Monday, November 29, 2021

Revealing your humanity as choir leader or singer will bring people on your side

As David Burbidge pointed out in his recent guest post about choir leadership styles, some singers end up putting their choir leaders on pedestals.

And even if you resist that extreme, it’s easy to forget that they have a life outside choir and music. Choir leaders are as vulnerable and human as you are.

playing the role of “choir leader”

Many singers only see their choir leader when they are standing in front of their choir. It may be that you don’t even directly interact with your choir leader from week to week.

It’s easy then to believe that the face they are showing you when they are working is who they are. All that and nothing more.

But of course, they are playing a role and tapping into their expertise and experience to do their job. They need to appear confident and in control, because that is what choir leading requires of them.

Yet, like all of us, they will have their doubts, stumble now and again, be unsure about the way they’re teaching a song, be a little in awe of some of their singers, and occasionally suffer from “imposters syndrome”.

They might also have had a bad night’s sleep, be worried about their child who’s sick and off school, be fighting a cold, not sure if their car is going to get them home in one piece, concerned about whether there will be enough money this month to pay the rent.

In short, they are just like you and me.

So if you meet your choir leader outside choir, remember that choir leading and music-making is not all they do. Don’t expect them to be their usual charismatic, confident self. Be careful not to make unreasonable demands of them when they are off duty. Try not to inflict your own worries or beliefs on them.

In short, treat them like anybody else: be kind, considerate and courteous.

revealing your humanity brings people on side

There are some choir leaders who spend their whole working life maintaining the fa├žade that they are always in control, always know what they’re doing and always right.

But if you do that, you make a rod for your own back. Anything less than ‘perfect’ will be seen as a failure.

Far better to make mistakes, own up when you’re not sure, ask your singers for their input, keep rehearsals light and fun. Your singers will then realise that you’re human like them and will respond accordingly.

Similarly those choirs who always (try to) present the ‘perfect’ performance. This rubs off onto the audience. They begin to feel that the whole event is formal and incredibly important. They won’t be able to relax since they’re hoping that nothing is going to go wrong. They are seemingly faced with a bunch of perfect singers who are somehow better than them.

However, if your choir leader is relaxed and sets up a more informal atmosphere, you will have the audience on your side. If you make a mistake, then it’s not a problem, just start again. Make light of it with the audience.

You will soon have them on your side, relaxed and smiling. They know that all the singers are merely human and they will want you to do your best and will appreciate it even more when things go well.


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Chris Rowbury




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