Wednesday, March 17, 2010

All change!

This is a revised version of a post which first appeared as Moving on in October 2007.

In January 2008 I handed over the reins of my first choir WorldSong to a new musical director after ten years at the helm.

Woven Chords in action

This September – again after ten years – I will be handing over the leadership of Woven Chords. It’s time for a change.

but it’s always been like this!

As you probably realise by now, I am very sensitive to complacency and habit (see Breaking the habit of a lunchtime).

I am always on the lookout for different ways to do 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 change 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 individuals within the group improve their skills, the overall quality of the choir is better, and we constantly improve and move forwards.

The upshot of this philosophy is that there will come a time for me to hand over to someone else.

no leader is irreplaceable

Inevitably, any group of people working as a team with a ‘leader’ can 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, and 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!

the time has come ...

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 shall miss the choir and the individual members terribly. 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. Here’s to the future!


Chris Rowbury's website:


Chris Rowbury


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