Sunday, November 18, 2012

Do you have to be a good singer to lead a choir?

I read an article in the latest Sounding Board (the journal of community music from SoundSense) about the University of Sunderland’s new BA in Community Music at The Sage Gateshead. Part of the course involves students “performing in an event which showcases them as musicians”.

singer songwriter
Photo by Phil Strahl

This lead me to wonder: do I have to be a good performing musician (i.e. singer) in order to be able to lead a singing workshop or to run a choir?

For me, a community musician is someone who (as SoundSense puts it)

“helps people make music in their communities by leading music workshops and teaching”.

As a community musician I see my role as an enabler and facilitator as well as a teacher and mentor. I try to make music accessible to as wide a range of people as possible, to demystify it, and to encourage people to become confident music makers.

But do I need to be a ‘good’ musician to be able to do this? In fact, do I need to have musical abilities at all?

I believe that somebody can have an excellent understanding of a particular skill (e.g. music-making or boxing or painting) and be a wonderful trainer or teacher of that skill, but not necessarily be good at it themselves.

There is the old adage: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. It is often taken to be disparaging of teachers, implying that they only teach because they couldn’t hack it. But I think it means the opposite.

There are many individuals who are extremely talented and skilful but are bad teachers and enablers. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you can pass that on to others.

Which means that I don’t believe you do have to be a good singer in order to lead singing workshops or be a community musician or to lead a choir. In fact, you might not be able to sing very well at all and have very little musical knowledge, yet you might be a brilliant teacher and enabler of others.

What do you think? Do you lead choirs but can’t sing that well? Have you been taught by someone who can teach brilliantly, but doesn’t have much music background?

Do drop by and leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: