Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to recruit singers to truly reflect your local community

For the first time in over 13 years I will soon be starting a choir from scratch. And I’m asking for your help!


The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason (photo by albany_tim)

I’ve written a whole series in the past about how to start your own community choir, and I will be taking a lot of my own advice on board (time to put my money where my mouth is!).

But the nut I’ve been unable to crack is to recruit a truly representative set of people from my local community: in age, gender, race, culture, background, education, disability, etc. In short, a real community choir.

The sad fact is that most choirs in the UK don’t reflect a true cross section of society.

They majority are made up of white women in their 50s and older and often don’t represent the racial, cultural or gender mix of the community they’re based in. How can we change this?

I’ve written on the subject of choir membership and recruitment before.

Why people don’t join choirs:

The difficulties of an ageing choir:

How to recruit new choir members:

The lack of men in choirs:

The experience of joining a choir for the first time:

I’ve realised that there is no easy answer to recruiting a representative set of people from your local community! So I’m asking for your help.

Do you have any ideas or experience of recruiting successfully from right across your local community? Would you like to share your solutions with us? Please drop by and leave a comment.

It seems to me that we can break down the problem as follows.

describing what your community choir is about

First you need to be clear what your aims are and then find the right words to explain that clearly to prospective choir members. It may be that you have to use different language for the different groups that you’re trying to attract. Each group will use different language and have different shared points of reference.

getting the word out to the right people

Then you have to get this information in front of the relevant people. It’s probably no good putting an advert in the local press to attract 16-year-olds, and it’s no good handing leaflets out after a live pop concert if you’re looking for older singers. You’ll need to take the word to the people you want to attract. That may mean identifying places where groups gather. For example, colleges, adult education classes, churches, cultural clubs.

making the group look right

I’ve pointed out before that when a prospective new choir member walks into their first choir session, they want to see a lot of people like themselves. Otherwise they will feel that they don’t belong and wont’ come back.

If you have a single man or just one 21-year-old, that’s just not going to work. You’ll need to make sure there are large enough sub-groupings within your choir to attract more similar people.

divide and conquer?

It may not be possible to start from scratch with a truly representative group of singers. It may be that your description, publicity sources, venue, etc. may have to be tailored for each particular group. You can then combine them at a later stage.

For instance, you could start a regular choir (which will probably be older women), a men’s choir, a choir at the local Afro-Caribbean centre and a youth choir. Once these are up and running, you could have a joint concert (involving  a couple of joint songs where everyone needs to rehearse together), then gradually amalgamate all the different groups into one choir.

over to you

On the face of it, that seems like a lot of work! It may be that you simply don’t have the time or resources to go the whole hog (I know I don’t!), so please, please write in with your own solutions and let’s see if we can all crack this particular nut together.


Chris Rowbury's website:


Chris Rowbury


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