PANDEMIC AND THE NEW ROLE OF CHOIR DIRECTORS

Hey! Okay, the last time I checked; we were still in a pandemic. Interestingly, some singers and choir directors are already finding a workaround to the situation at hand. To some, it’s a period to just lay low and wait till it’s over before they can resume singing. The pandemic is causing some choir directors to assume multi-roles to keep their choir fit and alive.

 

Many have expressed concerns and fears that singers may and have already started losing their voices. Some others have become uninterested and have ventured into some other fields, task and endeavour during the pandemic. This is also not unconnected to the economic crunch that has greeted so many regions and nations. Since in-person rehearsal will not be holding right now and a ban on music performance enforced, it means that music coaches and directors may have to add, assume and shift focus to keep their role relevant. 

 

Similarly, as the lockdown limit eases across the world and with the increasing call for social distancing and compliance on Covid-19 safety rules, one cannot but ponder on the new approach music will take.

 

When I interact with many choir directors, some if not most; are particularly clueless on what to do at this time with their choir. Many others due to the temporal suspension of performance, singing, public gathering – rehearsals, have had their jobs affected hence, the need to look for other means of livelihood first before embarking on a return.

 

Some choir directors see their roles as the teaching of songs only – a part that constitutes less than 20% of the entire job description of a choir or music director. Some are no longer sure of what their exact role is anymore because of this void that has created uncertainty. 

 

There is a clear difference between the position of a choir director and the role to be played.

It is often said that “when you are in Rome, do as the Romans”. We are all in a pandemic, consequently, we need to act like those in one or find ways around overcoming the pandemic. No doubt, the pandemic has altered how singers, musicians, choir directors and other stakeholders will engage, interact and perform music. It behoves on everyone (choir directors, coaches and music stakeholders) to find creative and innovative ways of delivering their jobs or else, we will all wake up to a world of lost singers when the pandemic is over.

 

 The role of music directors may have shifted from the perceived customary role of being the focal point by some to being “priestly” and working more behind the scene. Well, not like this was not an integral part of the job role before now; especially for church choir directors, but with the present reality, it becomes mandatory that in salvaging the health of the choir, attention is to be shifted on singers. It is in a few cases that some choir directors go above and beyond the generic duties.

 

 Since music coaches and directors are not having a direct interface with choristers now, hence unable to teach the choir songs, organize concerts, conduct, perform and prepare repertoires, something new has to be birthed to keep the choir from extinction; especially in the case of community, interdenominational and to some extent smaller or young choirs.

 

Well, thanks to the pandemic! if you are one of those who still believe that standing before a choir, selecting repertoires and teaching of songs is all that greets the job of a choir director, you may have to rethink – having an in-person rehearsal may not be returning so soon.

 

Don’t shoot yourself out just because you cannot stand before the choir.

Some of the factors below are pointers to what you may consider and inject into your choir to get them moving again and not lose sight of your job role.

STRATEGIC IMPLEMENTATION

Choir directors should be strategic at this moment. Strategic here refers to knowing and finding what singers need at the moment. This is the time to be more “people person”. So, one of the ways I will encourage choir directors on this is to take a survey; to know what’s going on with them musically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, etc. This will enable choir directors to interact better with them. You can create a google form like a survey tool.

 

IMPROVE ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

If your job function before now cuts across two or three deliverables, it’s time to extend it further. It’s really not about multitasking, but taking more responsibilities the pandemic is throwing at you; that may not have been relevant pre-pandemic. In a world where everything is going technological, shouldn’t you at least be tech or production savvy? Having some technological prowess like sound engineering etc. will enable you to achieve little virtual task and choir projects – of course, you will be spending less.

  

VIRTUAL KNOWLEDGE

Many music and choir directors are turning rehearsals and performance into virtual space. Your choir cannot be left out of this. Invest in anything virtual. Of course, without stating much here, virtual support is most likely the safest way choirs are still doing music and it’s gaining popularity. There are very, easy and practical ways of setting up a virtual project. There are skills and techniques to expose your choir to when you introduce this to them.

 

Great singers have lost interest and passion for singing. Find singing activities that work best for you. Passion can wane

 

LEARN MUSIC PRODUCTION

Gone are the days’ music production skills are left for producers alone. As music continues to interact with technology, its paramount choir directors understand at least the basic of this skill. Having a little knowledge of music production will no doubt boost your handling of music and sound.

 

KNOW THE PSYCHE OF YOUR SINGERS

Singers need to be on the right frame of mind to sing and perform. You see, most times choir directors get all too excited during rehearsals or when preparing for a performance with little attention on the team. The little things they do not pay so much attention to before now should be a focal point of concern. You do not necessarily have to be a psychologist to know the psyches of your singers. As much as you want to pay attention to their music skills, the state of mind is as important as any other factor now.

 

MUSIC THEORY: HOW PROFICIENT

Before now, if a music director had no prior knowledge of music theory, this is the time to do so. I want to believe that the lockdown would have provided ample opportunities for choir directors to have learnt more of music theory; especially for those who have little understanding of music theory. Your choir will be needing the knowledge you have acquired!

 

WELFARE PERSONEL

It won’t be wrong to call you a welfare officer now lol. The concept of welfare does not necessarily mean it must involve money or food. It is a generic name for CARE! How well are you showing care to your singers deliberately? Care could be in the area of helping them overcome certain skills, positively navigating through these rough times, checking up regularly on them through calls and in some cases rescuing them from financial difficulties – if such capacity is available.

 MUSIC JOURNALIST

Yeah! This sounds odd, right? Most people are eager to know what’s happening especially for those involved in music. Keeping your team abreast of happenings is one fantastic way to keep hope and passion alive. It’s very rewarding to know what is happening around the world not just in music, but health-wise. Teach your choir how to stay healthy; the dos and don’ts, what and what not to eat, etc. Knowledge is power!

 GROW

It is almost certain that after the pandemic, somethings will change. If everyone has declined in one form of skill or the other, not the choir director.

To keep the excitement level going, choir directors need to inject new and creative ways of doing music. This can only happen when they keep learning, reading and interacting with other music instructors or coaches

 TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN

If you have not particularly taken this very seriously, its time you did. Right now, many choirs are not rehearsing and performing. I can understand that some choir directors may not be very good at training. It does not mean they should not be training. If you cannot get professionals or friends in different fields to do this, you may have to step up to fill this role. 

Never assume choristers are practising. Keep engaging them musically. Engage your choir regularly. You can email your singers, make a video on how important they need to stay focused, practice and learn new repertoire. Teach them songwriting and how to use music apps. There are many skills, techniques or new apps to aid and engage choir members, find one.

 If you do not engage your choir musically, something else will. This may cause them to lose interest

The simple truth is that to reduce the impact of the pandemic on your singers, choir directors should keep very close contact; else they will discover after the pandemic a new singing deficient task to deal with. It’s a time for choir directors to multitask and assume as many roles as possible to benefit their choirs.

 The pandemic is going to test the skills, experience and creative power of many music directors. Will choir directors rather wait till the pandemic which we do not know when it will be over before they resume singing? Or they will have to lunch out tailor-made solutions that best suit their choir? It’s up to the ability and passion of every focused driven choir director to achieve this.

Waiting till the pandemic is over may have an indelible outcome on your choirs’ existence and skill.

 

Lawrence Dieyi

Lawrence Dieyi

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