, um…I was surprised and I’m still surprised at how often traditional worshippers will stop one of us in the hall and say, “Thank you for doing that, I’ve never been able to worship to contemporary music before.” Because they’re always intimidated by words on the wall; they’ve never been asked to learn something without having notes. And so they just kind of shut down and don’t engage.

So, so that’s part of my Monday. Is looking at, “What all do I need to…. Is this something that I’ve already got ready; is this something that’s already ready but needs to be tweaked ‘cause there was a mistake in it from last time or whatever?” And, I try to catch all of those right after. That’s another thing I’ll do; any mistakes the proofreader missed, I make little notes on them and today I go back and change them so that our catalogue is up-to-date. So I get all the stuff ready for the bulletin, hand it off to our graphic designer who puts the bulletin together. And I also start working on the charts for the band to use – so we have a rehearsal on Thursday.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses how he works to accommodate both traditional and contemporary worshippers in Third's blended service.

Keywords: bulletin; congregation; traditional worshippers

Subjects: blended church music; church music; traditional church music

00:30:01 - Collaboration among the music team

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: And then, um…so I’ve started that process, and then I’m also looking at two and three weeks out, four weeks out. Kind of scanning the sermon series; is there something that, um…’cause some things are hard to pull together in a week, or even two weeks. And so if there’s something that kind of caught my attention, like, “Ooh, you know, that Sunday out there, that would be a great time to pull the choir together to do this, or invite this singer to come and sing this, or put together a bluegrass band to play that.” And so I look for those kind of things and just kind of jot them down.

Then I’m gonna skip ahead, skip over Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, John and myself and Brooke, our artist-in residence, and Jonathan, who’s our…I guess he’s one of the part-time assistant technical directors. Sometimes Alex Sawyer, who is our technical director – but he’s pretty busy these days. He loves to be in this meeting, he really does, because he’s a worship leader himself.

But so, me and John and then the other, and then Brooke and Jonathan. And so we’ve got a nice age span, male and female, some cultural differences. And we will plan the singing for two weeks from now. So John represents the choir, he knows what choral stuff the do. And I represent the contemporary side, what the band can do; plus I arrange all the stuff.

But then Brooke and Jon, Jonathan also – they represent a younger contemporary side. And then Jon also represents – Jon actually is supposed to be there – he happens to be a musician, so he contributes musically – but technically he’s supposed to be there to represent the tech team. Uh, so that way what’s feasible…and so they know what we’re thinking about doing. And plus we can bounce ideas off them; “Do you think, can we pull this off?” kind of thing.

So that kind of collaboration…I’ve just never done before. It was always the pastor had his, you know, he’s in there, praying and thinking; and I’m in there, figuring out the music, don’t mess with my stuff, you know. You know, I’ve got my ideas and…. What we’re finding is, it takes a while to learn to trust each other, um, just like any kind of collaboration. There’s the real fear that, “My best ideas they’re not gonna like. Or I’m gonna hate their ideas.” But what happens is…yeah, there’s a lot of time when I’ll suggest a song, “Ooh, you know, what about this song,” and somebody’s going, “Eh, I don’t know about that.”

And, uh, sometimes it’s not even that it’s not a good song, it’s like, “That’s close but you know, this song over here, don’t you think this really captures the heart of what they’re preaching that Sunday?” It’s like, “Yeah, you’re right. This song really does…”

And there’s a lot of things to think about that, in terms of how the songs all fit together. But with four different perspectives…I think we just do a better job of getting it right more often. And then of course the staff has the – so we do that, we do the long-range planning. We look at two weeks out, and we also take a quick look at three weeks out and just kind of scan ahead together.

And we jot down ideas. We keep a grid, it’s like a long spreadsheet, so we can see where we’ve been. Like, “Oh, gosh, we haven’t sung that song or that hymn yet this year! Holy cow!” Or, um…we’ll look at it and realize, “Gosh, we sing that song all the time.”

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee talks about how the music team is increasingly diverse and brings different perspectives to music selection.

