Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If the Leader Ain't Happy, Nobody Sings

Warning: What you're about to read is considered a heresy in schools that teach worship leadership. It is based on my personal experiences, both as a worshiper and as a worship leader, and is offered as a cautionary tale.

One size does not fit all

What they teach about arranging a song for the mean (average) vocal range doesn't work if the leader's range isn't average. Maybe like me, your range isn't average either. That means that when you're singing in the prescribed vocal range, like you might if singing melody from a hymn book, you're pretty much in pain the whole time. Not really conducive for a worshipful singing experience.

Anybody watching you, like the folks who are trying to follow your leadership and worship with you, will sense your pain, feel your pain, and they won't be able to sing either. Which pretty much defeats the purpose of leaving the song in the group's singable range. Even though they can sing the song, they won't sing the song. And all because you're not comfortable.

From time to time I doubt myself and try to lead worship in the hymnbook key. It always ends in an unfulfilling worship experience. The last time was a few weeks ago when I was leading worship at a small group Bible study in Berryville. I was running late so I decided to just play the songs as written, in the songbook keys. These folks are singers so I thought it would be alright.

It wasn't and I felt bad about cheating the group out of some great Godtime.

I mean the whole idea of leading worship is for folks to sing along, curl up in Jesus lap, put their head on His shoulder, give Him a high five, and worship. But they can't because what you mean to be a sacrifice is causing them pain. Silly you.

A Change Will Do Me Good

One of the first things I do when I'm setting up a worship set is choose the song keys, which is to say that I change the song keys. Since I have a low vocal range, I usually lower the key about a half an octave. The highest note in most song arrangements for group singing is usually a C or a D, about an octave above middle C. But the top of my lead range is only a G, so I change the song key pretty much every time. For example, if the song is published in C, I feel most comfortable when I move the song to F or G.

If I don't change the key, I can still sing the song but it sounds awful. I either sing it quietly in falsetto or I belt it out like Janis Joplin in the screaming range. Neither of these is very inspiring or inviting to those who might want to sing along.

Usually in a small group setting, I'll choose the highest key possible for me, with the highest note in the song capped at G. Since I do a lot of worshiping in small groups for women, this key is comfortable for them, too.

If the Worship Leader ain't happy, nobody sings

If the Worship Leader is comfortable, everyone feels safe. You gotta feel safe to worship. I blogged about some of this in my posts I Kiss with my Eyes Closed, Hey, Who Turned off the Water?, and 4 Musical Languages of Worship last year.

So be comfortable as the leader. Change the song key to match your vocal sweet spot. Get that out of the way so you can throw your head back, close your eyes, play your instrument and sing.

#STC12 Day Five - The Road Back Home

Our last day of #STC12 was Wednesday, May 23rd. We are tired, our brains are overloaded, but still we are not ready for the Summit to end. Irony.

My suitcases stand ready. Took a little bit of wrestling, but I got everything in.

Score: Viqui 2 - Luggage 0. I win the wrestling match! 

The closing luncheon gives us all one last chance to hang out with the STC folks.
Alan Hauser, Carolyn Klinger, Mary Saunders, and me

The Strangest Thing at the Summit award goes to the television screens built in to the bathroom mirrors at the Hyatt. So very strange, I just had to grab a photo.
Televisions over the sinks in the Women's Room at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. Seriously. 

The Take-One-For-The-Team award goes to Lorie Meyer, pictured here with the ├╝ber talented Rich Maggiani. Lorie will have to tell the story herself, but as I understand it, she sustained a bone break during the Honors Banquet without leaving the field of battle. Go Lorie!   
Lorie Meyer and Rich Maggiani. Lorie is the one with her arm in a sling. 

Love these mobile boarding passes. Very convenient. And good for the environment, too. Kudos, United!
Mobile Boarding Pass screenshot from my iPhone. Looks like I need a charge, too. 

This is the photo I texted home to let the DillMen know I had boarded. We like photos at my house more than reading. My new friend in the seat beside me took this picture. Thanks, Mr. Stranger, man.
I got a window seat.  

