Discussing writing/arranging with Faye Lopez

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NOTE: The online classes discussed in this interview are no longer available.

One of the things I like most about professional music is the people in it. I know people are not perfect and the music industry has problems just like any other industry. But when I stop and think about it, the people I feel the closest connections to, the people I most like to go to lunch with, and the people I enjoy most working with tend to be in the industry.

Faye Lopez is one of those people. I announced a few weeks ago that we are collaborating going forward in my music school and I thought I would take some time to introduce her to you as well as drop some of her wisdom on you. I asked her a few questions about writing/arranging and also theory and will give you her thoughts in this post and another later in the week.

Can you talk a bit about your journey as a published writer? It appears that things have really opened up for you in the past few years especially. What have been important decisions and milestones along the way?

I have been writing music since I was a teenager. I started arranging for a Christian telecast when I was about 16 years old. In college, I wrote for student groups, and for my college’s television singing ensemble. As a grad student, I had my first piece accepted for publication: “Lord, Send Me Anywhere.” This piece is still found in some hymnals.

After I married Steve, my husband of 37 years, we were involved in the early days of publishing for The Wilds (for whom I still do freelance work.)

Because of mergers in publishing (which are very common these days), I wanted to expand my opportunities of publishing to a broader base than the earlier work I did. I started networking more at a variety of conferences, and because of that, the doors for publication have continued to open. Also, I have “put myself under the microscope,” taking lessons and participating in master classes where my work was critiqued. Sometimes this has been painful, but it has all been a part of my musical growth.

If there was one tip you would give aspiring arrangers/writers, what would it be?

Be a lifetime learner. Never feel like you have arrived. Learn from others! Continue to hone your craft. 

When should parents start considering more formalized arranging/writing instruction for children?

There are various stages of arranging instruction that can be helpful. I will break them into three categories (and I will reference hymn-arranging here):

  1. Basic arranging—the tools to do simple patterns with a hymn. I would do some formal introduction to how to start arranging.
  2. Intermediate arranging—an individual is already experimenting with sounds in arranging, but needs guidance to make it better/to understand something about form/to expand their idea-base.
  3. Advanced arranging—the arrangements are already fine for church, but need another set of ears/eyes to keep refining the arrangements. Some of these students may be ready to submit pieces to publishers, and some may not. (Last school year, two of my students were able to submit pieces that have been accepted for publication.)

I would say that groups 2 and 3 could benefit most from the online lessons we are offering through Greg’s website. Group 1 could start with one of his pre-recorded courses just as easily.

When a parent recognizes some extra creativity in their young person’s improvisational playing, it is a good time to reach out for more instruction….or if you are unsure about this, there could be a lesson given to assess the approximate level. 

What is your general approach to teaching arranging?

I like to assess where a student is, then just try to figure out how to take that person to the next level. There is much flexibility. I would expect there to be some material presented at a first lesson (perhaps a manuscript or a recording could be sent ahead, so it would be easier to assess.) Then there would be assignments made on how to make it better. I would share things I have learned from life experience, publishers, and working with students.

I have been engaged in a handful of online lessons this fall, in preparation for this launch with Greg. It has been a wonderful experience, and has been so enjoyable to get to know people better through these interactive times! I have worked with people from various states, and have seen some wonderful opportunities to help make their music better, for God’s glory!
I am very excited about working with Faye and I know that she brings strengths to the table as a teacher that I personally do not have.