Keywords: collaboration; sermon series

Subjects: church music

00:34:22 - The music "toolbox"

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Partial Transcript: The other thing is, there are certain things that we do…there are certain pieces of music that we like to keep bringing back. We have a thing, it’s called Prayers of the People by David Gungor, who’s in The Brilliance. Um, he’s the brother of Michael Gungor. You know Gungor music?

FERNANDEZ: Uh, I know The Brilliance but I don’t know…

TAULBEE: Oh, you know The Brilliance, okay. So we do a couple of things by The Brilliance. We do their Prayers of their People, which is just gorgeous. So there’s this thing that you sing, and then somebody prays, and then you sing it again, and somebody prays; and the whole thing builds and it’s just beautiful. And our people just really sing their faces off to it. And it’s just really meaningful. It’s long; it’s like six minutes long, but we say, “We want to make sure that we do that pretty regularly.” So on our long grid, we just kind of can drop that in there throughout the year.

So it may get bumped or moved as we need to, but at least that reminds us. Same thing with – there’s some little calls to worship and there’s some things that we do in confession that we sing…[inaudible] some contemporary settings of the Kyrie or something. “Well, we really love that thing, let’s bring it back every so often.” And it’s really easy to lose sight of those, so I’ve created a – I call it a toolbox, and it has a list of all those things that we like to bring them back, and how often.

And then we can kind of look at that every once in a while, and, you know, like, if we’re saying, “Gosh, what do we want to do this week? I don’t know, I’ve got nothing.” And I’ll say, “let’s look at the toolbox, you know” (laughs).

“Here’s our essential hymns, you know, here’s 100 hymns that we want to make sure we’re singing regularly.” So we’ll scan through those and make sure that we’re – “Gosh, there’s one we haven’t sung in five years.”

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses his music toolbox, which includes songs the music team tries to repeat.

Keywords: david gungor; michael gungor; the brilliance; toolbox

Subjects: church music; music selection

00:36:11 - Cooperating with the choir

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: So that’s our process there. So Wednesday for me is preparation for the rehearsals and, ultimately, the service. And so.

Thursday afternoon, so I come in – I stay late on Thursday, I come in after lunch and I meet with John and Jonathan Knabe again. And we – John and I make sure that we’re on the same page with every song that involves both of us, he representing the choir and the brass players and the organist.

‘Cause it’s easy to…it’s easy to get our wires crossed. For instance, our hymnbook – and this is another discussion, about putting songs in keys that people can sing; and that’s a whole topic that we could talk for half an hour about – but, the short version is, just like a lot of contemporary songs are produced with somebody like Chris Tomlin in mind, if you perform it in that key on a Sunday morning, most people aren’t gonna be able to sing it.

Same with hymns. A lot of hymns are arranged and edited originally in a day when choirs, congregations sang in four-part harmony with choirs really supporting them. And so you had sopranos singing the melody. So they’ve got the melody up there in a good range for sopranos; and then altos can sing their alto part, tenors and basses. Well, these days most people don’t. So now you’re asking the entire congregation to sing the melody.

So if you have high tessitura, um, really dominant throughout a song, where it gets up there and stays up there…you know, you people just don’t sing. Or it wears them out. It’s fine for services where the choir’s in there, but we don’t have the choir for every service. So sometimes it’s just the worship team carrying the hymns with the organ. And we’re up there going, like, it’s – and more importantly, we want it to feel supportive for the congregation.

So anyway, it’s easy for us to, um…John and the choir thinking we’re singing this in B flat, and I think we’re singing it in G, and on Sunday morning we’re like, “Oh crap, we’ve got the wrong versions,” and then, “Well hang on, let me go make copies of th –” So as much of that we can work out – and then also.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses how important communication is between the worship band and choir, emphasizing making music accessible to the congregation.