Here we are at the gate, waiting to take off from O'Hare. I am sitting close to the tail.
Tarmac at O'Hare 

Very soon, we were underway. This is a shot out the window (I got a window seat, see above) of the John Hancock building and Lake Michigan.
John Hancock Building, as seen from Seat 32A

So as my excellent #STC12 Adventure draws to a close, I look forward to expense reports, jet lag, photo uploading, and being hideously behind at work. It has been all worth it. 

I learned so much. I saw so much. I shared so much. 

And now I look forward to #STC13!

#STC12 Day Four - The Honors Banquet

On Tuesday night of the STC Summit, we have a costume change. We shed our nerdy writer duds and transform ourselves into elegant red carpet stars. The Honors Banquet is a dress up affair and we shine.

See our glamorous photos by Rachel and Rick and a host or others on flickr. We look great when we really try.

And the food looked good, too. I was so taken with the salad and entree, I forgot to photograph them. Here's a picture of the dessert sculpture.
Dessert at the #STC12 Honors Banquet was an assortment of heavenly chocolate somethings. 

Congratulations to the Chicago Chapter for their award. They were the #STC12 event hosts, among other things. I love each and every one of them. Read about our field trip to Second City and you'll know why.
The Chicago STC Chapter receives their award. 

And congratulations to the Washington, DC - Metro Baltimore Chapter on our award. We are a Chapter of Distinction!
The Washington, DC - Metro Baltimore Chapter receives our award for Chapter of Distinction. 

There are kind words about us in the program: For your successful merger of the Washington, DC and Metro Baltimore chapters, your inaugural James Madison University event, and continuing a desades-long tradition of hosting an STC Summit Technical Communicaiton Competition. See?

After the ceremonies, we have time to congratulate the winners. Here we are with Anne Grove, who received her Associate Fellowship tonight.
Left to right: Anne Grove, Carolyn Klinger, Viqui Dill, and Mary Sanders. 

A splendid evening with splendid people, smack in the middle of a splendid event.

Congratulations to all our #STC12 winners and honorees!

Friday, June 8, 2012

#STC12 Day Two - Keynote and Opening

Sunday evening at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and all the Technical Communicators for miles around gather for the Keynote address from Scott Berkun.

STC President Hillary Hart gives some introductory remarks, welcoming us to Chicago for the #STC12 Summit. We are so excited to be here, the sound of 1600 hands clapping fills the huge ballroom.

Steven Jong takes the stage next. We will hear Steve sing on Monday night at the Rough Drafts open jam. He is upbeat because this has been a banner year at the Society. We are psyched. Maybe a little antsy, ready for a great Summit and a great year.

Scott Berkun takes the podium.

Scott is famous for his book The Myths of Innovation .

These are my favorite slides from the evening. Scott is engaging and relevant. He seems accessable, like he thinks he's one of us and doesn't know he's a techno rockstar. I love him immediately.

You should be poked in the eye for saying "Ideation" according to Scott. Also according to Viqui.

Give a small team authority.

Choose people who resist the status quo.

Preach it, my brother!

Yes, I love me some Scott Berkun. I will love him even more on Monday when he hangs around to participate in one of the Lightening Talks. You gotta love a guy who hangs around to be with the fellow geekstas.

And on a parallel track, the Rough Drafts were gearing up for Monday night's jam. Here's a photo of Betsy Maaks arriving at the Hyatt with a load of guitars for tonight's rehearsal. 
Betsy Maaks, Viqui, and Rich Maggiani with Betsy's guitar laden Jeep Rubicon

Before rehearsal, we drop into the Red Bar at the Hyatt for some dinner. I have sushi for the second night in a row. This is called a "green dragon" and it was really good. Sushi twice in two days? How lucky am I!
Green dragon sushi at the Red Bar at the Hyatt 

At rehearsal, I met my date for the evening. It was love at first sight. 
This beautiful Fender P-Bass was what was in Betsy's jeep 
We rehearsed from the set list.

Rough Drafts jam sets are on slideshare at

Monday, May 28, 2012

#STC12 The Rough Drafts Music Jam

This is a story best told in pictures. 

