Monday, April 04, 2022

New singers are trying your choir, but not staying – what can you do?

Choirs are often on the lookout for new singers. Some even offer free trials before singers commit.

But what happens if that influx of new people doesn’t stay? What has gone wrong? Let’s look at some possibilities.

I’ve written before about why retention is more important than recruitment. But this was aimed at singers who gradually drifted away from choir.

It’s a different situation when newcomers turn up for just a week or so, then leave.

Not every choir will suit every singer, so you can expect some new recruits to leave quite early on when they find out what you do. It might be the choir leader’s style, the repertoire, or simply the night of the week that you rehearse.

But if you’re consistently not holding on to new recruits, then it’s time to look at why this might be.

make your choir inviting

First of all, you need to make your choir welcoming.

We all like to think our choirs are friendly and welcoming, but that might not be the case for every new member. When the break comes, for instance, it can be just like those lonely first days at school when you didn’t have any playground friends.

Read How welcoming is your choir? to get a few ideas on how to improve how inclusive and welcoming your choir is.

prepare new members

If you put some work in before new members come to their first rehearsal, they will know what to expect so will be less likely to be surprised. Things like chatting to new recruits on the phone, sending out welcome packs, assigning buddies. Read How to prepare new choir members for their first visit for more ideas.

balance old and new repertoire

You should make sure you have a balanced mix of old and new repertoire.

If somebody joins your choir for the first time, they will feel seriously left out and all at sea if you spend most of the time singing the choir’s old favourite songs.

One way round this is to only recruit new members at the beginning of seasons or terms (see Opening your choir to new members – who? when? how?).

Then you can start with all new repertoire so everyone is in the same boat. You can revive old repertoire from time to time. Read How to keep the old songs in your repertoire from going stale for some ideas.

keep up the pastoral care

It’s easy to forget new members once you think they’ve settled in, but it can take much longer than you think. It’s important for somebody to regularly check up on new recruits for at least the first term.

I had a new male singer who simply disappeared after a few weeks. I rang him up and he said that he didn’t think he was good enough because he couldn’t pick up the songs quickly. I spent some time reassuring him and saying that everyone in the choir had doubts at some time. He came back again and stayed for many years!

drop-in or dropout?

If your choir is a drop-in choir, then it’s very easy for new members to dropout. I’ve found over the years that requiring singers to pay for a term in advance helps enormously with commitment. It can help new recruits get over the mid-term hump when they become less sure of what’s going on. If they stay for a term, then they’re likely to stay for years.

you can’t win ’em all

You will lose choir members over time. Some people move house, find other hobbies, have financial difficulties, etc. It’s not always that your choir isn’t right for them.

Chris Rowbury


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