Parish-Based Music Schools Initiative

November 17, 2015

(Scroll down to see slideshow.)


As music education programs in public schools face funding challenges across the U.S., many congregations are working to fill the void in their communities by offering innovative programs that provide individual or group music lessons for local children. Such initiatives expand vital outreach and leverage existing resources, such as facilities, personnel, and their inherent role as cultural leaders in their communities. They can also generate an additional revenue stream for the church. They provide a welcome to thousands who do not have easy access to music education and create vibrant communities of artists and teachers. These parish-based music schools exist all around the country, but are relatively unknown.

For all these reasons, the ISM has launched a multi-year project to highlight and advocate for ways that parishes can offer much-needed music education in their communities. A related article by Joseph Ripka (M.M. ’11) appeared on page 9 of the last issue of PRISM.

The first phase of the initiative collects information about existing programs for the sake of creating a network of like-minded people and facilitating the exchange of ideas. Additionally, the ISM is presenting workshops around the country to introduce the concept to congregation leaders and to teach them how to begin a school/program or strengthen one they may already operate. Future phases will share additional resources useful to such programs and provide continuing training to their leaders.


The ISM held its first workshop on parish-based music schools in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 24, 2015. Artistic and administrative leaders of successful programs in three states shared their first-hand knowledge and experiences to equip church musicians, clergy, and lay leadership with practical tools for creating and sustaining a program in their parish.

A second workshop will be held on Saturday, May 14, 2016, at Parkway United Church of Christ in St. Louis, MO. More information and online registration will be posted online at  in early January.

Additional workshops in other parts of the country are planned for 2016-17.

Workshop Presenters

Martin Jean, Director and Professor of Organ
Yale Institute of Sacred Music, New Haven, CT

Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music; and Rebecca Mason, Administrator
Mount Olivet School of Music, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN

Joseph Ripka, Organist/Choir Director, Artistic Director
Calvary Music School, Calvary Church (Episcopal), Stonington, CT

Rev. Jared D. Wilson, Senior Associate Pastor
Madison Street Music & Arts Academy, Madison Street United Methodist Church, Clarksville, TN

Lawrence Zukof, former Executive Director
Neighborhood Music School, New Haven, CT

Workshop Topics

  • The Case for Music Education
  • Establishing the program’s mission
  • Organizational structure and relationship with the church
  • Hiring teachers, other personnel
  • Setting rates/payment deadlines, other policies
  • Facilities and instruments
  • Program administration and staffing
  • Beyond private lessons: group classes, ensembles, etc.

More information and registration information is at