Star Island Music Director Bible

'I. 'Preface

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.” - Leonard Bernstein

'II. 'Hymns

Most of the early conferences usually bring their own music director (IRAS, AS1, AS2, LRE, IA), so you will probably only have to play chapels occasionally for those conferences, with the exception of night chapels (vespers), which can come up several days a week.

For the later conferences (SG1, SG2, LOAS1, LOAS2), you should expect to play hymns every morning and some evenings. Along with hymns, most ministers of the week may ask you to prepare "gathering music", which could be noodling or a prepared piece that runs roughly 5 minutes. If you don't feel comfortable noodling around on the keyboard for at least 5 minutes, it's recommended that you have a few short pieces prepared.

Hymn selection varies from conference to conference, and there is no "tell-all" list of what hymns to expect. However, most of the hymns you'll be playing will have a derivative melody or chord sequence, so you will soon learn that many hymns, although the words differ, are essentially the same.

Tips in mastering hymns:

  • There is no wrong way to play a hymn! Most, if not all, of the conferences aren't too picky when it comes to technique or mastery; as long as you can play the melody with some chordal or harmonic skeleton below, you're in the clear!

  • CHORD OUT EACH HYMN. If you have never played hymns before, the task of learning two or three a day can be daunting. The counterpoint notation is only a suggestion, and a much easier way of learning each hymn is to figure out what chords define each note, and to play the harmonic sequence with the melody voiced on top.

  • Another way to simplify hymns is to look at the harmonic sequence and identify and ignore "passing chords" i.e. chords that are on weak beats or aren't essential to the harmonic sequence of the phrase.

    III. Conference Chorus


· Star Gathering I & II

o both contain many very experienced singers. Be prepared for them.

o They might want to sing “River in Judea,” or “Ride the Chariot.” Both are in the music library.

o In 2009 they sang “Down to the River to Pray”

o SG II insists on having their rehearsals in the morning, right before chapel. The chair probably won’t tell you this. Nearly every other conference is fine with having them in the afternoon.


-LOAS I had many talented singers, but few of them were aware of the existence of the Conference Choir. Advertise.

-LOAS I prefers short, repetitive pieces to long, SATB pieces. Rustle up some rounds for them. They love singing, bless them.

- LOAS II in 2009 had the most experienced and talented conference chorus of all the season. Prepare for them.

IV. Grand March

-Usually the Friday evening after Banquet.


-mic the piano

-if they are "grand marching" on the lawn, use the "voice of god" speaker to amplify; the tripod monitors won't carry far enough

- perhaps setup another mic so they can

make announcements

- amplify, amplify, amplify. Some conferences in 2009 complained they couldn’t hear. Make sure to sound check from the far end of the porch, and from the lawn.


-BEFORE the night of, ask the chair if they want Auld Lang Syne played right after the GM. One time conferees got angry because I didn’t play it in the key they never specified to me beforehand.

'V. 'Miscellaneous Notes on Conferences


-They’re UCC, not UU.

-Put the Pilgrim and New Century Hymnals in the chapel for those two weeks.

- If you play hymns for their evening communion services, they’ll probably offer you the host. Don’t eat it, unless you’re Christian or hungry. Dip it in the grape juice.

'VI. 'Pel Show


-make it eye-catching

- put it up at least 4 days before the show, sooner if you can. Too late and people won’t sign up in time; too soon and they’ll forget they signed up and won’t have rehearsed come show time

- if you create twelve slots (including the last for Pel Chorus), you’ll still have a ten-act show when two people drop out.

- get help from a drawing Pelican. Lots of them are real gifted in the visual arts.

- ask for name of performers, name of act, special needs beyond mic, chairs, etc.

- perhaps also ask, on the poster, whether the act contains any questionable content. At least 4 conferees objected to the line “Drivin that train, high on cocaine” in a 2009 rendition of “Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead.

- This system is flawed. In 2009 all the slots filled up on the day I put up the poster. In 2008, on the other hand, the MD practically had to beg people to sign up.

- You’ll also need several copies of a final Acts Order list, when it comes to the show. There’s a handy template at the back of this bible.

- If you have a dearth of acts, whip up a parody or two.

- In case of a surfeit, find some way to give priority to the acts that have been the most rehearsed and are the most polished. This will raise the quality of the show in the long run.

- Except, conference audiences love to see their own children, now pelicans, perform. Regardless of how unrehearsed their acts are. No matter how off-key they may sound. Let them do it if you want especially to please the conferee half of the audience.


- Actually, you live and work on Guitar Island. Just about every week, five or six Pels will want to sing and play acoustic guitar in your show.

- That’s good, but in past shows the conferees have complained of too much acoustic guitar. Really they want skits. And classical virtuosos. Give em a few.