Keywords: chris tomlin; harmony; tessitura

Subjects: blended church music; church music; traditional church music

00:38:35 - Thursday band rehearsal and accommodation of choir

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: So Thursday is prep, I’m finishing up the music for people. We use an online planning service and, um, so the musicians can get their music ahead of time, et cetera. But by Thursday I’m printing books. So I create a PDF booklet every week and print it out. Over the years I’ve found – starting out with keeping all my sheet music in little folders and pulling them out and assembling them into books every week is just maddening. And so, uh, now I just print a book every week. I just send a PDF to everybody, they can view it ahead of time. And I just print ‘em off, hole punch, drop ‘em into books, and then I put a big recycling folder and I just – I mean, bin, and I throw them all into the recycling bin after Sunday service.

So I’m doing that, um. Thursday the tech team – oh, and this is amazing, I hadn’t had this for a very long time. Now that we have a tech director and a tech team, they come and set up for band practice. I used to have to set up, for years I’ve set up for band practice. Um, they set up for band practice, I get there as early as I can, and, um, have everything ready, um…to, I don’t know how much detail I want to get into…just, get everything ready for the band.

So I rehearse the band and while we’re rehearsing the tech guys will also have training on Thursday nights. So they’ll be training new people up there. Uh, we pray together and devote together and make sure that the tech team…. It’s funny, one time I was with one of our interns one summer, and I invited one of our tech guys in; and I said, “What’s the most important thing that worship directors can do for you guys?” And they said, “Make us feel like we’re part of the team.” ‘Cause it’s easy for them to be just stuck back there, and we just say, “Hey, give me more monitors!”

And, uh, so they, so they’re really integral – we try to make sure that everybody is included and part of the team. We rehearse, it’s just not long enough, but we rehearse for an hour. And then the choir…it’s not long enough, especially when we spend time in devotion. The choir comes down – either the choir comes down and joins us, and we go over the contemporary songs together so that the choir –.

Here was another key thing that we missed for at least a year. Um, and that’s because it’s actually hard to do it, it’s hard to make this work because of time. ‘Cause I’m used to having an hour and a half to rehearse all of our music. John’s used to having an hour and a half. We’re both – well, he’s working ahead, he’s working on – with choir music, you’re working on choral stuff. Choir works on songs, um…so, when I used to direct choir all the time, like, you have your long-range stuff out here. Because you have the same, hopefully you have the same people every week coming to choir rehearsals.

So we’re polishing the song for this week, we’re intermediate work on the song for two weeks out, we’re sight reading a song from three weeks out; and then we’re gonna spend 30 minutes working on the tough thing that we’re gonna do for Christmas or some special event, the hard thing that’s gonna take a while to chip through. So every week you’ve got this process.

The worship team’s a different group of people every week. Some of the same people, but they’re a rotating team. So I can’t, like, work with this team on a song we’re gonna do two weeks from now. Uh, so – yeah, it’s a shorter timeline. So the complexity is…that forces the complexity of the arrangements to be at a level that we can knock it out, the amount of music that we need to do for this week. And we’re able to do that. And fortunately, because of the length of our services, because of our attendance, which causes us to have so many services crammed into the morning, our services aren’t long. So I don’t have a whole lot of music to have to learn in that 45 minutes.

Um, so we learn our stuff, the choir does whatever they’re – and then we come together. And here’s the beautiful part, we’re finding that the choir – they were really stymied by, you know, we’re singing, I don’t know, pick the contemporary song and, uh, the music notation looks one way but the way you sing it feels a little different, um….

What’s something here? [Sings] You choose the humble and raise them high / you choose the weak and make them strong / the same love that kept the captives free. [Speaks] Maybe we kind of slightly sing it slightly different than what the notes exactly say. So the choir’s up there, they’re doing this, and then they’re trying to hear me or whoever’s leading. And they’re getting frustrated; they feel left out; they feel stupid; they feel like, “We’re up here in front of everybody and we don’t really know these songs…. You keep telling us that we’re helping lead worship and yet we don’t know the songs and we don’t know what’s going on.”

