Cantor and Lector Workshops


2011 NPM Convention Workshop Handouts

Cantor Formation Programs
for Dioceses and Parishes

Lector Workshops

Cantor / Lector Residencies


Joe Simmons, Clinician

Cantor Formation Workshops by Joe Simmons
Now Offered by Liturgical Press!
Host Parishes and Dioceses Receive Subsidies!

Click here to download Liturgical Press brochure in PDF format

Read comments from Workshop Hosts and Participants


Is your parish's cantor program what you want it to be? Do the cantors inspire the rest of the assembly to full, conscious, and active participation? Or are they standing on the brink of their potential without knowing what to do next? How do you help cantors of varied backgrounds and skills to take the next step toward claiming their pastoral and artistic identity?

Joe Simmons, nationally-recognized cantor clinician and author, can design and deliver a formation program for your diocese or parish to help cantors go beyond mere delivery of notes and words to prayerful, artistic, and inspiring leadership. By combining spiritual formation techniques with creative exercises to enhance interpretation and expression, Joe offers cantors a way to grow as pastoral ministers through the artistic process itself. Topics include liturgy, psalm study and preparation, voice, and spirituality, and may continue with follow-up and individual coaching. This critical component helps cantors to internalize what they have learned and provides guidance as they put it into practice.

Help to deepen the prayer of your worshipping community. Help your cantors to unleash the poetic power of musical liturgy!


To download a brochure in PDF format, please click here.

Program Content
What makes this program unique?
Benefits for parishes
About Joe Simmons

For more information or a free consultation, please contact Joe Simmons at 
212.568.2280 or


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Program Content

Depending on parish needs, the program can take place as a single weekend or a residency that begins with a Friday evening and Saturday clinic and continues with observations of cantors in liturgies and individual coachings during evenings and the subsequent weekend. A concert by Joe Simmons of inspirational music for the parish may also be included.

Typical Friday-Saturday Topics (based on parish needs):

  • Introductions and goal setting

  • Vocal Technique

  • Liturgy Basics

  • The Cantor's Role as a Leader of Prayer

  • Understanding the Psalms

  • Prayerful and Artistic Preparation of Psalms

  • Song Leadership Techniques

  • Coaching, utilizing spiritual formation techniques and interpretation exercises


Depending on parish needs, follow-up may include the following:

  • Individual observation of cantors at Sunday liturgies following the clinic.

  • One-on-one sessions with each cantor to provide feedback and set goals for further development.

  • Individual coaching sessions with cantors on the following weeknights and Saturday.

  • Continued observation and feedback on the following weekend.

One-on-one meetings and coaching sessions may address musical preparation, interpretation, and/or spiritual formation.

Follow-up sessions are tailored to individual parish needs.

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What Makes this Program Unique

  • The program is taught from the premise that an effective cantor must be both a person of prayer and a person with well-developed expressive skills in order to help worshippers enter more deeply into the liturgy. Therefore, sessions place a strong emphasis on expanding cantors' understanding of their ministry while developing solid skills in interpretation of texts.

  • Teaching combines spiritual formation techniques with exercises to enhance expressive skills. This approach acknowledges poetic expression as a gateway to prayer. Cantors who are skilled at developing and shaping these skills for ministry are better able to help the whole assembly find its own voice. This combination of techniques increases practical skills, fosters commitment, encourages spiritual and artistic growth, and produces visible results in parish liturgies.

  • In contrast to day-long or weekend workshops, the full program includes follow-up as a core component. Through this experience, cantors are able to set tangible goals, receive specific feedback on their leadership in liturgies, and reap the benefits of personal responsibility for their development.

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Benefits for Parishes

The cantor has come to be recognized as a catalyst for helping assemblies to enter more deeply into liturgical prayer. Through skilled leadership, music at worship becomes prayer, rather than an embellishment to it.

Psalms, an important part of this communal prayer, provide a rich spiritual formation tool for worshippers. Cantors who can lead and proclaim these texts effectively are better able to facilitate this process.

The Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass prescribes for lectors-and cantors-to be "truly qualified and carefully prepared so that the faithful may develop a warm and living love for Scripture…" The document calls for a combination of spiritual preparation and development of technical skills to publicly proclaim texts more effectively. (Lectionary for Mass: Introduction, 55, 56) This formation program embraces this directive by training cantors as prayerful artists in ministry.

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Lector Workshops by Joe Simmons

The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass urges all lectors to help the faithful “develop a warm and living love for Scripture” through preparation that is both spiritual and technical.  Joe Simmons’ Lector Workshops help new, experienced, and seasoned participants to:

  • transform their ministry from competent reading to inspiring proclamation
  • learn how to prepare more prayerfully and attentively
  • lean how bringing the Word of God to life is important to the Church’s mission
  • experience a unique approach to individual coaching that is supportive and enjoyable

Sessions are custom designed to fit the needs of parishes and can range from a one-day format to an entire week.

Typical sessions may include:

  • Overview of the lector’s ministry
  • Exploration of types of readings
  • How to prepare a reading through study, prayer, and technical skills
  • One-on-one coaching (30-60 minutes, depending on numbers)
  • Tips for ongoing formation

Cantor/Lector Residencies:

Combination cantor and lector residencies are also available. These programs, which often take place over a week, include some common sessions, plus distinct formation session for each ministry, and individual coaching.

Fees are negotiated individually according to parish needs.

Contact Joe Simmons for more information.

Comments from previous lector workshop participants:


“Expanded the  boundaries of what I thought I could bring to my ministry.”

“Joe has a good way of  making his student feel comfortable.”

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About Joe Simmons: 

Joe Simmons, psalmist for the Papal Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in New York’s Yankee Stadium in 2008, is Principal Cantor at the Church of St. John the Baptist in New York City. He serves on the faculty of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians’ Cantor Express Institute and has also taught vocal performance at New York University. He is also an independent consultant and an active concert and recording artist.

Simmons is a frequent convention speaker and is well known for his cantor and lector formation workshops and residencies, which he offers in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States. He is author of The Work of the Cantor: Proclaimer of the Word, Leader of Prayer (World Library Publications); co-author of Cantor Basics, Revised Edition, (OCP Publications); a contributor to Psalmist and Cantor: A Pastoral Music Resource (NPM Publications); and he has published articles in Pastoral Music and AIM Liturgy Resource.

Joe served as a producer and vocalist on World Library Publications’ eight-CD collection, Psalms and Ritual Music, selections of which are featured on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Web site. His recordings of inspirational music, Singing Out and Sudden Waves, are widely used in healing ministries and his bilingual music videos have appeared nationally on the critically acclaimed television series, Nuestra Familia/Our Family, on the Odyssey Channel and Univisión. He has also performed on stages in seven countries in Europe, North and South America.

Joe Simmons received a Master’s degree in Music Performance from New York University, where he also received a Professional Certificate in Personal Development Coaching. In addition, he is a graduate of the Contemplative Group Leaders Program of the ecumenical Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Joe is available for interviews and has appeared on CNN, Relevant Radio, the Catholic Channel of Sirius Satellite Radio, and various local and international media outlets. To contact him for an interview, click here.

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