Thank you for visiting. I hope this website is useful to you.
Jon Milton is the instrumental director for Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC. He has served as adjunct professor at Southeaster Seminary and taught courses in conducting and orchestration. He holds both a M.A. in Music Performance (Kent State University) and a M.C.M. in Music Composition (Southeastern Seminary). He and his wife Jessica live in Raleigh, NC with their two dogs.
Why the website?
Music literacy in the church is on the decline. This is particularly evidenced in instrumental music. I believe trained lay-musicians are essential to the health of a church. These are the committed musicians that sing and play to encourage congregations to worship. Choirs reflect the voice of the congregation and instrumental musicians serve to accompany and guide those voices in worship.
Education is essential to the survival of instrumental music. Young, talented musicians need to be inspired and guided. Part of this website is a resource, intended to help young writers better understand how to write for instruments in the orchestra. When I taught orchestration at Southeastern, I crafted a series of handouts to condense the general principles of writing for each instrument. This will never replace a quality orchestration textbook, but it will give any young student a solid foundation to build upon.
Secondly, I write for my church. Over the years, I have sought to write creative congregational arrangements that support the singing church. Many of the songs that we sing are progressive. Each subsequent verse will build upon the thoughts of the previous one. Others will offer contrast. And most, well most final verses are triumphant.
Orchestrating is a time-consuming process. The most economical solution is to repeat the same music for each verse, or compromise and offer a final-verse setting for contrast. Another tendency is to write music exactly as it sounds on the radio. This can be good as it is familiar to the congregation. However, this can also lead to stagnation once a piece becomes "over-played".
My orchestrations are often through-composed, with each new verse seeking to accurately reflect the text. The musicians affirm the text - and they also get to play something a bit more interesting.
There is always the risk of overplaying a single arrangement, and I encourage you to find a number of arrangements of the same song so that you can keep singing familiar melodies without them getting "old". The congregation can still sing with confidence, and your musicians won't be bored.
I hope my arrangements serve to excite your musicians and invigorate congregation. For now I am focusing on hymns but I want to start adding modern songs as well.