And see, I just thought, you know, they’re contemporary songs, they just stand up there and sing with us. But they want to know the songs if they’re gonna sing them. Even if they don’t like them, they want to know them. You know. And I’m not saying they don’t like them, but they’re never gonna have the chance to like them.

So we found it’s really important, as painful as it is time-wise, for them to come down and sing these songs with us. And then the neat thing is some of the worship team members will jump up there and sing the choir anthem if it’s something that’s easy enough that you don’t need to have been working on it for several weeks.

And then some weeks, depending on our schedule, sometimes if we’re really tight for time – because it takes a while to move all those people down – so sometimes, I’ll end band practice early and I’ll grab my guitar and one of the other singers and run up to the choir room. And I’ll say, “Here’s how we’re gonna sing this.” And I’ll go over it, and they’ll always have questions. “Well, you’ve got that note tied over; are you gonna sing that?” And so we work that all out.

And what’s the thing it’s so important, and that’s the thing…I keep slapping, like, “Dummy, we should have been listening to them all along.” ‘Cause people always have a perspective. And a lot of times people will, “Alright, we’ll try it,” but you gotta, you know, “Work with us here.”

And we’re just throwing stuff at them and not really listening to what it is that causes them to stumble about it. And so.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses the Thursday night worship band rehearsals and how the band cooperates with the choir.

Keywords: choir; rehearsal; tech team

Subjects: blended church music; church music

00:45:33 - Sunday morning at Third

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: Then I’m off Friday. Sunday morning, um, sound guys are here at seven? I’m here at 7:30. At about…so I’m just kind of setting up, making sure that any changes in the music get distributed. Um…the pastor, the liturgists – when we use the word liturgists we mean, it’s usually a staff member who’s going to do the announcements or read a prayer or read the confession or whatever.

So, myself and John and whoever’s preaching and whatever pastors or staff members are involved in the service – and the tech director – we just kind of informally meet at the front of the stage area. Actually, Presbyterians call it the chancel. So we meet and we just walk through the service: who’s saying what, who’s doing what, which mic are you going to pick up, where’re you gonna stand. You gonna start that song? Are you gonna ask people to stand, or are you gonna tell people to sit; or am I gonna do it? We just work all those things out.

And it’s not because – it’s not that we want everything to feel so scripted or we want it to be perfect. But it’s just…there are unnecessary – I mean, it’s wonderful when there’s a holding moment and we just stop and be quiet. It’s annoying when there’s a dead spot because we’re looking at each other going, “Are you gonna do that, or am I gonna do that?” (laughs)

I mean, on the one hand we don’t want it to feel super formal and contrived and overproduced. We want it to feel like, “Hey, this is the body of Christ coming together to worship.” But on the other hand, it’s just kind of disruptive and distracting if you don’t work those details out. And I’m typically over the years one of the people who just says, “Ah, let’s just roll with it,” so I’m good at thinking on my feet quickly.

But not everybody enjoys that. And plus, even if you get good at it, there’ll just always be things where it’s like, “Ah, I thought you were gonna do that!”

So we do that, and the worship team, I tell them be here ready to play at eight. So if they need drums or something or whatever, they know that as close to eight o’clock as possible, we do a sound check and run through the songs. And if anything needs to be, you know, rehearsed again, there’s 20 minutes that we can just kind of touch everything up that needs to be touched up. The choir gets down there around – the choir meets in the choir room and then they warm up or whatever they do. And then if we’re doing something together then we run over that about 8:30.

We try not to…ideals are what they are – we try not to go much past 8:30; occasionally we do. We did this week. ‘Cause people start coming in because the first service is at 8:45.

FERNANDEZ: 8:45, and then the other services…?

TAULBEE: So, 8:45, 10, and 11:15. So technically they’re like 65-minute services with a 10-minute break. The end time kind of varies but the start times, we’re hard on those. The difficulty is we’re crowded, and if we make the services longer, then there’s less time between services. If we start the service earlier, a lot of people won’t come to it; instead they’ll come to the later services. Nobody wants to come at eight o’clock or 8:30. There’s 50 people that would love to come at seven o’clock. Um, so they can get right out on their golf course or something.

