May 13, 2015
Tips for Building a Successful Choir: Part I
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 difficult. Some choir directors have a hard time convincing people to sign up, while others have trouble convincing members to stick around beyond the first or second rehearsal. Choirs that are loosely organized, don’t have any real structure, or lack an enthusiastic instructor are sure to fall apart at the seams. Regardless of your personal situation, these tips should help you nurture a longer-lasting, better-sounding choir.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit
A choir that sings great music, goes on tour, and has a friendly membership should have no difficulty recruiting new members, and recruiting new members is crucial. If your choir isn’t constantly growing, it’s not going to last beyond the next year or so. Let’s face it- members will move to a different state, move to a different school, or simply move on from singing in a choir. Not only should you personally invite prospective members to sit in on a couple practices, but you should encourage current members to actively recruit new members. Whether you encourage members to recruit with the promise of a cash bonus or gift card or simply trust them to do so on their own, recruiting new members is key. If you teach at a school or church, keep an eye out for those who seem to enjoy singing and approach them.
Establish Consistent Rehearsals
Before you select an official rehearsal time, do some preliminary research. If choir is offered as an extracurricular activity, don’t schedule rehearsals at the same time as marching band or orchestra, as students enrolled in marching band or orchestra obviously enjoy music and may be interested in joining choir. If there’s a scheduling conflict, they won’t even bother auditioning. Once you’ve determined the best time for your rehearsal, stick with it. If you’re constantly changing the rehearsal date to fit your fluctuating schedule, you’ll be alienating students, parents, and members who enjoy structure. If you’re taking over a choir from a former director, poll the members to see if they want to change time and date of rehearsals. They’ll appreciate that you’re taking their opinions seriously, which will help establish trust.
Retain Current Members
Retaining current choir members is just as important as recruiting brand new ones. For example, if you recruit two new members a month and lose three each month, your choir will fall apart rather quickly. Fortunately, there are a few methods for keeping members from leaving the choir. The members most likely to drop out of choir are those with an average music ability who don’t think their presence makes much of a difference. For this reason, you should frequently communicate to your choir members who important each voice is to the big picture. Whether you send “thank you” cards, emails, or have monthly one-on-one meetings, everyone needs to feel appreciated. Finally, get to know your members. Ask about their day, remember their birthdays, and do whatever you can to make them feel special.
Make the Workload Realistic
When managing a choir, finding the perfect balance between workload, performance dates, educational opportunities, and fun is essential. For example, if you introduce brand new songs to your choir only a few weeks before a performance, you may overwhelm them. Alternately, if you never introduce new songs to the mix and never set up live performances, your members will grow bored and may drift away. With good planning, keeping the workload realistic shouldn’t be an issue. Think carefully about new and existing repertoire, write down how long you think the rehearsal process will take, and plan accordingly. Don’t be unrealistic, either. If you underestimate, your choir will suffer. If you’re a first time director, judging your choir and evaluating how long the learning process takes should become easier in time.
Want more advice? Keep an eye out for Part II, where we’ll discuss even more tips for building and maintaining a successful choir. In the meantime, check out even more Educator Resources.
Photo via Kevin Shofield, CC