This page explains the strategy that was followed by SEM to
achieve its goals; a strategy that could be adopted by any
Christian Music School to best serve the church.
SEM Philosophy and Mission Statement
The main goal and priority of SEM is the service of the church.
As a second priority comes the prosperity of Byzantine Music in itself.
In other words, SEM conserves Byzantine Music and works for its prosperity as long as these actions are considered as beneficial to church. In the case of a contradiction between the benefits of Byzantine Music and the Church, the Church benefit criteria shall prevail.
Byzantine Music at the Service of Church
The School of Ecclesiastic Music defines Byzantine music as a very important mean for attracting the youth of the third millennium to church, and to its liturgical life, and through it, to the active commitment in the community life.
The School is aware that Byzantine music features:
- a splendor and a magnificence that are sufficient to attract and fascinate the youth of the third millennium to church. (The preaching goal).
- a profound spiritual experience that is sufficient to animate parishes and their liturgical life, and to ensure a variety and a continuous renewal in order to sustain this vitality. (The parish role).
Knowing this vital importance of the Byzantine music, the school emphasizes the necessity of exploring and testing the abilities of the latter in order to preserve it and give people incentives to interact more with it. (The conservative goal).
According to SEM, Byzantine Music can serve church's interests in through three dimensions:
- The parish dimension
This is the usual and main role of Byzantine music; helping people to pray in the Holy services.
- The preaching dimension
SEM believes that Byzantine music can attract people who do not come to church at all; it can attract them and make them come to church.
SEM finds that this role is very important especially in this era because:
- People tend to be interested in Ethnic music in general. And Byzantine music is considered to be as one of the most attractive ethnic types of music.
- Technology and entertainment dominate the communications between people. Hence, the traditional ways of preaching (lectures, addresses, etc.) tend to be less effective and interesting to people. On the other hand, music falls in the heart of entertainment and communication.
- The conservative dimension
Byzantine music is a traditional heritage and treasure of the Orthodox Church; hence conserving it stands for conserving the assets of the church.
Terminology: On the other hand, the Project breaks up the orthodox population into four main categories with respect to the extent of each person's participation in the church's life:
- Disinterested Individuals:
Those are fully detached individuals from the church's life; they never attend the holy services...
- Seasonal Individuals:
This category encompasses individuals who limit their participation in the church's life on attending occasional holy services through the year on intermittent basis.
- Regular Individuals:
Those individuals attend regularly the holy services and participate in the parish's activities as passive members.
- Active Individuals:
Those are actively committed to the church's life; they participate in organizing and implementing the parish's activities.
SEM goals can be illustrated in the following figure:
The preaching goal addresses mainly, the disinterested individuals; it seeks attracting them toward the church so that they become, at least, seasonal.
The parish goal addresses mainly seasonal individuals; it seeks enhancing their relationship with the church in order to increase the level of their attendance in the activities and holy services of the community. Thus, seasonal individuals will become regular attendees and hopefully active members of the parish. Active members are expected to ensure renewed human resources for the musical project and thus its sustainability.
Finally, the conservative goal addresses mainly the last two categories of orthodox individuals by informing them more about and increasing their sensitivity toward Byzantine music; the aim of this information is to enhance the believers' interaction with Byzantine music as a liturgical element, and to increase their awareness of its value in order to preserve it.
SEM strategy can be illustrated in the following figure:
The Strategy Relation among the Elements of the Project
The main elements of the project are the School, the main Choir, the Parochial Choirs, the Weddings' choir, and the Studio. These elements interact among each other fro the continuity and development of the project.
The school is the engine and the heart of the project:
It ensures the continuity of the human resource supply; since we always have people who leave for family reasons or work or education or travel reasons, etc.
It ensures that the new members of the choir have the appropriate professional level in music.
- Scientific Approach
It constitutes the project's scientific background and it supplies the project with the scientific and research material and information and support. (Curriculum, training, etc.)
The elements of the project interact according to the following figure:
The Strategy of the School
Developing the New Curriculum
We focused from the start on developing our curriculum as a crucial element for the success of the school. Many times, we stopped certain classes even before ending the program because we had found a better teaching way worth of trying. The students were aware of such experimental aspect of the school and actively took part in its development. Such strategy followed for the first seven years allowed us to achieve this huge curriculum with high efficiency.
TeachersOn the other hand, we focused on talented students as future teachers in order to increase our reserve of teaching elements which would allow is to implement rule more efficiently.
School's General Strategy
The Schools general strategy can be summarized by the following graph:
The Strategy of the Choir
The main aim of the choir was to promote Byzantine Music. Yet Byzantine Music is an old music, which a non-initiated audience cannot appreciate at first sight usually. Therefore, we had to use elements that the audience would appreciate. Accordingly we mainly relied on the following elements in the choir:
- Large Number of Chanters:
At the beginning, in order to gather such a huge number, we had to accept chanters who did not have the needed level in music especially that we wanted to give the strong impact from the beginning in order to attract students.
- o The audience feels the majesty of chanting when watching a large choir,
- We wanted the audience to feel that Byzantine Music learning is possible for everyone; we wanted them to be motivated to learn Byzantine Music and not only just appreciate the choir. A small professional choir would make them feel that Byzantine Music is restricted to an elite of very talented chanters.
We increased the minimum acceptable level and with time, the number became a secondary factor since SEM had already built its image and became a source of attraction to the audience.
- Men and Women Choirs:
Non initiated audience cannot distinguish the change in the Byzantine modes; hence, they might feel that Byzantine Music is too repetitive and boring. Therefore, we introduced a separate women choir to the program with many solo performances in such way allowing the audience to distinguish changes in the program. Hence, they always felt satisfied especially that time was flying.
- Short Chants
Since our target mainly aimed at massive media, large audience and preaching, it was obvious that most of our audience is not initiated to Byzantine Music. This is why we focused on short chants while inserting therein elaborated musical phrases in order to gradually initiate the audience to long important chants.