So we’ve moved these around; it’s kind of an art and a science. And the ideal time is maybe ten o’clock, maybe 10 or 11. If you were just gonna have one service in Richmond, you’d have it at 10 or 11 to maximize attendance. And in the later service, if we push it back too late, what if we said, “Well why don’t let’s just start every service 10 minutes later?” Well then that later service now is getting out at one o’clock, and nobody wants to get out at one o’clock, then half your day’s gone.

And so…that means then the front services – so nobody will come to this one, and these will be overcrowded. So we’re trying to get a distribution and it’s just maddening. And if we don’t leave enough time between services, our halls are so skinny…. Our building really works against us; the doorways are so skinny. And it’s hard to get in the parking lot. That people can’t get where they’re going and so everybody’s coming in late because they just can’t even get, find a spot, get through – you know. So. We’re looking at ways to add another service; we haven’t decided what we’re gonna do yet.

Luckily, we’re experiencing a nice, healthy growth; but it’s not like this. So we have a little breathing space to manage and take our – not take our time, but at least not rush to do something that will not be the best route. ‘Cause when you launch a new service, it’s just so disruptive. You don’t think it is until you realize how many things are involved at this level, with – okay, you’ve got all the musicians, you’ve got the space; you know, if we put it here, that’s gonna disrupt all of these other things that have already been using that space. Um, that time of the day and that time of the week; it affects the cleaning staff and the administrative staff, it affects the nursery, it affects ushers that you have to serve communion; it affects the bulletin – I mean it’s a big thing.

It’s like a store opening a new location or something. So you just want to make sure you don’t do it without a lot of careful thought, or you wind up doing a whole lot of work and then having a whole bunch of problems, and then having to reengineer it.

And that confuses people, and people go, “Oh, I thought we were doing this, and now you’re saying we’re doing that.” And they’re like – people just – it’s hard to guide a congregation. They…in terms of just logistics and practice, people just, they don’t pay attention; they don’t listen. I don’t either. You know, “What time is service? We’re gonna do this event; what time is that, when was that? I don’t know!” “Well, we told you! Every Sunday, we’ve been saying it for a month: We’re going to do this then.” Then people go, “Well I didn’t hear about it!”

So anyway…

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses the logistics of the Sunday services.

Keywords: liturgists; presbyterian; services; third

Subjects: church music

00:52:09 - Demographic at Third part 1: age

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Partial Transcript: FERNANDEZ: Um, okay, so I have two quick zoomed-out questions, in some sense. So the first one – I guess this isn’t too zoomed-out. In terms of demographic, you’ve alluded to this, obviously, about how the different styles will mesh better with different demographics. Um, how would you say Third’s demographic either has influenced the music, or vice versa, the music influencing the demographic? And is that something you guys try to…?

TAULBEE: That’s a good question. We’re in transition. So, um, we had music that was dictated by the demographic. Baby boomers…. So, when I came to Third, the contemporary conversation was baby boomers, predominantly. And the traditional service was some baby boomers and older. And then some kids trickled in to both of those. And, um, the leadership, the visual, the face that you saw when you came in was dictated – that was the representation.

So the worship team was all a bunch of middle-aged people – mostly, I should say. And increasingly, the church was becoming that. Sounds like you already have a handle on that. And so, um…when we converged, all of a sudden that now is not really dictating, or it’s not influencing our demographic in terms of who will come to Third. But it’s getting our congregation on the same page.

Because we did a study, um, we had a consultant come in a few years ago. And looked at one of our – what are the things we love about Third? What are our real strengths; what are our real weaknesses?