Before the gig . . .
Wrist bands for everyone to publicize and remember the event  

This sexy Fender P-Bass was mine for 2 whole nights 

The Rough Drafts with our amazing sponsor and host Chapter rep, Left to right: Dr. Thomas Barker - lead and rhythm guitar, vocals, set lists and charts; Viqui Dill - bass and vocals; Rich Maggiani - drums and more; Ann Grove - president at Logical Writing Solutions, Inc., our sponsor; Betsy Maaks - vocals, linedancing instructor, STC Chicago Chapter rep, equipment coordinator, jam participant juggler, table program developer; Robert is not pictured  
First set kicked off with the core band warming up the crowd and getting a soundcheck on the fly.

Left to right: Rich Maggiani on drums, Robert Hershenow on guitar and vocals, Viqui Dill on bass and vocals, and Tommy Barker on guitar and vocals 

The dance floor filled up fast, thanks to Tommy's great set list. We open with Elvis' "Good Rockin' Tonight" to get the party started.
Well I heard the news, there's good rockin' tonight 
Lucky me, I'm on bass.

The bass babe 

First jammers out of the box are Tristan Bishop on keys and vocals and Steven Jong singing lead. Was it "Honky Tonk Woman"?
Left to right: Robert Hershenow on guitar, Tristan Bishop on keys and vocals,  the bass babe, Steven Jong on vocals, and Tommy Barker on guitar 

The Weight features Kai Weber and Elizabeth Barteau on vocals with Ryan Williams on bass. 

Such a fun song and they sing it/play it so well 

Love Me Like a Man - I get to sing my favorite song, thanks to Bruce Poropat on bass. Also featured is Stephen Adler on guitar. "Darlin' I know you can."

I love it when folks dance to our music 

Bruce Poropat also plays a mean electric guitar as we soon found out. 
Left to right: Bruce Poropat on guitar, Robert Hershenow on guitar, drums behind, Viqui on bass, and Tommy Barker on guitar and vocals 

Second set kicked it up a notch with a tribute to our host Chapter and Summit location. 
The second set kicked off with "Sweet Home Chicago" featuring the STC Chicago Chapter as Jake and Elwood Blues 

Finale set welcomed everybody back to the stage.
Mustang Sally featured many vocal talents, among them Ben Woelk and Marilyn Woelk  of the Rochester Chapter 

And the award for Educator, and badass sexiest tech comm musician ever! goes to our own Dr. Tommy Barker.

At the after party we just could not let the evening stop. To quote Chris Kristofferson, Janis Joplin, and Betsy Maaks, "We sang every song that driver knew."
Philadelphia Chapter president Stephen Adler treats us to "Wild Horses"  and even a little singing  at the after party 
We just can't stop singing, so the party goes on well into the next morning , featuring Tommy Barker on that great big beautiful Taylor acoustic guitar 

More photos on flickr at   thanks to Richard Lippincott and thanks to Rachel Houghton.

A thousand thanks to our generous hosts and sponsors, especially Ann Grove and Love the shirts, love the party, and LOVE YOU!!!

Rough Drafts jam sets are on slideshare at

Friday, May 25, 2012

#STC12 Day Three - Chicago Pizza for Lunch

Midday on Monday and we've worked up an appetite. My friends back home told me to be sure I try some pizza while in Chicago so when Helen from our DC Chapter invited me to join a group for lunch at the Chicago Fire Oven a short walk from the Hyatt. Most of the folks we lunched with are from the Northeast Ohio Chapter and they sure are photogenic. See? 
Lunch with the NorthEast Ohio Chapter of STC at the Chicago Fire Oven Restaurant 
Of course, I had pizza.
Pizza from the Chicago Fire Over Restaurant in Rosemont IL 

On of the guests at lunch was traveling Monty the Monkey. He has been to 8 STC Summits and over 30 countries. So of course, I took his picture.
Monty the Monkey has been to 8 STC Summits 

So after lunch with my fellow Tech Comm folks and checking off "pizza" from my Chicago Summit bucket list, we return to the Summit refreshed and revived.