Shakeup at NPM

Steve Petrunak, president and CEO of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians since May 2017, wrote to the membership today to inform them of restructuring in the organization’s national office in Silver Spring, MD. Longtime employees Paul Lagoy, secretary and mail clerk, and Peter Maher, formerly chief operations officer and more recently director of conventions and institutes, are leaving NPM. In the letter to members Petrunak thanked them “for their long and dedicated service to our Association and its members” and wished them God’s blessings in the future.

Noting that “the landscape is changing,” Petrunak wrote that “NPM must also embrace change if we are to be a vibrant and relevant association.” He cited churches closing and merging in some parts of the country, and the association “may face similar strains in the years to come.” A recent member survey showed that 3 out of 4 members are over age 50, and that the membership remains substantially homogeneous while the U.S. becomes more diverse.

“I have determined, with the support of our Board of Directors, that the current National Office organizational structure is no longer adequate to meet our needs,” Petrunak wrote. “A restructure of our staff and operations is under way here in Silver Spring, Maryland. I am confident that it will help us to better serve our mission and our members, and do so in an economically viable way.”

Petrunak plans to share more about staffing and operations in coming days and weeks, as NPM positions itself for “an exciting and challenging future.”



  1. As an individual member of NPM for many years, an occasional conference attendee and a lover of song without formal music training, I understand the challenges that our organization is facing and the difficulties in responding. We have always sought to educate each other and our fellow Catholics in the sacred mysteries, but now feel the effects of Roman centralization and restoration. We have encouraged a communal sense in music and texts for our assemblies, but are overwhelmed by enticing lyrics of individualistic piety that sway the multitudes. Heartfelt moments yield to the temptations and demands of audio technology. Above all, it gets harder to promote a time of familiar and “public domain” common prayer in the face of intellectual property claims. Yes, a typical conference program will cover all this, but implementation in many parishes lags far behind. Perhaps Steve is right in signaling the drop in paid parish liturgy staff. Our numbers and collective energies may decline as a result. As long as NPM follows directives instead of pushing the envelope, this could all be expected.

  2. As many organizations within the church keep doing the same thing while wishing for a different result, I am glad to see NPM adapting proactively. I don’t know the specifics of this decision, but I do understand that if they don’t do something, the organization is headed for bankruptcy. Nationally, and in my own city, many people who are doing church music have no interest in joining NPM. I hope the organization can position itself for growth and development.

  3. It’s a complex situation. People are certainly fatigued. I remember when my chapter hosted a regional convention. Some of our well-considered suggestions were rebuffed, and though the event was a success by most accounts, our chapter took a few years to recover, if it ever did.

    “Old” NPM was a much younger organization. It would be interesting to track the average age of convention presenters over the decades. As I read brochures, it seems the same people are “educating,” and the impulse for varied experiences seems not to include people in their 20s and 30s. Fewer jobs notwithstanding, perhaps we have been remiss in fostering vocations to music and liturgical ministry.

    Certainly, we all feel the effects of retrenchment. Organizations have died in the past decade or two. Discouragement remains, and maybe our thinner, less-frequent gatherings have become too much of a b****-fest.

  4. It may seem a detail, but one could note how many parts of the drop-down menus of the NPM website now link to nothing.

    Then again, maybe it’s merely a residue of what I observe in so many Catholic parish websites: set up with good intentions but revealing more enervation, as it were, as time moves on. Where one might see Episcopalian churches with their Sunday music programs laid out in detail on their parish sites, I would think most Catholics would be pleasantly shocked to encounter such detailed communication on their parish websites. (Putting aside things like minutes of parish councils and committees that might help make parish priorities and decisions somewhat more transparent to non-insiders. Leaving the sense that parishioners are captives — besides, it’s not like we’ll necessarily notice if they decide to be captive no more — and we’re not terribly interested in showing outsiders too much information that might prematurely bias their decision to visit us, so we’ll keep it a mystery and subconsciously hope that magic happens.)

    1. I can’t find any of the drop-down menus that link to nothing, what are you talking about? There’s is a ton of content on the website… without even logging in, which gets you access to a lot more.