And one of our most significant weaknesses was that we…increasingly, we do not look like the demographic of the five-mile radius around the church. And um…so we know that just doing a gospel song or some black music isn’t gonna change our demographic, on one hand. Just as – I think this is a huge misnomer out there. Churches think that they’re gonna change their music and change their demographic. Uh, the classic case is you have a traditional of some sort – Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, whatever – church who is losing their young people. Which, churches are always losing their young people, even the Mennonites and the Amish. They send them away for a year, you know, and then the come back, mostly.

And so a knee-jerk to, “Oh my gosh, we’re losing all our young people; we’ve got to do contemporary music!” And so they’ll do a terrible job of getting somebody who hasn’t given a lot of thought to it, giving them a guitar. And, “We’re gonna start doing contemporary songs,” and…or maybe they won’t do a terrible job, I shouldn’t say…. I don’t mean terrible job musically, I mean not lovingly, not bring the change through a…the church through a loving change where you’re helping people learn the music and being thoughtful about the contemporary songs that you pick, or the traditional songs that you – anyway!

I’m sorry, I’m getting way off track. So, um…I think that music is certainly a part of that idea of influencing the demographic of your church. But it’s certainly not the most important part. So, if, for instance, if we realized that we…we have a lot of Hispanic people in our community, and none of them come to our church.

So we said, “Oh let’s start doing some Spanish songs and they’ll start coming!” (laughs) Or, “We’re gonna start doing a bunch of black gospel, and black people will start coming!” Or, “We’re gonna start doing some contemporary songs and young people will start coming!” That’s the most common mistake.

And now on the other hand, if you have a really thoughtful, prayerful, um, Spirit-led…vision that you acquire somehow to, “How can we reach our community?” Um, like say younger population or a different race. And you’re able to actually start getting people to come – and I think part of that strategy, certainly, is staffing.

So you have multicultural staff, and you have people that you’re reaching out to, teach us what we don’t know about why a black person wouldn’t feel comfortable in our church. And help us to learn how we need to change. Um…all of that stuff has to happen. You know, you have to have young people explaining to you why, you know – my kids, now they’re mostly out of college. But they were just really invaluable. They were college-aged kids; they were at VCU and going to churches with all kids, you know.

And, “Help me understand what, you know, how you feel coming to out church? How do you feel about just the whole thing?”

My son said, “Yeah, this is a bro church.” I said, “What’s a bro?” He goes, “I mean it’s fine, it’s fine that it’s a bro church. It’s a bro church.” I said, What’s a bro?” (laughs)

You know, the boat shoes with no socks, and the sunglasses and the khakis – I’m like, “Oh. Middle-aged rich guys.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And so, that’s who was on the worship team, and that’s who was, you know, giving the announcements; and that’s who the preacher kind of rel –.

So it got like, “Okay.” So I was on a quest to find out what kind of music young adults like. And what I realized, I had to go after young adults, the one that I knew, and just go to lunch and say, ‘Hey, I really need you to help me out here. Can you help us?’”

And let them help shape the worship plan. You know, let them in on the process. And depending on the planning and on the song selection and helping us know what’s cheesy. Um…baby boomers love all the stuff that the young adults like, but it doesn’t go the other direction. I mean, there’s some commonality, but it’s hard to know which things are considered cheesy.

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses some of the challenges for Third in terms of reaching out to other demographics.

Keywords: bro church; demographic

Subjects: church demographics; church music

00:59:34 - Demographic at Third part 2: ethnicity and culture

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Partial Transcript: TAULBEE: So anyway, we’re in the process where we’ve got everybody together – we’ve gotten everybody on the same page. And we know that the next step is we’ve got to figure out how can we more effectively reach our culture?

And the church is already doing a lot of things in the community. They have just an enormously successful tutoring program for all the immigrants that are in our community. There’s, I don’t know, 100 kids come and all these volunteers. I may be wrong about those numbers; I know they fill the place up.

Um, with lots of Arabic kids and Hispanic kids and, you know, English as a second language is going on…. So our church is doing a lot of neat things, reaching into the community.

