Church Music Skills

Church Music Skills

Developing your skills as a church musician

Church Music Skills is a pioneering education programme designed to help practising church musicians to develop the skills and understanding that they need for their role, and to equip those who want to be able to lead music in worship.

The programme is based on distance learning, combining private study at home with practical experience in the student’s own church. It is designed for use by students studying alone or with a teacher, and may be complemented by optional attendance at RSCM workshops, masterclasses and short residential courses. It is open to students from the UK and abroad.

If you have any questions about Church Music Skills, please contact RSCM Education on +44 (0)1722 424843 or skills@rscm.com.

About

Students enrolling in Church Music Skills opt to follow one of two pathways:

  • The Award Scheme leads to vocational-type qualifications at three levels
  • The Flexible Study Scheme allows students to ‘mix and match’ units according to their own personal development goals

Download the Church Music Skills brochure
Download the Information Pack – contains full details of the programme and units
Download the Registration Form
Go to information on residential courses
Find training events in your area
Read an article about Church Music Skills by Stuart Robinson
See The Complete Church Organist – a series of organ tutors from RSCM Press

Award Scheme

The Church Music Skills Award is designed to enable students to become effective leaders and enablers of music in their local church. The Award affirms the student’s abilities and demonstrates their competence to potential employers.

Students on the Award Scheme undertake a programme of study that leads to assessment and an award at three levels:

Level I Level II Level III
Foundation Intermediate Higher

The Level of the award relates to the musical demands at each stage. Students may begin work at any Level.

To complete the award, students submit a portfolio of written and practical work (the latter in the form of audio or audio-visual recordings of rehearsals and performances at their church). They have a choice of Principal Skill – either Organ, Choir Director, Cantor or Music Group Leader – for the practical work.

The written work includes submissions on a series of Supporting Studies related to church music, for example choosing music for worship, Christian seasons and festivals, copyright legislation or managing volunteers.

Students have a choice of Practical and Supporting Studies units (see ‘Units of learning’ tab above for the full list of topics).

On completion of the award, students may go on to do further study, either proceeding to the next Level, or enlarging their portfolio by taking a Secondary Skill (eg where an organist wants to undertake study as a choir director or vice versa).

Step Detail
Step 1
Registration
When you register, you will select a Principal Skill (either Organ, Choir Director, Cantor or Music Group Leader). Upon registration you will receive a welcome pack and introductory units for your Principal Skill.
Step 2
Select other units of learning
After completing the introductory units, you will select three Practical units (at Level I, II or III as appropriate) plus three Supporting Studies units from the list below. You will then receive learning materials and a list of assignments to complete for each unit.
Step 3
Undertake units of learning
You will work through the learning materials at your own pace and then send your work for assessment.
Step 4
Completion of award
Once you have completed the necessary tasks to the satisfaction of the tutor you will receive an award that affirms your achievements at that Level.
Step 5
Further study
After completing your award you may wish to proceed to the next Level or work on a Secondary Skill at the same Level. You are also able to transfer to the Flexible Study scheme, which enables you to work on any additional units of your choice.
Flexible Study Scheme

Church Music Skills is also open to church musicians who would like to study in a more flexible way. Students who enroll on the Flexible Study Scheme may undertake any combination of units to suit their needs. They may work at any of the three Levels. If at a later stage they want to go on to undertake the Church Music Skills Award, they will be credited accordingly for any units they have already completed.

Step Detail
Step 1
Registration
When you register, you will select a Principal Skill (either Organ, Choir Director, Cantor or Music Group Leader). Upon registration you will receive a welcome pack and introductory units for your Principal Skill.
Step 2
Select other units of learning
After completing the introductory units, you can select any number of units of study at any Level. You will then receive learning materials and a list of assignments to complete for each unit.
Step 3
Undertake units of learning
You will work through the learning materials at your own pace and then send your work for assessment.
Step 4
Further study
You may continue to select further units of study and can at any point transfer to the Award Scheme, with all relevant prior learning credited accordingly.
Units

Students on the Award Scheme will select three units for their Principal Skill and three for their Supporting Studies (which must include at least one unit from the Worship and Ministry section and one from the Church Music in Practice section).

Students on the Flexible Study Scheme may select any combination of units.

Introductory Units
Organ A01 – Introduction to the organ
A02 – Playing the organ
A03 – How to practise
Choir Director B01 – Understanding the voice
B02 – Conducting techniques
B03 – Running a rehearsal
Cantor C01 – Understanding the voice
C02 – The role of the cantor
C03 – Teaching and animating
Music Group  Leader D01 – Why have a music group?
D02 – Working with instruments and voices
D03 – Leading a music group and running rehearsals

 

Practical Units
Organ A1 – Hymns
A2 – Worship songs
A3 – Accompanying chant
A4 – Anthems and settings
A5 – Solo performance
A6 – Improvisation
Choir Director B1 – Hymns and worship songs
B2 – Conducting chant
B3 – Anthems and settings
B4 – Working with young singers
B5 – Arranging and composing for choir
Cantor C1 – Hymns and songs
C2 – Psalmody
C3 – Chants and prayer responses
C4 – Traditional music for evensong and Eucharist
C5 – Composing and arranging for cantor and congregation
Music Group Leader D1 – Hymns and songs
D2 – Chants and short songs
D3 – Working with young musicians
D4 – Arranging and composing for music group

