Thursday, March 31, 2022
Rev. Tittle, Dr. Schurr, and Mrs. Kelly:
Please accept this as my submission for the position of Alternative Worship Service Music Leader. Below are various materials that I found to be pertinent to the position, including my résumé, audio/video recordings, your application and questions, references, and my contact information. I bring to the table over eighteen years of experience as a church musician in some capacity. All of the positions I have held tend to lean more toward traditional or “blended” worship styles; however, in my work as a freelance musician, theatrical music director, and an entertainer, I have gained much more experience in popular music styles, including a wide range of genres that fall in the “contemporary music” heading.
In 2019, I returned to East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina to complete my Bachelor of Music in Performance (Sacred Music Vocal/Choral Concentration). I am on course to graduate in May and will be relocating to Tucson in August to begin work on my Master of Music in Vocal Performance. While the sacred music coursework in my degree program has been predominately related to Roman Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican traditions, I chose to take “elective” courses in electronic music composition, popular styles, and theatrical audio, scenic, and lighting design, which I expect to be useful in this position at Immanuel.
My résumé reflects work in Christian denominations that tend to be traditional, though this was not the case for most of them. Namely, my work with the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Salinas, CA, included a wide variety of musical styles including rock, bluegrass, folk, and electronic genres in addition to traditional hymnody and worship styles. Most of the United Methodist Churches I have served typically offered a blended style of worship including traditional music with “coffeehouse-style” music, bluegrass, and southern gospel.
I strive for excellence in music for myself and for the ensembles under my charge. My grandmother told me quite a few times, “bad music don’t preach to nobody.” I work hard to create a “product” that can offer an uninterrupted worship experience for congregations and musicians alike. In addition, I seek to foster creativity and promote artistic expression in all participants while also amplifying the gifts that each musician brings in a way that will encourage an atmosphere of worship led by the Holy Spirit.
I have uploaded a PDF résumé below which outlines my education and employment over the last eight years. Please take a look at my résumé page on this website for an exhaustive listing of my performance work and other employment. I very much look forward to discussing this opportunity with you in the near future.
William Clayton Whittington
Reference form letters to follow; however, I have listed 6 references below.
1. Describe your spiritual journey with Christ throughout your life.
I was baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic Church (my mother’s faith), confirmed United Methodist (my father’s faith), and found a spot I liked right in the middle, which led to my fairly recent reception into the Episcopal Church. Admittedly, the concept of a Christ that I could “walk beside” was foreign to me during my childhood. Growing up in the Roman Catholic faith, I was taught to fully kneel when crossing the transept or before entering a pew, I wasn’t allowed to actually touch the host with my hands because I would “contaminate it” (according to Grandma), and that anything short of a coat and tie was “unacceptable in meeting the President and therefore unacceptable to wear in front of Jesus.” My point is that the Jesus I knew as a child was an inaccessible King and that if I wanted to reach him, I had to go through the parish priest (cue traumatic confession experiences). I had no idea what any of this was. I just knew it was a grueling hour I had to endure every Sunday before we could go wait in line behind the Baptists at the Golden Corral. Any questions I had were simply met with “that’s just how it is, don’t be blasphemous.”
As I got older, I discovered that my father’s parents seemed to have a direct line to God and “didn’t need a priest.” I wanted that. I began going with them to Westminster United Methodist Church when I started high school. As a bonus, the preacher there played guitar and it didn’t sound like the post-Vatican II, hippie stuff that Mom was dragging me to every Sunday. The UMC was also my first experience with traditional organ and choral music in church. Mrs. Crossland could pull out a few stops and pump that sanctuary with some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. Her playing led a congregation of 300 people to sing like they just found their voice every Sunday. Nobody here sounded as though they were just “going through the motions.” There was joy in their voices.
In my years after high school, I found employment in church music. More importantly, music gave me a form of prayer that I could genuinely connect with. I talk to Jesus in every note I play and every song I sing. In some way, I am called to share that joy and connection through music with everyone I encounter.
2. What did being a Christian mean in your life this past year in relation to your family, peers, ministry, and relationship to society?
The past two years have been pretty rough on everyone. For the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, my work shifted to an almost entirely virtual format (recorded music, live streaming, Zoom meetings, etc.). As someone whose entire livelihood is centered around interaction, I had to find new ways to do it. The choirs under my charge met virtually for music-related Bible and book studies (recently a study based on the libretto of Handel’s Messiah). This offered a different angle to a piece of music we all loved to sing, centering on the theology and history behind the text. As with most, the newness of virtual meetings and concerts began to wear thin. As we have returned to some level of normalcy, I have actively searched for new ways of interacting with my family, friends, and ministry partners with priority placed on safety.
3. What do you enjoy about worship and leading worship?
Worship is an entirely human action that requires the involvement of your total self. I enjoy watching others get involved in it, whether it be the planning stages, the rehearsals, or their participation in the actual worship service. I like to see what motivates others and brings them to that spiritual place of worship.
As a worship leader, I pour myself into every part of the process of planning and coordinating music for worship, but it can never be all me by myself. I do enjoy the “Monday morning coffee and notepad” sessions at home, alone with my Bible, my hymnal, and my keyboard. But more so, I enjoy discussions with the pastor in which we talk about our experiences in previous worship services, how to keep the drive we may have experienced, and what needs to be done to keep us all from falling into a “liturgical routine.” I enjoy the rehearsals with the various ensembles in which we all come together and work to create something worthy of an offering. I worship through the process that leads to Sunday morning and that is what I enjoy most.
