Sunday, October 14, 2007

Moving on

After ten fantastic years with WorldSong, man and boy, I have decided the time has come to pass the choir on to other capable hands. From January 2008 the new musical director of WorldSong will be Una May Olomolaiye.

As you probably know by now, I am rather over-sensitive to complacency and habit (see Fighting Habit and Complacency)! I am always on the lookout for different ways of doing things, new challenges, ways of keeping people on their toes, possibilities for development and improvement, ways of raising the bar and stretching people (myself included!). Some people resist this and would be more than happy to continue doing the same thing week in, week out. Unfortunately, I’m the leader (of the gang, I am!) and if you sign up for my choir, you sign up to my vision and my way of working.

I really do believe that by constantly reviewing the way that I do things, finding new ways of approaching familiar material, having high expectations, taking people out of their comfort zone, etc. then the group improve their individual skills, the overall quality of the choir is better, and we constantly improve and move forwards. The upshot of this philosophy is that (inevitably) there will come a time for me to hand over to someone else.

I characterised this change by saying to the choir last week that it’s time to take the training wheels off! Inevitably, any group of people working as a team with a ‘leader’ might come to believe that they can only do what they do because of the particular person leading them. Obviously, the way that any particular group functions is highly influenced by the style and approach of their leader (conductor, director, coach – whatever). That person (if they’re any good!) helps to mould and shape the group, helps them to work as a team. But I believe that there comes a point where that person should try to remove themselves from the picture, to make the group realise their own strengths and capabilities. Strengths, talents and abilities that have now become independent of whoever happens to be leading them. In fact, in terms of being a musical director and/ or teacher, I believe that my job is truly finished when I have succeeded in making myself redundant!

Whenever there is a strong leader of a group or enterprise (artistic director of a theatre, conductor of an orchestra, curator of a gallery) it is very easy to think that any and all successes and achievements are down to that leader. It may well be the case that a particularly strong individual leader can dramatically improve a group or project, but we must also realise that the individuals making up the group are also of vital importance and help to create the overall ‘flavour’. After all, if it weren’t for the members, then the enterprise wouldn’t exist at all! I strongly believe that any such job should only be held for around five years, after which the leaders could perhaps rotate and move onto other similar organisations. Otherwise galleries or orchestras (or choirs) can become stale and too much a reflection of one particular individual’s vision.

So now it’s time for a big change, and the choir will move forward without me onto different (and hopefully bigger and better) things. I am very sad to be moving on, and will always have a very soft spot for WorldSong as it was the first choir that I formed and directed. However, I am also very excited to see the choir grow in the future and to see what further delights are in store for all concerned. I won’t be completely disappearing however, and will stay in very close contact with both the choir and the new musical director Una May. Here’s to the future!!!!!

(I will, of course, continue to write this blog and to lead Woven Chords)

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Chris Rowbury


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