 

Supporting Studies Units
Worship and Ministry X01 – Sunday worship
X02 – Pastoral services
X03 – Age-specific and freer forms of worship
X04 – Using music in worship
X05 – Seasons and festivals
X06 – Text and music
Church Music in Practice Y01 – Organising your life
Y02 – Financing an activity
Y03 – Understanding people
Y04 – Working with volunteers
Y05 – Knowing general law
Y06 – Using others’ materials: copyright
Y07 – Making a presentation
Y08 – Telling the world
Y09 – Leading a team
Y10 – Introducing change
Fees

The table below indicates the principal costs for this programme. Full terms and conditions will be made available to those considering registering for the course.

RSCM member Non-member
Registration
Includes administration charges and welcome pack plus learning materials and assessments for the introductory units
£110 £135
Award scheme
First level
Additional levels
Includes learning materials and assessments for three principal skills units at the selected level, and three supporting studies units, plus certificate
£330
£165
£390
£200
Flexible Study Scheme
Practical skills unit (including learning materials and assessment)
Supporting studies unit (including learning materials and assessment)
£66
£50
£80
£60

Those without internet access or email are required to pay a 10% supplement to cover the costs of printing and postage.

Students may wish to ask their church or diocese for financial support when undertaking this programme.

FAQs

Who might find the programme useful?

Church Music Skills is suitable for any church musician wanting to develop their skills and understanding. This includes:

  • young people interested in a career in church music
  • adult beginners looking to develop new skills to help lead music for worship
  • practising church musicians looking to develop their existing skills and understanding or learn new skills
  • those wanting to attain a vocational-type qualification in church music
  • church ministers wanting to develop musical skills and understanding

There is no age limit.

When can I join?

Students can join at any point in the year. Just complete the registration form and return it with payment to the RSCM Education Administrator.

What are the technical requirements?

Some aspects of this programme will require access to the internet and some correspondence will take place by email. Students without these facilities are required to pay a 10% supplement to cover the costs of printing and postage.

Students will be required to submit recordings of their performances for evaluation. These may be on CD, MP3, DVD or video (choir directors will be required to submit DVD or video recordings so that their conducting skills can be assessed) and should be of sufficient quality to accurately represent the performance of the student. Those without these facilities may be able to undertake assessment during an RSCM training course, by prior arrangement.

How will I be assessed?

For any unit of study, assignments may include:

  • Written work – in the form of essays, diagrams, diaries, commentaries etc.
  • Practical work – audio or video/DVD recordings of performances or written scores of compositions/arrangements

Assignments will be assessed by course tutors. Successful students will be awarded a pass, merit or distinction for each individual unit  and for the overall award. The grade for the overall award will be calculated accordingly, with a weighting of 60% on the practical units and 40% on the supporting studies units.

When will I be assessed?

Students can work at their own pace and submit work for assessment when they are ready. On the last Friday of each month the RSCM Education Administrator distributes all recent student submissions to the course tutors and they are marked within  a month of that date.

The only exceptions to this rule are the Quick Study tests. Students can elect in which month they want to undertake these tests. The test papers are issued on the first Monday of that month and students are required to submit their assignment within 14 days of that date.

How long will it take?

Students may work at their own pace and can submit their assignments whenever they are ready, with the exception of Quick Study tests in the Practical Skills units, for which there is a time limit of 14 days.

As a rough guide, students should set aside at least ten hours for work on each unit of study, which will include reading and reflection, performance preparation, submission and evaluation. Students taking the full award will take, on average, around a year to complete one level.

At which level should I begin?

The level at which you work will be determined by your current level of musical skill and understanding. You will be given guidance on the level at which to begin after you have completed the introductory units.

Level I is for students who are relatively new to their Principal Skill. By the end of level I students will have demonstrated their ability to play, sing or direct selected items in church services.

Level II is for students who already have good basic technical and musical skills but perhaps have limited experience as a church musician (eg competent pianists wishing to transfer to the organ, who could begin work at this level). By the end of level II, students will have demonstrated their ability to play, sing or direct the music at a standard church service to a high level.

Level III is for students who are already fairly skilled and who are looking for a musical challenge. By the end of level III, students will have demonstrated their ability to play, sing or direct music at a church service with significant musical demands to a high level.

Student information

Students may download these documents as necessary. The Word documents can be completed electronically and returned by email, or printed and returned by post.
Download Unit Registration Form
Download Practical Work Submission Form
Download Written Assignment Cover Sheet
Download Composition Assignment Cover Sheet
Download Study Planner
Download Quick Study Registration Form
Download Student Feedback Form

These resources may also be helpful to those studying Unit A01: The organ: an introduction to the instrument and its care:
Download Care of the organ by John Harper
Download Caring for the king of instruments – a series of articles by Dominic Gwynn