Sunday, May 06, 2012

Training to be a choir or singing workshop leader

I often get enquiries about how you train to become a choir or singing workshop leader.


I don’t offer courses myself, but there are a few around. But do you really need training?

Some people have a strong musical background, a very good ear, teaching experience and a love of singing, but feel that they need some proper training before leading a group.

There are, of course, always things to learn, but sometimes this is just procrastination and you need to jump in and start! If that’s you, then check out How to start your own community choir.

training courses

However, if you feel you do need a course to get you started, here are some possibilities.

Most of these are in the UK where I’m based.

Frankie Armstrong, founder of the Natural Voice Practitioners' Network, offers an annual week's residential training course: Singing workshop leader’s training. The course usually takes place at Kinnersley Castle in Herefordshire. If you're quick, a place has become available on the May 2012 course which starts on the 9th. Otherwise, the next one is in October.

Faith Watson of Singing for Larks offers courses occasionally for singing group leaders.

Singing for Pleasure and the Association of British Choral Directors both offer training courses.

If you want to take more of a plunge, there's the Certificate in Music Workshop Skills at Goldsmiths in London. But get in quick before it turns into a full-time BA course!

You might also want to check out the national organisation for UK community music Sound Sense.

In Canada there is the Community Choir Leadership Training programme run by Shivon Robinsong and Denis Donnelly.

In Australia Community Music Victoria run Group singing leadership training days.

how much training will you need?

It depends of course on where you’re starting from, but even when you’ve started a group you never stop learning. Continual professional development is important and we should all attend workshops and courses regularly.

Be careful that by waiting until that day when you have the “necessary skills” you’re not actually procrastinating again! It’s always best to learn on the job. When I first started out I had very little experience: Becoming a choir leader – it’s a long story!


Being mentored whilst you’re starting out is an alternative approach (or complement) to going on a course.

For instance, Faith Watson runs mentoring groups in Manchester for singing workshop skills and song arranging.

Look for a singing workshop leader in your area and ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you. You’d be surprised how approachable we are!

It could even be someone from another part of the country who could help by phone and email. Look on the Natural Voice website for example to find choir leaders near you.

other places to train

I’m sure there are loads of other places that offer training, maybe not specifically for open-access community choirs, but courses that cover music theory, working with groups, conducting, etc. Do leave a comment if you know of any.


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