It’s not…oh, there’s a Jobs for Life program. And, uh – that’s where they help; a lot of immigrants come here and maybe qualified in Egypt to be an engineer, be a construction engineer or something. But then they come here and they have no certifications, they’re language is not –.

And you know, so anyways – or, maybe it’s some kid that‘s having trouble getting started. So anyway, we have a Jobs for Life program. So we’re…our think our church is really doing well in moving in that direction. And there’s a lot of doctors in this church, and they’re hugely involved in – actually, they started Crossover Ministry, and all these health, um….

So there’s a lot of really good into-the-community stuff. Uh, what we haven’t quite figured out is how do we worship together? And we’re not really sure where that’s…going or what it’s gonna look like? But we certainly couldn’t make any moves in that direction when we had our two little, “Here’s my favorite thing and here’s your favorite thing.

So now we’re in unity, and we have a voice that is our voice, and…and so the answer is, after 20 minutes of beating all around it, the answer probably is – the demographic really establishes the music style. But the leadership in turn is guiding it in a direction we believe it should go. And you know, now that I’m saying it, one of my professors in church music philosophy…

It’s an old, out-of-print book. He, on this topic, said – and he was talking about, really, just a new minister. And he said, “Your music should be able to engage the culture around you, but always with a higher vision for where it needed to go.” He spent like a semester that the only music worthy to offer up to God is the very best that man has to offer.

The very best that man has to offer; so now we’re talking Bach. I mean, you know, there’s just nothing in my collection of contemporary CDs that even comes close to actually, really good art. When you’re talking, compared to Bach. I’m not saying that none of it’s worth sing –.

And then he turned around, just when he had us all convinced, then he said, “But God made himself relevant to man. He came in the form of man as Jesus Christ.” And so that was a model of God reaching down to man.

And it’s not that we’re condescending. “Oh, we’re going to do the lowly contemporary songs to reach these poor uneducated people.” Uh, it’s really looking at where people are and what they can relate to, unlike a Seeker-driven church that says, “Wow, this is what they listen to on the radio, this is exactly what we should do in worship.” Instead…and there’s something about that that will attract people.

On the other hand, we’re saying, “Okay, this is what they’re used to, this is a language they understand…this is a –.” We’re trying to help people have rich, meaningful worship. So how can we…take them where they are and bring them along, bring them further. So we’ll…and I’m not saying that all contemporary fits into the category of, it’s just a stepping stone to something better either, I’m not saying that.

So in the sense that we’re trying to help people – like some people will gravitate to songs that are maybe, what I feel are maybe really shallow. Shallow statement. Um, but that’s okay. I mean, they’re…you know, like, “You’re a Good, Good Father.” Everybody sang that to death. It’s like, if I said to my wife, “You’re a good, good wife. That’s who you are, that’s who you are. And I’m a good husband. Caroline, you’re a good student. You’re a good student, you’re such a good student.”

You know, the psalmist would say, “You’re such a good student. You’re so passionate about digging in deeper, and you’re asking all the right questions.” You know, so when we just say, “God, you’re good, you’re good, you’re good,” instead of, like, “You were there when I was down; you comforted me, you protected me,” you know.

So…so yeah. So just as we’re trying to do that with worshipers, just continually. And myself included; I’m always learning. I suspect that that’s what we’ll do culturally as that vision becomes more defined. And it probably – I’m sure it will affect staffing and whatever, you know. Uh, right now it’s pretty lopsided. It’s actually – generationally it’s very balanced right now. And gender it’s pretty balanced right now. But racially it’s not.

I’m sure that that’s…as they’re hiring, I’m sure they’ve always got that in mind, you know; the position opens up, well, it would be nice to bring somebody that’s got something other than just middle-class white people. So.

And that’ll shape the direction of the music.

FERNANDEZ: Okay. Yeah! You covered everything I wanted to talk about, so that’s great!

Segment Synopsis: Taulbee discusses some of the ways that Third makes church accessible to outsiders and conducts outreach.

Keywords: arabic; crossover ministry; hispanic; jobs for life

Subjects: church music; church outreach