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October 7, 2022

Breaking Bread Digital Music Library: Transitioning from paper to so much more

Breaking Bread Digital Music Library: Transitioning from paper to so much more

I remember my first music ministry job very clearly. I was 16 years old at the time, filling in for the regular accompanist at the 5PM Vigil Mass. A few weeks before the scheduled Mass, I received a nice, fat manila envelope filled with photocopies. As a teenager, that’s how I thought it was done. If you owned a copy of music, you could make as many copies for whomever you wanted. I spent those years amassing countless three-ring binders full of music. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person who has found themselves in this position at some point in their life. As I entered my early 20s and started my career in music ministry, I quickly learned that music, as with any art, is intellectual property. It is our moral duty to give due credit and payment to the artists responsible for creating it. In this digital age, it is difficult to keep tabs on all the sheet music being used in a parish music ministry. It is becoming increasingly necessary to find a system that gives people access to the music they need, in a medium that is useful and relevant, while at the same time following copyright laws. Luckily, a digital music library does this and much more.

Music library vs. digital library

Any music director at any church, school or community choir understands the importance of keeping a clear, well organized music library. Each piece of music has been paid for and needs to be taken care of. At my current parish, we have a wonderful library of classical and modern octavos, ranging from 18th century motets to present day praise songs. There will always be a place for these traditional physical libraries. But as liturgical musicians, we find ourselves spending much of our time singing congregational songs. In many ways, these pieces are the foundation of liturgical music in most churches. This is where a digital library comes in handy. It combines the hymnal, the filing cabinet, and the three-ring binder into one online asset. It allows you to send music digitally, make photocopies for that substitute accompanist, even go completely paperless and load all your music onto a tablet. With a digital license, you can fill your three-ring binders with as many copies as you like. I prefer to take the more tree-friendly approach and fill my iPad. The best part: it’s completely up to you.

A digital music library is more, not less

The beauty of a digital library is that it can be used any way you like. I work with over a dozen ensembles at my current parish and each member has a different preference when it comes to keeping their music organized. Some prefer a traditional approach and keep physical copies, some prefer to use a tablet, and some seem to lose their music each week. What was once a nightmare while using a traditional music library becomes barely an inconvenience when you go digital.

Why I love Breaking Bread Digital Music Library (BBDML) for my parish

  1. Music Selection
    I believe Breaking Bread is one of the best musical options for liturgical use in the English-speaking world. It has the perfect mix of old and new that so many parishes are looking for. Every musical piece found in Breaking Bread can also be found in BBDML.
  2. I don’t have to fear the copy machine
    I have worked at many parishes over the years, and inevitably, I have spent the first couple months cleaning out photocopies from the music library. With BBDML I don’t have to fear the infamous photocopy. I can make a copy for someone who forgot their binder, or I can send a copy to someone who wants to practice from home. This has allowed my music ministry to be more organized and prepared for rehearsals and liturgies.
  3. There is something for everyone
    I don’t have to leave anyone out when it comes to music anymore. Most of the songs and hymns come with piano, guitar, choral, and solo instrument arrangements, and it’s all kept under one roof. When I share a music list with my ensembles, they select what type of music they need, and BBDML creates a custom list for them.
  4. Sharing ideas and collaborating is easier than ever
    I love the ability to easily share new song ideas with my ensembles. Each member can listen to a recording, download the music, and come prepared for rehearsal and or Mass. I can also easily change a hymn selection and trust that everyone will have access to the music they need. (I’m guessing that I’m not the only person who has had a mid-week song request from their pastor.)
  5. It seamlessly integrates with Liturgy.com
    BBDML works hand in hand with OCP’s Liturgy.com. It’s a one click process to take all the music from your liturgy planner and share it, along with all the sheet music and recordings, to your ensemble.

Other digital music libraries

BBDML is not the only digital music library out there, but I do think it is the most complete. For example, my parish has a subscription to Song Select by CCLI, a digital library consisting primarily of contemporary Christian praise music. This is a huge help in providing music for our youth retreats, praise nights and contemporary Mass ensembles. CCLI offers thousands of songs to choose from but has its limitations when planning for Catholic liturgies. Spirit & Song All-Inclusive Digital Edition is another wonderful option that I have used in the past that provides contemporary Catholic liturgical music. These are both great additions to a music library, but fall short when it comes to the breadth of what BBDML has to offer.

The future of music ministry in a post-COVID Church

I can't imagine doing my ministry without BBDML. It makes planning, preparing, rehearsing and leading music that much easier. If you have ever considered going digital, perhaps now is the time. If you would like more information on the Breaking Bread Digital Music Library and how it can further support your ministry, click here.

Nichlas Schaal
Nichlas Schaal

Nichlas Schaal lives in Tigard, Oregon with his lovely wife and six kids. He is currently the Director of Music at Saint Anthony Catholic in Tigard. Nichlas has over 20 years of leadership experience in music ministry.