- Order the acts in such a manner that there are no consecutive acoustic guitar acts.

- Also, consider telling Pels who want to play guitar to perform in for-Pel-only coffeehouses throughout the summer.

- Of course, then you have to make those coffeehouses happen.

- Or, tell them they can do their acoustic bit in next week’s show.

- Start out with a strong performer; give them something energetic around act 5 or 6 to get them through the slump, and put ensembles who will create lots of energy toward the end.

- Pel Chorus traditionally is the last act; bend this rule when you need to.


- When it was created, the show was a way for Pelicans to ask for Gratuity money from conferees, as well as a way for talented performers to network and be exposed to conferees in positions to help them advance in the world.

- Now, the Pelicans put it on for free. Predictably, it’s changed in quality. You may want to consider going back to the old system.

- If you do, take the advice of Finance Director Angela Matthews: only ask for donations during Pel shows that fall on weeks when the conference is not having a Pel Auction. We can’t be supplicating constantly.

o For all conferences that allow for a Pel Services Auction, take time during the Pel show to express appreciation for the support of the auction and thereby Pel Enrichment. Let them know how much it means to Pels because the Enrichment Fund provides for healthy activities, choices, and lifestyles on Star for our young adult staff and they are all grateful. Conferee generosity is powerfully motivating for Pels to offer the best Pel Talent Show ever! You can say something like your support of Pel Services Auction:

§ Provided for one complete Pier Party

§ One massage for every Pel this summer!

§ All healthy lifestyle workshops for one season

§ Blah blah blah …

o For all conferences that don’t do a Pel Services Auction, take a moment during the Pel show to ask all conferees to consider making a contribution of any size to the Pel Enrichment Fund and tell them how they can do that – dropping a gift into the box on the front desk that says “Pel Enrichment” on it. You can say something like, “If everyone here at this show gave just $1 that would be enough for:

§ all the elegant appetizers served for Pier Party at mid-season

§ or for one of the healthy lifestyles presenters who comes to do workshops during the summer

§ or for 5 Pels to get a free massage

§ or to support the cost of the live band for Pier Party

§ or blah blah blah…

- Feel free to explain the tradition of the Pel Talent Show as relates to tips and how motivating that was to Pels to get up and do a great show. Reconnecting to those roots through contributions to the Pel Enrichment Fund will surely have the desired effect of excellence in talent show performances.

'VII. 'Pel Chorus


1. Don’t get too frustrated.

Convincing Pels to spend their free time doing something they perceive as another service for conferees is a losing battle.

2. Do your best to make it seem like fun, not work.

3. Schedule rehearsals to accommodate everyone (particularly first-years: waitrae and chamber.) So, 8:30 to 9:30 pm. You probably won’t persuade them to come to more than two rehearsals a week, so use time wisely once they’re there.

4. The Res Life Assistants, over the years, have been notoriously cavalier about scheduling attractive and popular events with no notice, usually on the nights you’ve scheduled a rehearsal.

5. Go to the Res Life Assistant early on in the summer, and establish ground rules for scheduling events. Use a common calendar so rehearsals don’t fall on the same nights as movie screenings, concerts for the Pels, etc.

6. Alternately, just establish fixed nights for Pel Show rehearsals. Sunday and Tuesday are good bets.

7. The best strategy is to ignore the music library, find out what songs are popular with a lot of Pels, and arrange them.

8. In 2009, the Pel Community was quite partial to Stan Rogers, as well as Iron & Wine.

9. In 2010, the pels loved the Avett Brothers, and Edward Sharpe. And Lady Gaga.


1. Flyers are good; whimsical announcements disguised as skits during meals are good.

2. Don’t say “Pel Chorus is practicing tonight”

3. Instead, tell everyone what song you’re singing in Nichols at 8:30pm

4. Better yet, grab an iPod and a Milwaukee, and play the actual song to everyone at dinner before you announce the rehearsal.

5. Good luck. This is the most discouraging aspect of your job. Get creative.

VII. The Star Island Music Library



1. Choral pieces/songbooks on the shelves

A = Sacred Songs

E = Secular

F = Folk (American & International)

M = Madrigals

N = Arrangements for Men

P = Pop Music

R = Spirituals

SAB = SAB Pieces

T = Musical Theater Pieces

W = Arrangements for Women

2. Other materials in the filing cabinets


1. As you may have noticed, much of the music we have is dated, outmoded, or simply, no longer relevant.

2. There’s not much money the SIC has to buy new material, so you should wildly encourage donations from the conferences.

