Monday, July 10, 2023

How to avoid new choir members feeling left out in the breaks

I always thought I ran friendly, welcoming choirs (see How welcoming is your choir?). There was always someone around to buddy new members so they wouldn’t feel left out.

photo by theirhistory

But then one day, a new member said to me that standing around in the break felt like being the new kid in the playground at school.

I’ve written before with some ideas of how singers can get to know each other: Singing with a group of strangers – mixing and mingling ideas for learning names. However, that doesn’t address break times and other social situations.

I don’t lead any ongoing singing groups any more, but I do lead one-off singing days and weekends. The same situation pops up there. Perhaps even more so as there tends to be a core of singers who already know each other, but lots of singers who are new to the whole thing.

I spend a while at the beginning of sessions mixing people up and making sure they know at least a few names and faces. However, I tend not to do those “getting to know you” games as I personally find them very uncomfortable when I have to do them, and they also take up lots of valuable singing time.

I’ve written before that you don’t need to know other singers to be able to sing well together (Singing in the company of strangers). But when it comes to breaks and other social time, it’s easy for people to feel like a stranger and be left out.

Even if you’ve played name games and worked well as a group whilst singing, feeling that you’re the only one without friends in the playground can be upsetting.

What can be done to help overcome this?

Choir buddies for new members is always a good idea. But even they might want to catch up with old friends during the break. And for one-off events when there are many singers who won’t know each other, the buddy system won’t work.

Maybe we should go back to childhood for a solution. Even though you might have felt left out in the playground, it was a time when we were more open. We could go up to other kids and say “Do you want to be my friend?”

Some schools now have a friendship bench in the playground. If a child is feeling lonely and isolated at playtime, they go and sit on the bench. Other kids are encouraged to keep an eye out, and if someone is sitting on the bench, they can go over and befriend them or just ask them how they’re feeling.

Perhaps we could have a friendship bench in all our choirs and singing workshops during the break. What do you think?

Chris Rowbury


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