Virtual Instructor

Perhaps the biggest challenge the Church’s music ministry faces on the parish level is the shortage of trained and equipped personnel. AGES proposes to create tools and methods to meet that challenge. Imagine Parish Music Ministry “in-a-box,” everything a parish needs in liturgical texts and music to perform all its church services.

Seminary is where training for parish ministry takes place. It is no secret that the liturgical music learned and used at the Seminary is markedly different from what is typically used at the parish. The fact, however, that our bishops approve of what is taught and used at the Seminary has to be understood as their preference for it and their unspoken hope that the Seminary’s liturgical music experience will somehow be transmitted to the parish along with everything else future priests are learning in preparation for their ministry.

Virtual Instructor is a tool that seminarians can use as they learn church music and also as they perform the services during their time at the Seminary. Virtual Instructor accesses the AGES integrated digital library of liturgical texts and associated musical scores and audio recordings. It can be made to operate on multiple platforms, e.g. iOS (for iPad), as well as desktop and Web applications.

As a learning tool, Virtual Instructor can function in several ways. For example, the teacher can create a set-list of hymns to be studied and learned, whether as part of a class exercise or as homework. Virtual Instructor displays the selected texts for these hymns in whichever language or version desired. The interface provides the student direct access to the musical score of a selected hymn, in whichever notation or composition is desired. Furthermore, the interface links the score to an audio recording. Thus, through frequent listening and singing along, the student will learn to sing accurately and he quickly becomes proficient. Another way Virtual Instructor can function is to display an entire prepared service for any given day. The user can then study the text of each hymn, view the musical score, listen to the audio recording, and thus be prepared for a specific service.

The convenience provided by the integrated AGES library extends beyond the classroom to the Seminary chapel itself. Students are already using e-readers in church. Accessing the AGES library, such devices can function as Digital Chanters Stands (DCS) and Service Books. For the chant groups, the existing stands can be outfitted with monitors or simply made to accommodate portable devices. The worshipping students in the pews will no longer have to lug their personal library of service books to chapel, since the prepared service text and even music can be displayed on their e-reader. Everyone can have everything they need at their fingertips.

Finally, by implementing Virtual Instructor and DCS, the cost to the student for a liturgical library is decreased. Especially as regards the Greek texts and music, not only are the books expensive, but they are also not easily obtained.

As seminarians graduate and move on to real parish ministry, for which the Seminary prepared them, Virtual Instructor and Digital Chanter Stand can be taken to or found at the parish, where a similar music ministry can be implemented. These programs will contribute to mending the bridge between what is learned at Seminary and what is experienced in the parish.