3. Here’s an example of what might be included in the Conference Handbook to encourage those donations:


The Star Island Music Library has a small selection of materials, and few funds are currently available to update or expand it. Is there a song your conference particularly enjoys hearing or singing? Want to start a new musical Star Island tradition? We would warmly welcome any donations you would like to make. Please visit


to find new music for Star.

Many Shoalers already print out sheet music from the web while on island to use for Talent Shows and Musicales. If you are one of them, consider leaving a copy of the music behind, in the Music Director’s mailbox, for future generations of Shoalers.

Notes on the Position


1. Conferences love and crave SKITS in Pel Shows

2. They don’t just want any skits. They want skits about Star Island, pelican life, or the themes of the week from their conference. This is how things used to be in the good old days. Never forget where we are: on an island. On this island. Star Island. Create relevant acts, or find inter-act skits that add coherency as well as relevance to the grab bag of music that the show tends to be.

3. The desired property is starplicability.

4. Study the themes of each conference; pay attention in morning chapel and you may get some golden ideas.

5. Expect to see a SLUMP in pel enthusiasm for efforts outside of their work just after All Star I, or all Star II. Often, it hits hard right at the start of RE week. People just don’t want to do shit in their free time.

6. There’s another SLUMP and general air of burnout in mid-season. Be prepared with some pieces that don’t require much time or effort to learn.

Handy Conference Chorus Information from 2010


Chorus Strength

Chorus Size

Preferred Material

What They Sang in ‘10



Rehearsal Time/Location


Novice to intermediate

Small: 5-6; few males

Multilingual short pieces, no God

“Roll It Over,” “E Hara,” “Let Me Find Some Quiet Place”

Talent Show? Morning chapel?

Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)



Small: 4-5; few males

Rounds, unison pieces, Shoals-themed songs

“By the Waters of Babylon,” “The Water Is Wide,” “Mysterious Presence,” “Tallis’ Canon”

“Gosport Harbor”

Every morning in chapel

Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)

All Star I

No chorus

All Star II

They brought their own MD; strong chorus


I think they did “The Secret Garden” in ‘09

“One Voice” by Barry Manilow,

“Seasons of Love” from RENT


Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)

RE Week

No chorus

(at least in 2010)

Int’l. Affairs

They brought their own MD

Fairly big – 2 or 3 people on every part


“Set Me As A Seal,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” something in either Swahili or Zulu

Most mornings in chapel

Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)


Novice to Intermediate

Fairly big – at least 3 on each part


“Mille Joies,” “Let Me Find Some Quiet Place,” “Tacobel’s Canon, Indeed!”

Morning chapel, banquet, and conference Talent Show. Also, they tend to want a hymn sing Thursday morning after chapel.

Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)

Star Gathering I

Intermediate (they all read music)

Small – 2 per part

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Happiness Is (from Charlie Brown), Down to the River to Pray

Joseph Gentry Stephens’ “Ineffable”, Tacobel’s Canon, Indeed!, Gaudeamus Hodie

Morning chapel, conference Talent Show

Afternoon, Pink Parlor (3:30ish)

Star Gathering II

Advanced – many sight readers. Almost all can harmonize spontaneously.

Big – three or four or five per part

Thick gospel harmonies. “River in Judea,” by Hal Leonard, is their all-time favorite piece.

Ineffable, River in Judea, The Sunny Side of Life, Guide My Feet (New Century Hymnal), Gaudeamus Hodie

An anthem in every morning chapel service, and a piece or two in the talent show.

Morning, just prior to chapel, in the chapel. 8:45am-9:30am


Pretty good

Average – two to three per part

Rounds, shorter cyclical stuff; they like singing in other languages.

Gaudeamus Hodie,

E Hara

In the musicale and the Talent Show. In recent past they’ve been the final act in the musicale.

Afternoons (1:15pm – 2pm) in the Pink Parlor


Damn good. Plenty of sightreaders.

Average – two to three per part

Unaccompanied SATB pieces with UU themes, e.g., “May Love Be Your Guide.” There’s also some shapenote enthusiasm.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Sweet Day”

In the musicale, perhaps as the last act.

Afternoons (1:15pm to 2pm) in the Pink Parlor

Host A Pel Show With Your Crew!

All Star I

June 26 - July 3

Tues. / Thurs.

All Star II

July 3 – 10

Tues. / Thurs.

RE Week

July 10-17

Tues. / Thurs.

Internat’l. Affairs

July 17-24

Tues. / Thurs.


July 24-31

Tues. / Thurs.

SG I/SNHU MFA Residency

Aug. 1-7

Tues. / Thurs.


Aug. 7-14

Tues. / Thurs.


Aug. 14-21

Tues. / Thurs.


Aug. 21-28

Tues. / Thurs.

Exploritas I/Clergy

Aug. 28-Sept. 3

Tues. / Thurs.















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