Monday, January 27, 2020

How to recruit a new leader for your choir

There will come a time when you’ll need to find a new leader for your choir.

Let’s look at ideas for how to recruit someone suitable.

At some point your choir leader will leave. It may be due to age, health, boredom, relocation, or you might even fire them (see Is it time to hand your choir over to another leader?).

It’s time to find a replacement. What’s the best way of finding someone who will suit?

If you have a committee, it will be their job to look. If the choir was run entirely by your choir leader, then it’s up to the singers to get together to decide what to do.

First of all, there is no way that you can replace your old choir leader. So don’t even try.

You can try to find a replacement who has a similar style and vision, but they won’t be the same person. Give them time to settle in and for you to get used to their ways before deciding if they’re right for your choir (see When a new musical director takes over your choir: a guide for choir members).

choosing from inside the choir

The easiest way to find a new leader who is suited to your choir is to recruit somebody who is already in the choir. They will know how your previous leader worked, they’ll be familiar with the style and repertoire, and they will be a friendly face.

It may be someone who has musical experience and knowledge already, or someone who has been learning on the job by observing. If you know anybody who might be interested, your current choir leader can help to mentor them in the months before they leave.

The one drawback of this approach can be that some choir members might find it hard when one of the ‘soldiers’ becomes an ‘officer’. If your fellow Alto, for example, is suddenly in charge and telling you what to do, it may take some getting used to.

This will pass though. Be patient and let your fellow singer settle in. You do have to let them take charge and give them your trust. Don’t them advice unless they ask for it!

recruiting from outside

If there is nobody suitable within your choir, you’ll have to look outside.

The obvious thing to do is to approach people you either already know or who can be suggested by colleagues and choir members. There maybe somebody in town who already leads a similar choir and would be prepared to add another one to their collection.

However, there might be a musician or choir leader in your locality that you don’t know about. Somebody who’s recently moved to the area or someone who’s semi-retired and can be coaxed. Put up ads in your local art centre, cafes, weekly newspaper, etc. Keep it local and explain clearly and succinctly what you’re looking for. Maybe ask your audience at a concert if they know anyone.

If you’ve exhausted all local contacts you’ll need to look further afield. There may be someone who is just outside your catchment area who is prepared to travel, or who is planning to move to the area soon.

The best way to find people outside your immediate locality is to use social media or any organisations that your choir might belong to. For example, Making Music, the Natural Voice Network, Sound Sense, and so on. Put a small ad in their print publications or get a mention on their website or Facebook page.

Again, make your ad specific and succinct. You want to define as accurately as possible the sort of person you’re looking for so you don’t waste anybody’s time.

is it the right person?

If you’re lucky enough to have several candidates, you’ll need to choose between them.

An informal chat might be the first step to find out their background and what their vision is.

If you think they’re a possible choice, get them to run a rehearsal for your choir. Get them to run a warm up and teach a song. Maybe even give them the music for something the choir knows well and get them to conduct or polish it.

Afterwards you’ll need to canvas the choir members to see what they thought. This is harder than it sounds because you might get as many opinions as there are singers! If you have a committee, they’ll have the final word. Otherwise you could have a secret ballot.

if you can’t find anyone

You might not be able to find the right person to take over. In which case you have several options:
  • keep going as you are – get different choir members to stand out front at each rehearsal to go through your existing repertoire. Copy some of the old warm ups. As singers get more confident, someone might volunteer to step up and teach a new song. Be kind to them! In this way, an informal singing group can keep going. It might be that you don’t perform in public any more, but at least you’ll still have a regular singing outlet and can keep in touch with choir buddies.
  • take on someone completely different – somebody who’s maybe not quite ‘right’, and maybe your choir will move in a new direction. You might lose some members, but new singers will join and who knows where you’ll end up?
  • close the choir – if you can’t find anyone to take over or the candidates are just too different from what you need, you could decide to close the choir entirely. A bit drastic, but sometimes it’s better to not do something than do something that you don’t like or want.

Have you had to recruit a new choir leader? What process did you use? Were you successful?

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Chris Rowbury




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