Dr. Alan Wellman, D.S.M. 2015, was chosen as the first Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Sacred Music at the Graduate Theological Foundation. Following is a description of Dr. Wellman’s E-tutorial course developed as part of his post-doctoral experience.
New E-Tutorial: Masterworks for the Smaller Church Choir
Perhaps one of the greatest joys—and troubles—a church musician has is selecting music that will inspire, educate, and minister to their congregation. There is an enormous wealth of music that is part of the church heritage, and often a musician must make selections that are appropriate for his or her music program.
As a singer and conductor, I have always been fascinated and eager to learn about different types of repertoire for the church. When I started my work in church music as a naïve 19-year-old, I hadn’t the foggiest idea about repertoire that would be appropriate for my eight-person choir. I often chose music that was too difficult or too simple, and I was challenged to find the Goldilocks point of music that is “just right.” After more than a decade of church music ministry I began to realize that great repertoire could be done by a smaller choir, and I needed to be a little more creative with my selections.
When I began my studies at the Graduate Theological Foundation I was most impressed to see that the program focused on praxis-based education. The GTF is dedicated to allowing the student to apply and practice what they have been studying into their ministry. When it came time for me to prepare my proposal for the culminating project, I realized that I had not taken any music literature courses as part of my program. Fortunately, having had a master’s in choral conducting, I have been introduced to various musical forms and felt ready to make those selections. While the GTF offers variety in the core curriculum, I noticed that the catalog did not contain any choral literature electives. When the Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellowship in Sacred Music was announced, I instantly knew what type of course I would propose to offer—a course in choral literature and repertoire.
Drawing from nearly 20 years of experience as a choral conductor, singer, and church musician, I began to formulate the proposal as a course for church musicians who want to learn high-quality repertoire that is accessible for a typical church choir of 12-15 singers. When I was selected as the Fellowship recipient, I was happy to have been assigned Dr. Dettbarn-Slaughter as a mentor as I developed the course and expanded on the content being offered. With regular feedback, revisions, and encouragement, I am pleased to announce the newest course in the Sacred Music curriculum at GTF, “Masterworks for the Smaller Church Choir.”
“Masterworks for the Smaller Church Choir” is a course designed to give a brief introduction to various forms, composers, and compositions for the church. Spanning nearly 700 years of repertoire, the student will discover some of the most important works written for the church. In addition, audio selections have been made with care and attention to repertoire that could be be rehearsed and sung by the average amateur church choir of under 20 singers. There are a few larger works selected as reference should MSM or DSM students wish to use them in their final recital projects. However, since this course is designed to be an introduction to forms and styles of repertoire, it would also make an ideal elective for GTF students in other majors looking to expand their understanding and appreciation of musical arts in worship.
Preparing this course for future GTF students has been very rewarding. Thinking back to my early ministry, I know I would have benefited greatly from such a course. I am very pleased to have been selected as the first Post-Doctoral Fellow in Sacred Music at the GTF, and I am eager to help other church musicians develop their repertoire and knowledge of practical sacred music.
Dr. Wellman’s course, Masterworks for the Smaller Church Choir, will be posted to the GTF website and open for registration later this spring.