Leading a team can be tasking especially when you have to lead a group like a choir. Some people believe that when you lead a unit or department you have prior knowledge and understanding about, chances are that you’ll lead successfully. This school of thought is a topic for another day.
A choir is a group with people of diverse background, attitude, skill and as such, the choir director would require a large heart and skill not just to lead effectively, but to meet everyone’s need. More often than not, choir directors make the mistake of always wanting the choir to do things for them.
This article will show you how choir directors can give back to their team.
1) ENGAGING YOUR MUSICIANS
I once led a choir where the church had a particular style of music they wanted – slow, mid-tempo, CCM (Contemporary Christian music) Hillsong kind of music; the type most musicians won’t blink an eye to score twice and perfect. I observed the musician where very skilful and gifted. While I ensured the instruction of the church was carried out, I found a way to also satisfy the musicians. I would assign and make them score other advanced styles of music to keep their skills relevant; which they incorporated severally in the entire church music.
No matter how skilful or professional your musicians are, you should constantly engage them with tasks to continually improve them. You might stumble on a piece or video that will improve the speed of the drummer, never hesitate to give it regardless of the choir performing it or not. Constantly look out for this for all team members, not just musicians. Musicians like adventures. Feed them with it and thank me later.
2) FOLLOW UP ON YOUR SOLOIST
One very common mistake choir director make is to assign pieces or solos to members and go to bed. Many years ago, I assigned a solo to a lady. She was very skilful and gifted. I found myself one evening at the church premises and observed she was practising the song. I noticed she wasn’t practising rightly. She told me she had been doing it that way for a long time. I had to take her through the process of correcting her practice style. Never assume your soloist are always fine. Get them sometimes to sing the song before you. This will help correct so many things before rehearsal day and save you some time. A good singer does not translate to a healthy practice style.
3) WAKE YOUR CHOIR UP REGULARLY
Have you ever made the mistake of giving your choir a piece to score, only to arrive at rehearsals and less than 40% have been practising it? You sure have a sleeping choir! Never go to sleep when you assign responsibilities. There may be a very cogent reason(s) for chorister’s inability to score songs. You will discover and guide against such surprises or shock when you wake or check up on your team regularly. Call, text or maybe visit some key players to perform the piece sometimes. A sleeping director will produce a sleeping choir.
yeah! This sounds strange, right? As people continue to grow and adapt to different lifestyles, get affected by health issues, their job, etc. their vocal range is also affected. There is a need to periodically (as you wish) know members of your teams’ vocal range especially if you are dealing or leading a youth choir. I have seen soprano singers move to mezzo-soprano and even to alto in the same choir without them realizing. A lady who joined the choir at 18yrs and now 26yrs most probably would have had her range shifted. You may be damaging or doing injustice or harm to such chorister by asking them to keep belting beyond their range.
This is not the favourite part for many singers. They believe they are musically fit but the reverse is the case oftentimes. Being able to take a solo or sing may not always be a sign of fitness. Exercise is not only limited to vocal warmups, standing during rehearsals, etc. Choir directors should encourage their team to do some physical movements like running, jogging etc. during rehearsals and out of rehearsals. Engaging your team regularly on exercise is one way to keep them fit. Never assume singers are exercising. Have them exercise for a few minutes during rehearsals. It won’t hurt.
6) ENCOURAGE DRINKING
Do you want to have an awesome rehearsal, team with less friction and hassles? Have them drink water regularly and during rehearsals. Drinking water should be a lifestyle of singers. Asides the health benefit, water helps your voice to stay alive and with less or no injury. I experimented with this sometimes back. We were at rehearsals having so much difficulties trying to get this particular piece. After much thought and having spent so much time, I asked everyone to take a break and drink water. Yes! I ensured everyone took water. When we got back to the song, it was a miracle! We perfected it in a very short while. Water works!
7) HELP THEIR EATING HABIT
You may not so much have the control to determine what your choristers eat or take, but you can encourage them to eat right before rehearsals or performance. It has been medically proven that you are what you eat. Same goes for singing. You will not get the best from choristers if they have been stuffed with so much few minutes before rehearsal or performance. Have a nutritionist or food expert visit and talk to your choir about healthy eating for singers. Depending on how experienced you are as a choir director, you should always be able to identify a chorister with a full belly when they sing.
8) REVIEW YOUR REHEARSAL
Reviewing performance or concerts may be something we are used to, but oftentimes choir directors do not find it important reviewing rehearsals. This may seem absurd but remember that the rehearsal is the bakery where different types of pastries are made. Do not create an impression in choristers to always be at their best during performance only. The worst habits are seen and should be corrected during rehearsals. What you do not correct at rehearsals will show up at the performance. When you review, you are giving an opportunity for everyone to benefit.
9) COACH THE COACHEE
It feels nice having very gifted and skilful singers join your choir. However, not everyone will be skilful in your team. The danger of relying absolutely on the best hands is that they may leave at any time. Way back in high school, we had 90% of the best singers that graduating year. When they graduated, the choir started all over from scratch. Engage your skilful singers; mentor them to mentor others. They are not only in the choir to sing but to lend their experiences and skill to others. There are certain aspects they will be better than the choir director. Redirect their energy so that other choristers can come to speed. It always pays to coach the coachee.
10) HELP YOUR CHOIR GROW
Don’t just enjoy what your choristers can do for you and the choir, give back to them. Quite often, we always think that the choir is all about singing. One way to also give back as a music director is through resource and ensure a follow-up. Don’t just buy uniforms for the choir. You can buy a music book each for the entire choir if not very large or register them for a short free online music course. You may have a very skilful singer who is unable to read music – perhaps a skilful soloist but has a challenge with expression. A growing choir is a growing choir director.
11) DON’T FORGET TO GROW
I understand that so many responsibilities are placed on the choir director. While ensuring everything works fine, it is also important to refresh. You need new skills, approach, style, leadership prowess to drive your team regularly. Do not forget to continually add to yourself. The strategy of today will be obsolete tomorrow. Your team needs you, and you need yourself too.
People will always appreciate you for the impact in their lives. Nobody likes to remain stagnant. Remember choir is not all about singing, it is about people who sing. Value them, mentor them, motivate them and give them a vision.
Music directors can always give back music and none music related resource which includes morals, leadership, spirituality, etc.