Whether you’re taking over a choir from a previous director or building one from the ground up, growing and maintaining a successful choir can be a difficult task. Some directors have a hard time convincing people to join the choir, while others have trouble convincing members to stay beyond the first or second rehearsal. In the first part of this series we provided tips for recruiting new members, establishing a consistent rehearsal schedule, retaining members, and keeping the workload realistic, and in part two we’ll provide even more tips for nurturing a longer-lasting, better-sounding choir.
Keep Rehearsals Interesting
When it comes to planning rehearsals, it can be easy to repeat the same formula over and over, especially if the formula worked well in the past. The danger of falling into this cycle of repetitiveness is that if things become too formatted and predictable, the singers in your choir can be left feeling uninspired. Shake things up a little by introducing new warm-ups and exercises that’ll challenge your students. Also try varying the format of your rehearsals a little bit. If you usually start with announcements, save those for the end. By keeping things fresh, your singers will be eager to come and see what’s in store. If you notice a dip in attendance or unenthusiastic students, it may be time for a change.
Select the Right Repertoire
In many ways, selecting music is the most creative and rewarding part of leading a choir. It’s also the most challenging. There’s a fine line between choosing music that expands the abilities of your choir and choosing a piece of music that overloads your choir. Giving your choir something that’s too difficult is just as demoralizing as singing the simplest songs week after week. When selecting pieces for your choir’s repertoire, try maintaining a balance between old and new. There’s no reason you can’t introduce pieces by Handel and Bach hand in hand with anthems from contemporary composers such as Hal Hopson and John Ness Beck. The difference in music styles should please the different members of your choir.
Have High Standards
As the director of a choir, your students look up to you to keep things moving forward. If you’re not doing everything you can to see that your choir consistently sings at its best, you’re doing the members of your choir a major disservice. If you relax and let your guard down, everyone else in the choir will, too. If your choir is struggling to learn the third part of an anthem in the weeks leading up to a performance, cut out the third part completely and focus on perfecting the first two. Your choir will come to appreciate you for keeping their best interest at heart. Challenge your choir, and always make decisions with them in mind. Explain to your choir what they’re singing, why they’re singing it, and when they’ll be performing it in front of an audience.
Perhaps the most important way to retain singers is by being someone that they want to come and see each week for rehearsals. If your members like you as a choir director and as a person, they’ll be more likely to enjoy the time they spend in your classroom, and they’ll be less likely to quit. Don’t forget these fundamental things about yourself, and always strive to be the best person you can possibly be. Even if you’ve had a bad day, put on a happy face for your students. If you notice a student has been missing a lot of rehearsals or seems especially sad, try to connect with them on a personal level. If your students feel comfortable with you in the classroom, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you with personal issues.
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Photo via Kevin Shofield, CC