Monday, September 07, 2015

How welcoming is your choir?

I bet you think your choir is a wonderful, friendly little community that welcomes newcomers with open arms.


What if I told you that new members might find your choir scary, cliquey and unwelcoming? Maybe it’s time to look at things from a different perspective.

As the holidays come to a close and choirs get back together after a long break, it’s often a time when new singers join.

We all like to think of our choir as a friendly, welcoming group of singers. But no matter how hard you try at being open and inviting, new singers will often find it off-putting when they first arrive.

It’s inevitable that any group of people who have been singing together for a while will make friendships and form little cliques. When a new singer arrives it’s going to be hard for them to break into this established group regardless of how friendly and welcoming people are.

Remember when you first went to big school? It can be a bit like that when someone joins a new choir.

At break time there’s a great opportunity to make new friends, but it can be lonely when old friends greet each other after the long holiday, and already established groups hang out together. The playground can be a scary and unfriendly place.

It’s not enough to just think that everyone’s friendly and new singers will just slot right in. You have to make a conscious effort to be a welcoming choir.

Here’s how.

I’ve written a couple of guides for choir leaders and singers that contain many useful tips:

Joining an established choir: a guide for how choir leaders can help new singers
Joining an established choir: a guide for new singers

A few important takeaways from these two articles are:
  • meet and greet – make sure someone is there at the door to welcome new members and explain what’s going on. Make a personal connection with each new singer.
  • buddy up – allocate a ‘buddy’ for each new singer from their section to show them the ropes and be there as a ‘friend’ for the first few weeks until they settle in.
  • integrate, integrate – name games, silly songs, mix old singers with new, mix things up generally. Shuffle the pack and fit the new singers into the centre of things.
  • do new stuff – make sure you do plenty of things that are new to all singers, not just the new ones (new songs, new warm ups, new choir formations). That puts everyone on a level playing field.
  • regular social events – at the start of a new season you might want to have more social events than usual to make sure everyone gets to know everyone else. Invite suggestions from the new members.
Most importantly, don’t take things for granted and hope that new singers will just integrate by magic. That’s the way to lose valuable new recruits!

Have a great new choir season.

Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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