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Music Ministry Guidelines


Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance.  As sacred song united to words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.  Yet the function of music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate.  Music should assist the assembled believers to express and share the gift of faith that is within them and to nourish and strengthen their interior commitment of faith.  It should heighten the texts so that they speak more fully and more effectively.  The quality of joy and enthusiasm which music adds to community worship cannot be gained in any other way.  It imparts a sense of unity to the congregation and sets the appropriate tone for a particular celebration.  (Music in Catholic Worship, paragraph #23.)

The entire worshiping assembly exercises a ministry of music.  Some members of the community, however, are recognized for the special gifts they exhibit in leading the musical praise and thanksgiving of Christian assemblies.  These are the pastoral musicians, whose ministry is especially cherished by the church.  (Liturgical Music Today, paragraph #63.)

What motivates the pastoral musician?  Why does he or she give so much time and effort to the service of the church at prayer?  The only answer can be that the church musician is first a disciple and then a minister.  The musician belongs first of all to the assembly; he or she is a worshiper above all.  Like any member of the assembly, the pastoral musician needs to be a believer, needs to experience conversion, needs to hear the Gospel, and so proclaim the praise of God.  Thus, the pastoral musician is not merely an employee or volunteer.  He or she is a minister, someone who shares faith, serves the community, and expresses the love of God and neighbor through music.  (Liturgical Music Today, paragraph #64.)

All liturgical ministers are registered parishioners.  The guidelines that follow conform to the theological and liturgical principles in the diocesan guidelines.

Attire and Behavior

By dressing appropriately, liturgical ministers help the assembly focus on the ministry rather than on personal appearance.  Ministers, regardless of age, should dress at a minimum in “business casual” attire.  Sneakers, jeans, T-shirts, sweat/jogging suits, shorts, and skimpy clothing of any type are not appropriate. Ministers may be called upon to serve at any liturgy, so always come prepared and dressed appropriately.

Ministers model a respectful and reverent attitude by arriving on time, avoiding distracting behavior (e.g. talking with others), and participating in the entire liturgy.

Training and Formation

Technical orientation and training as well as liturgical and spiritual formation are a necessary part of every ministry.  Initial orientation and training are required before the new minister enters service.  Each minister is also expected to grow in faith and action through attending ongoing formation for established ministers at least once a year.  Each minister is expected to attend the yearly formation held for all Holy Infant liturgical ministers.

All liturgical ministry is absolutely crucial and essential for the celebration of the liturgy.  An untrained individual cannot properly fill this essential role in the liturgy.  This is especially true for music ministers, our role cannot be easily replaced.  Please be present whenever possible emergencies do occur but please be responsible; if you are unable to attend when expected please leave a message with the Director by either email or voice mail.

General Preparation

It is absolutely crucial that each music minister be prepared for the liturgy for which they are serving.  This preparation includes not only attendance at rehearsals, but also regular individual music practice, scripture study, and personal prayer.  It involves true commitment.

Music rehearsals are held each week.  Regular attendance at rehearsals is expected, even if you are unable to attend the weekend liturgy.  Likewise, you are expected to attend the weekend liturgy of your choice, except on the occasions (hopefully rare) when you are out of town or have other important obligations.  As a music minister, missing either rehearsal or liturgy should never be a casual decision.  Each musician is important to the ensemble and absences are detrimental to the overall sound of the ensemble.

Be on time, and be prepared.  Instrumentalists, it is important that you arrive early enough to get set up and tune before either a liturgy or a rehearsal begins.  Each music minister will be assigned an individual cubicle and a music folder to be located in the Music Room (St. Cecilia Room).  It is the music minister’s responsibility to maintain his/her folder in up to date form and make requests for missing items.

Be prepared to serve at the liturgy.  If you were unable to attend the weekly rehearsal make sure that you are familiar with the music being used and that your folder is in order.  The ten minutes prior to liturgy is not a time for going over last minute details, chatting with other ministers or tuning instruments, etc; it is a time to prepare your heart and your mind for ministry.

The cantor’s role is an especially important one and should not be entered into lightly.  Cantor’s are expected to prepare well, attend regular cantor rehearsals and workshops, dress appropriately and make scripture study an important part of their preparation.  It is the Cantor’s responsibility to proclaim the psalm and the Gospel verse, to read/sing the General Intercessions and to be properly prepared to lead the assembly in it’s sung prayer. 


Prior to the Liturgy

Music Ensemble

  1. All music ministers are expected to be present and ready to sing/play at the appointed time for pre-liturgy rehearsal.
  2. Guitar cases, coats, purses, etc. must be out of view and, unless you have a serious medical problem, water bottles should be left at home or stored away.  If you suffer from dry mouth ask the Director for suggestions.  If it is determined that you absolutely must have water during the liturgy please use a small bottle (4 oz. or less) and try to be as discreet as possible when using it. 
  3. Please, do not keep questions to yourself, if you are confused then it is likely that there are others who are also confused.
  4. Begin by visiting the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for a few minutes. Ask God’s blessing upon your ministry. Offer the ministry to the Lord before, during, and after the liturgy.  The following is a suggested adaptation of the direction of intention by St. Francis de Sales:

“Lord, I give you my actions and ministry. Help me to conduct myself in a manner that will praise you and assist my brothers and sisters in their worship of your holy name.”


