Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I did on my summer holiday – why we all need a break sometime

Apparently it’s the summer break. The weather is sunny, choir doesn’t start back until September, kids are off school and ice cream vans are cruising the streets.


So how come I’m stuck in the office and seem to be working as hard as usual?

Many people don’t realise how much work goes on behind the scenes for choir leaders and people who run singing workshops. They think we just turn up for two hours on a Thursday evening and laze around for the rest of the week sipping absinthe and listening to strange music.

Check out The job of being a choir leader to see what we actually get up to in a typical working week.

But it’s not a regular working week, it’s summer now. Even so, the ‘holidays’ are a fantastic time to catch up on all those chores that we don’t usually have time for:

  • update the website (yours and your choir’s and your Mum’s and ...)
  • find new songs to teach (all those books and scraps of manuscript paper!!)
  • archive and store all the songs and recorded material you’ve been accumulating
  • listen to that huge pile of CDs you’ve been meaning to check out
  • write a batch of posts for your blog (for those times when you’re too busy in the future)
  • put feelers out to find new sources of work for next year
  • arrange the songs that have been on your ‘to do’ pile for ages
  • design and produce publicity material to promote your forthcoming events and workshops
  • keep choir members informed of the coming term dates, fees, song lyrics, concerts, etc.
  • plan and design new workshops, new ideas for the coming term, mad projects, etc.
  • fill out funding application forms for exciting new projects (and the mad ones)
  • find new venues for concerts, workshops and rehearsals (and then visit them)
  • edit videos and sound recordings of past performances to go on YouTube and the website
  • send out a newsletter to everyone on your mailing list
  • delete the email addresses of all those newsletters that bounce back
  • mend the holes in your favourite concert outfit (and wash it)
  • look at all those websites and books that you’ve been promising to for months
  • ring up some colleagues for a good old moan
  • make sure you remember to book the school hall for your autumn rehearsals
  • answer the 3,487 emails that have been languishing in your inbox all year

I could go on! You get the idea.

And, of course, you won’t get all this done and the summer will slip away and all those lazy days wiling away the hours in your beautiful garden will slip from your grasp and before you know it the autumn mists and chilly nights (and new series of your favourite US cop show on TV) will be here.

But hang on a minute! When do you actually get a break?

It’s not just choir leaders who need a break, we all do. But freelancers and people who work on their own (artists, writers, etc.) perhaps need to be reminded more often.

I’ve written before about Taking care of ourselves as choir and workshop leaders. It’s important.

I still get my fortnightly massage (even in the ‘holidays’), go out for lunch once a week, take time away from the ‘office’ (i.e. fourth bedroom in our house), go away for weekend breaks every few months, and try to stay chilled in the face of looming deadlines and ‘too much to do’ syndrome.

When I first started this job I was worried about losing all my punters over the summer break. Choir finished in mid-July and didn’t start up again until early September. That’s about seven weeks for people to forget me and find something else to occupy their time.

So I set up four-week self-contained summer schools during the break. It was a way of keeping choir members happy and possibly of finding new punters for the future.

But it was hard work and I found myself starting the autumn term burnt out.

We all (singers included) need a rest from singing and choirs. Time to take stock, rest our minds and voices, try something new, get a distance on the whole thing, and rest our weary bodies (from all those warm up exercises).

In fact, the time to take a break is probably the time when you are busiest and feel that you can’t possibly. You’d be surprised at how much more effective you are at your job when you come back.

It’s sunny outside so I’m off to take my own advice (after I’ve driven for an hour to walk round an unfamiliar town and drop off fliers for my September workshop). See you next week!

How do you rest? Or do you never have a break? I’d love to hear about your burn-out or hammock experiences.

Do leave a comment and give us something to read while we’re sunning ourselves. (PS apologies to those in the southern hemisphere where it is winter – just showing off)


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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