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Hello to the Music StackExchange community!

Pardon me if my post is in the wrong place. I have studied classical piano since I was six years old, and it has been fifteen years since. I have taken RCM examinations for close to ten years now, and have now reached the ARCT Performer's level. Therefore, I have become accustomed to the styles of the great 19th-century masters like Brahms and Chopin.

But as the title of this post says, I am an aspiring Christian worship pianist, and have recently joined such a band at my church for about half a year as of this writing. During this time, my worship leader keeps on telling everyone to "focus on the worship". In a recent open worship session, I played and sang "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman. Here I was a soloist, much like how I play solo classical piano pieces. As I was the only one actually involved in leading the worship, I could spontaneously arrange the song (structure, chords, and the such) to my own liking.

I realize, though, being a worship musician rather than a worship leader, I would have to work as a team and learn to follow the actual leaders. This would require more advanced planning and a sense to closely observe and adapt to instant changes (for example, repeating a bridge section multiple times while building up to a climax).

I know that there are bound to be worship musicians and leaders among this community who could offer some advice to me and anyone else in my shoes. My question to you is this: How should I learn to get along with my bandmates and what should I do to prepare myself for the unexpected?

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You've been there six months and now you're asking how to learn to get along with your band mates. Does that mean you feel like you're not getting on with them? Or am I reading too much in here?

I'd guess that with your musical background you've more technical knowledge and ability than some of your band mates. So first step is never ever flaunt that fact. It's not your show. Your job as a worship pianist is to serve the song. Your band mates will learn they can trust you if they realise you've got their backs - so whatever direction the music goes it never catches you off-guard. And no one ends up embarrassed.

They'll learn they can trust your musical judgement if you make good suggestions for introductions for songs, suggest countermelodies, turnarounds for between verses and so on.

Also, dip your headlights sometimes - think about textures and back off. Many worship songs work really effectively if there's some sort of progression from a quiet beginning to the ending with multiple repeat choruses and so on.

You ask as well about being prepared - best thing is to learn the music so thoroughly that you don't have to bury yourself in the sheet music. When you do this you can look up - you're free to look around the band and watch and read the leader like a hawk. So if the leader spontaneously decides to sing the chorus again, you're not taken by surprise. This also frees you up to dialog musically with other band members - communicate visually across the band and you can coordinate stabs, endings, whatever.

I posted a question elsewhere about Hand signals in a small ensemble - for exactly this scenario.

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