I also hold dear the liturgical aspects of worship. Namely, the traditions that we have kept since the early days of Christianity through the ages, acknowledging the great theologians, musicians, and worship leaders who shaped the faith as we know it today. Traditions such as the Eucharist are important to me because it is an act of remembrance that has survived, largely unchanged, for almost 2,000 years.
4. How would you describe vibrant worship?
Vibrant worship would best be described as a “cycle of energy.” It starts as the spark set that energizes worshippers to greet the new week in a refreshed state of mind and to live that week for God. As the week moves on, the energy gained from worship motivates you to seek that spark again and again.
5. Why might you be a good candidate for the Alternative Worship Service Music Leader position?
I believe I offer variety in my musical tastes and abilities (see question 8) that can help to build bridges between faiths and with those who do not subscribe to any belief. In many cases, I feel as though I have been fighting “dual lives” as a Saturday night entertainer and a Sunday morning chorister.
My previous experiences in directing choirs and music programs will be beneficial to building and rehearsing an effective music team.
6. How do you balance excellence in leading corporate worship with ensuring that it is not merely a performance?
For myself as a musician, worship IS a performance, but not for the congregation. Deciding who your audience is is paramount. The balance comes through when the worship leaders (clergy, servers, musicians, choirs, etc.) devote their full experience to the glorification of God. The act of worship is an offering and an act of remembrance of the One who gave everything so that we may have eternal life; therefore, we should strive to ensure that our “performance” is for Him.
7. Immanuel incorporates two expressions of worship in our services—traditional and alternative. How might you be a team player and good communicator with the traditional music staff and volunteers?
It is important that the traditional and alternative music ministries continue with the understanding that Immanuel Church is still one congregation with a variety of preferences in worship styles. An open line of communication between Dr. Schurr and myself will be an important part of our respective ministries. I foresee crossover in the theological content of the music provided by both the traditional and alternative music ministries, though offered to the congregation in different ways.
It is also important to me personally to get involved in the traditional music ministry, time permitting of course. I certainly hope there can be an element of crossover between those more heavily involved in one ministry, even temporarily (such as for a cantata, concert series, etc.).
8. What are your musical influences?
Contemporary Christian: David Crowder, MercyMe, DC Talk, Newsboys
Traditional Hymnody: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Fanny Crosby
Classical/Traditional Church Music: Thomas Tallis, Franz Joseph Haydn, J. S. Bach
Modern/Popular: Ben Folds, Elton John, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Five for Fighting, Chicago
9. The Immanuel Alternative Worship Service utilizes music (often as the offertory piece) that is spiritual and fits with the service theme, but isn’t necessarily “Christian.” For example, we have in the past utilized songs by such artists as the Black Keys, Mavis Staples, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Beck, Twenty One Pilots, Pink Floyd, etc. How do you feel about putting these non-traditional music pieces in a worship setting?
Artists who offer their work to the general public certainly had their own intentions behind each piece, but what it said to them almost always sends a different message to the viewer or listener. Jesus used a tax collector, a zealot, and a thief to spread a message that has lasted over 2,000 years; therefore, I think it is totally within bounds to use Ozzy Osbourne in worship if his music is what it takes to reach even a single person.
10. What are your strengths and areas you’d like to grow in related to leading corporate worship?
I believe my strengths are in creativity, musical versatility, and planning/preparation (but also being about to “roll with the punches”).
As for an area of weakness, I consider myself an “extroverted introvert.” I make my living acting like an extrovert through leading rehearsals, “moonlighting” as a piano entertainer, and interacting with audiences and congregations from behind a piano and microphone. If you take the piano away, I crawl back into my introverted shell. In the context of leading corporate worship, I would like to grow in my public speaking abilities.
Extra Credit Question: What’s your favorite traditional hymn and modern praise song and why?
Be Still, My Soul, based on “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius, is my favorite traditional hymn (today, anyway). The musicality of the piece lends itself to many possibilities in instrumental expression, whether it be the organ or the piano, and the melody tends to move in steps, making it easily accessible to congregations. It is also reflective of the motion in my favorite choral anthem Onward, Ye Peoples, also by Sibelius. The text of Be Still, My Soul expresses a message of peacefulness in learning to “let go and let God.”
Many believe it to be overplayed, but my favorite “modern” praise song (almost 50 years old now) rose from the Roman Catholic liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council. Be Not Afraid, written in 1975 by Bob Dufford, SJ, and recorded by John Michael Talbot in 1997, is somewhat of a paraphrase of Isaiah 43:2-3 and Luke 6:20 and offers a similar message to Be Still, My Soul as alluded to in the title. This was a popular choral anthem and solo in my youth at Holy Trinity and Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Kinston, NC, and brings back great memories of growing up in those parishes.
MR. IAN BROWN
Carnival Cruise Line (M/S Pride)
MRS. JOHNNEE RICE
Chorister & Former Music Minister
Spilman Memorial Baptist Church
MR. JONATHAN SITTON
Teaching Instructor (Former)
East Carolina University
School of Theatre and Dance
REV. MARK WOODS
Pastor (Current Employer)
First United Methodist Church
REV. DIANE TOMLINSON
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
MR. BILL ANDERSON
Executive Director (Former)
Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation
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