The role or office of a choir director is like any other professional role or office with great dignity, training and experience. Becoming a choir director is something many people never envisaged. For some who desired such, not all have taken the necessary steps to know what the job descriptions and responsibilities of a choir director are; hence, they just assume the role and start to direct.
The usual trend in many churches or assemblies in choosing or picking choir directors is based on individual’s ability to sing; asides other very important criteria like leadership skills, spiritual alignment (being born again) and in some cases, emotional bias based on friendship, familiarity and tribe. Music is not subject to singing or leading songs alone; rather, it’s just a fraction. The best football coaches in the world were never footballers but understood the principles and foundation of the game.
Think of it this way, have you ever assumed an official position in a workplace without job descriptions, tools, responsibilities and expectations? Every job role has a description irrespective of the location, field or spiritual propensity. Similarly, every job has a specific personality, competency level, skill type that matches the role to be given or taken.
Music is a scientific art founded on principles and theories. It’s not just Art, but a language. To use or speak this language, you should at least understand the basics of such language. Can one who does not speak and write Spanish become a Spanish teacher? I think it’s exceedingly important because you’re working with the language of music and you’ve got to be able to read the notes. Having an understanding of music theory is so crucial to your success as a music/choir director. This will not change because of location, denomination, individual, taste, environment, religion etc. For instance, a non-Christian who has been musically trained in choral directing, assemble and music theory, will always be able to direct a choir effectively and musically. The question would be if he has the right qualification to serve in the faith (religion). Similarly, an anointed individual (pastor, minister, worker) who may not have been trained musically will most likely be unable to offer any musical knowledge or training no matter how well his or her leadership skill is.
It is very important a musical x-ray is considered in choosing or employing a music director. The role of a choir director is firstly in music before any other thing else. In other words, one’s musical skill is very much of the essence first before any other factor is considered. If an individual is very anointed, please let the skill be also very anointed. The belief that one who is ‘spiritual’ with little or no music and leadership skill can be a music/choir director is a major error in some denominations today. Do not expect so much where a controversy of the spiritual over the skill ability is overridden. 1 Chronicle 15: 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it.
Your Job Description
A church’s Choir Director selects music, recruits singers, and leads choral groups — but there’s also a surprising amount of behind the scenes work too like administrative work, planning, organizing, chasing singers and making sure they stay with you because people are busy. You have to care and nurture them all the time plus practising – choir directors should always practice. The element of leadership is especially important, as a choir plays a huge part in the spirit of a church. There may also be other job descriptions subject to individual experience, denominations and employers request.
In our modern environment where everything is changing, job descriptions and responsibilities should also be clear, strictly adhered to and harnessed. There is no crime if an individual who doesn’t fully match the job description of a music director becomes a choir director. The major problem has been the stagnancy, unwillingness to improve, etc. of some choir directors. Many individuals who sing in churches today or who in one way are involved in the music ministry of churches encountered music alongside while growing up – it was never something they thought they would do with an exception of few who have been trained in music.
The way and manner we all encountered and engaged music in the past are not as important as now. Choir directors who have been selected with no prior music knowledge or experience should make it a duty to get some music training. This will not only equip and make the choir a formidable group but match the role and bring greater fulfilment. Come to think of it, it’s a MUSIC director we are talking about here and not a finance, sales or marketing director.
Choral Directors must be well-trained musicians themselves so that they can effectively lead the group, select music, and teach songs to the performers. Talking about the selection of music or song is one grey area that is still not clear to some music directors, ministers of worship, pastors etc. Refer to (choosing songs for your choir).
Understanding that asides the job descriptions stated earlier, one of the fundamental roles of the choir director is to groom individuals musically. And how can this happen without a seasoned music skill or knowledge? The choir is always a reflection of the music director. No matter the level of the choir director’s individual skill, if it does not translate to the effectiveness, growth and skill in the lives of choir members, of what essence then is the skill. This is why leadership skills are also very important. It’s one thing to be skilful, it’s another to be able to impact these skills.
Identifying areas of weakness in the choir and possible plans and strategy to improve them is also part of the choir director role. Having few members of the team who are skilful and being satisfied is not enough to get the entire team above average.
Contrary to what you find today, the office of the choir director has been limited or redefined to teaching the choir songs only. The big question then is; if there are members who can teach songs with a good knowledge of music theory in the choir, what then becomes of the choir director? This is why choir directors should never assume their role is all about teaching of songs.
There are however other factors that will help your success as a choir director. Interacting with other choral directors will give you some form of exposure to certain techniques, styles and approach. You also might want to register with any choral/choir director association or group to further strengthen your musical and leadership skills.
Learning other genres of music is something Choir directors should imbibe irrespective of the denomination or environment. Your ability to understand the principles of many genres will no doubt place you above average musically.
Whatever choir you lead or if you have the dream of becoming a choir director, take some classes and courses in music and choral training. Keep improving and learning to improve your choir.