Monday, July 20, 2015

What is your measure of success? – choir leading and self-reflection

How do you know if a choir session or singing workshop or performance has been a success?

photo by shadowkilla_tk

And if it has gone badly, how does that feed back into your teaching and choir directing?

We all have an intuitive feeling for when something has gone really well (or really badly). But what we feel might not be the whole story.

You might ...

  • run what you think was a cracking singing workshop, only to get feedback that it was too hard or unclear for the singers.
  • have what you think was a storming performance with your choir, but the audience didn’t respond much and the talk in the bar was that it wasn’t up to your normal standards.
  • lead what you think was an amazing rehearsal, only to hear afterwards that your singers would have preferred to sing more and done less detailed work.

Of course, you can’t please everyone (see Keeping a choir happy – you can’t please everyone), but it’s important to have a more objective idea of when something has been a success (or failure). It’s only then that you can reflect on your teaching and conducting in order to improve.

How can you develop an objective measure of success or failure?

aims and objectives

Start with some clear aims and objectives that you want to achieve.

It might be to teach five songs in a workshop or run the first half of a concert in your rehearsal or improve your choir’s intonation or to increase the dynamic variety in your next performance.

It might be that your aims and objectives are formulated by negotiation with the singers. Ask them what they want to get out of the session or create your next workshop to address specific needs identified by your singers or chat with audience members to find out what they’d like in their ideal concert.

If you don’t have any clear and specific aims and objectives then it’s impossible to decide whether you’ve succeeded or not.

They don’t have to be extreme or high falutin’ – when you’re starting out your aim might be just to get to the end of a rehearsal in one piece!

feedback – yours and theirs

After the workshop or rehearsal or concert you need to decide whether your aims and objectives have been met. You need to get some feedback both from yourself and from those on the receiving end.

Feedback from yourself is basically self-reflection. Take a quiet moment to think back over the event and try to look objectively at whether you realised your aims and objectives. The clearer they were stated in the beginning, the easier it will be for you to decide. For example, if one aim was to get through five songs but you only got through four, then you clearly didn’t realise your aims and objectives.

Feedback from others is a little more tricky. It’s very easy to ask leading questions in order to get the answers that you want. Feedback from others can range from informal chats to more formal feedback forms. Check out these posts for more information:

Why feedback is important when teaching and learning songs

How audiences behave and how we respond

What kind of feedback do you want?

Using feedback forms for choirs and singing workshops

learning to be a better choir and workshop leader

Once you’ve decided whether your performance or rehearsal or workshop was a success or not, you are in a position to reflect more on what you did and how you might improve in the future.

If something doesn’t succeed it’s quite easy to examine what you did to discover why. Having done that, it’s relatively simple to make changes to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But you can also learn when something is successful. The success might have been greater than you expected or maybe you’d tried something for the first time. In any case, think about those things you did that helped you realise your aims and objectives. Can they be improved or developed? Can they be used in different contexts? Can they be combined with other things to make them work even better?

their success might be your failure

If you’ve been commissioned by someone else to run a specific workshop or to conduct a particular performance, you might end up achieving the aims and objectives set out for you, but end up feeling that you’ve ‘failed’ in some way.

I had such an event earlier this year (see What if the singing session is a success, but you feel like a failure?). I delivered exactly what was asked of me and the participants enjoyed themselves, but it really didn’t float my boat. I didn’t get much out of the experience and felt rather flat at the end.

If this happens often then you need to be careful when selecting work from others to make sure that your notion of ‘success’ matches theirs.

exceeding expectations

They say that the true measure of a successful business is when your customers’ expectations are exceeded.

Just because you’ve succeeded this time doesn’t mean you can’t succeed even more the next time!

Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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