  1. The cantor is the primary link between the Presider, the music ensemble, and the assembly.  Therefore the ministry of cantor is crucial to the smooth flow of the liturgical celebration.
  2. The cantor must arrive early enough to rehearse with the accompanist(s) before the regular rehearsal with the music ensemble, unless other arrangements have been made prior to liturgy.  Please arrive at liturgy warmed up and prepared to sing.  This is especially important at liturgies that take place early in day.
  3. The cantor must be familiar with all of the music being used during the liturgy, with any ritual action that will be taking place, with the General Intercessions that will be either read or sung and with other acclamations or ritual music that is to be used during the celebration.  It is absolutely critical that the cantor be familiar with the script of the day’s liturgy well in advance of the weekend. This includes being familiar with any names, places, etc. that are unfamiliar in the General Intercessions.  Therefore, begin your ministry by reading through the General Intercessions.

Music Director

  1. Make sure that all necessary music and equipment is in place and in working order well in advance of Pre-Liturgy Rehearsal.
  2. Review the liturgy script, and confirm with the Presider any special instructions included that affect the ministry of music (i.e. baptisms, RCIA rituals, special blessings, etc.)
  3. Make sure that all music ministers are familiar with the music and the instructions for liturgy.
  4. Complete music rehearsal no later than 15 minutes prior to liturgy.
  5. If new music is to be introduced, begin the introduction late enough so that a good portion of the assembly is present, and early enough that the teaching will be completed before the liturgy is scheduled to begin.

During the Liturgy



  1. If there is no worship aid it is the Cantor’s responsibility to either announce the hymn numbers or insure that someone else will be doing that.  Check the numbers to make certain they are correct.           
  2. The psalm is sung from the Ambo.  When the instrumental introduction to the psalm begins move to the Ambo, walking in front of the Altar (Bowing in center front of Altar).   Take your time, it isn’t a race.  After proclaiming the psalm or canticle pause for 5-10 seconds.  Move to the font side of the Ambo, take the binder with you.  If there isn’t an available seat, stand to the back.
  3. After the 2nd reading has been proclaimed there will be another period of silence for reflection.  Again, wait for the musical introduction to begin before you take your place back at the Ambo, moving quickly but gracefully to change places with the lector.  During the singing of the final refrain move back to the music ministry area so that the Presider can easily take his place at the Ambo.
  4. During the recitation of the final paragraph of the Creed the cantor should move to the Cantor’s stand and prepare to read the General Intercessions.

Director of Music Ministry

  1. The Gathering Song begins after a minute of quiet reflection following the Host’s announcements.
  2. Be prepared to play underneath the Gathering Rite.
  3. The introduction for the Psalm should begin after a brief pause for reflection and should be long enough to get the Cantor from his/her seat to the Ambo without haste.  This hold true for the Gospel Acclamation as well.
  4. Be prepared to accompany any ritual or prayer  that will require musical accompaniment.
  5. The music for the Preparation/Presentation Rite (instrumental and/or vocal) should continue until the Presider finishes washing his hands and is ready to begin the prayer over the gifts. 
  6. Begin the acclamations to the Eucharistic Prayer on cue without hesitation, with short or no instrumental introduction to the acclamations.
  7. Begin the Lamb of God when the Presider breaks the bread.  Use as many tropes as are needed to cover the action, through and including the distribution of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine to the Eucharistic ministers.
  8. Transition into the Communion Procession Song immediately after the recitation of the words, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof , but only say the words and I shall be healed".
  9. Continue the communion songs (instrumentally and/or vocally) until the last member of the assembly (including the music ministers) has received communion.
  10. Begin the closing song immediately after the words of dismissal.


After the Liturgy

Music Ministers

  1. Out of respect for those who may remain in the Church after the liturgy to pray or seek counsel, maintain an appropriately quiet décorum in the music area.
  2. Please help the Music Director with the clean-up of the area.  Make sure that all of your music, equipment and other paraphernalia is picked up and put away.
  3. Please put your music back on the counter in the Music Room in the proper pile and return your folder to the proper cubicle.  If you take your music home, you are responsible for it!
  4. Leave the music area completely free of clutter.
  5. Visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Thank God for the opportunity to serve, and for His many blessings.

Director of Music Ministry

  1. Make sure that the music area is clear of all clutter and that all equipment is returned to its proper resting place.
  2. Visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  Thank God for the opportunity to serve, and for His many blessings.