      1. The new NPM website is fantastic.
        I somehow stumbled onto the old NPM website a few weeks ago – I think that must be what Karl Liam found too.


      2. I am using the link provided in this post. I am not an NPM member, but I’ve had the same issue on both a Macbook and a PC. Clicking on items in drop down menus generally result in Not Found error messages (and I cleanse my browser history/cache at least daily). I understand certain items being not viewable to non-members (like jobs and certain resources), but I will just note that if I am having this problem, it’s likely to be an issue for at least some other non-members who would probably react with a sense that this was a legacy organization that was graying and fading….

      3. Hmmm, I’m now having the same problem at the new NPM site. I’ve not had that problem before. I wonder what’s up.

      4. And just to push back on the graying and fading impression, I would recommend viewing one of the plenums from this year, on the church’s mandate to grow, it was excellent, informing, and inspiring: The two major points of conversation, teaching, and discussion throughout the entire convention were evangelization and inculturation. I know of no other organization that is working on a national scale to support musicians in figuring out these two crucial issues that pastoral musicians will increasingly have to address in their ministry.

      5. Posts on the NPM Facebook Family forum give a slightly different impression of how people perceive NPM’s response to inculturation issues. I’m hoping that the restructuring will result in some new or modified initiatives.

  5. I would not be surprised that the “new” site or the “latest” convention finds some innovation. Steve Petrunak may well be making a difference already. For the sake of the organization, I hope he’s not a generation too late.

    Dial back thirty years ago, and inculturation meant the merging of two “white” repertoires, organ/choir and ensembles. Looking in on a reading session presented on YouTube, I’d think people are still trying to stitch together the divide. The music and presentation was competent enough, but uninspiring.

  6. If NPM died, how would professional standards, best practices and on-going professional development occur in the liturgical-music professions?

    If the membership-self-sustaining model isn’t financially viable, then I think the USCCB has to seriously consider “acquiring” NPM and having its committee on divine worship own and run it.

  7. What sorts of changes do you foresee this time around?
    Fifty years ago a massive change took place in Church music. The typical men & boys choirs disappeared, traditional pipe organs began to fade away, and an influx of guitars stormed the beaches – er – sanctuaries.
    In the ensuing years I’ve not really heard the successful improvements anticipated with those changes, and hope that whatever modifications are now being considered by NPM can help enable them.

  8. Extracts from a message sent out to members from the NPM National Office today, as follows:

    I’m pleased to share with you an update regarding the restructure underway at our National Office. Final details were put in place over the past two weeks that allow me to inform you that Berta Sabrio, a longtime member of NPM and church ministry professional, will be joining the NPM National Office staff.


    As I shared in an earlier email, the restructure of the National Office incorporates new and different skill sets needed to take the Association forward. The new structure will also create greater alignment and accountability.

    Effective September 1, the National Office full-time staff will include:

    Steve Petrunak, President & CEO
    Berta Sabrio, Vice President of Programming and Planning
    Kathleen Haley, Director of Membership Services
    Jill Nennmann, DSM, Director of Publications and Development

    We will also continue to depend on a network of qualified contract workers and dedicated volunteers who provide support with staff oversight.

  9. Due to character limits in posts, there was no room to include Ms Sabrio’s qualifications for the Vice President position in the post above:

    Berta is Pastoral Associate for Worship and Adult Faith at St. Francis of Assisi in Fulton, Maryland. She has served in professional ministry there for 21 years. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Berta is a graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    Berta has been an NPM member for 35 years, is a past director of the Baltimore Chapter, and a member of the Cantor Steering Committee. She holds the NPM Basic Cantor Certificate (BCC) and Cantor Colleague Certificate (CCC) and is certified as an NPM Cantor Trainer.

    For the past six years, Berta has served voluntarily as onsite registration coordinator for conventions – and if you were at our Baltimore convention last month, you may recall that Berta co-chaired the entire event with Dr. Lynn Trapp. Additionally, Berta has been working in recent years with core teams in developing and re-envisioning content for conventions.

    Clearly, Berta has a deep knowledge of – and commitment to – our Association. In addition to excellent program management and organizational skills, she will bring great energy and insight to the NPM staff.

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