Ok, so if you are a choir leader working with a choir committee, sometimes you can feel like you are the only one who understands about choirs. Ever been there?
Whilst that may feel like the case, there are many factors to running choir, and only half of it is musical. Running a choir can be a team effort that can make your members feel like valued stake holders and members of the community.
Many committee members are volunteers, giving their time – for free – to help the choir run and be successful. It is always worth being sensitive to this when trying to foster positive relationships with your committee members.
However, there are times when you might face difficulties. These could be power struggles, or just basic lack of knowledge about what’s involved in running a successful choir programme. You might have inherited a “we’ve always done it this way” attitude to working.
I have worked under several committees and I have also had expereince being the chair of an organisation. These are a couple of tips that I have found to help to build better realtionships with your choir committee:
Get to know your choir committee members individually, especially the chair.
Getting to know your committee members individually, espcailly the chair, you are more likely to understand their points of view and more importantly, the history behind why they hold them. Talking with them at the outset of being appointed to their role, gives you the opportunity to explain how their role relates to your job as MD and how they can best support you. Find out how they prefer to communicate. Some people prefer email whilst others prefer a direct phone call. Understanding small aspects of a person such as this can help you build your relationship quicker and easier.
There is a second reason to get to know your members individually. If someone has an issue with an upcoming agenda item, you can speak to them individually, prior to the meeting, to help them air their concerns. This can sometime give them reflection time before issues are discussed within the meeting context. It also means that you can be prepared, especially if the concerns relate to a part of your role.
Make sure there is a pre published agenda for choir committee meetings…..with trickier issues at the beginning.
No one enjoys a pointless meeting! If they don’t already, encourage your committee to publish an agenda before their meetings. It might seem a given, but sometimes committees meetings can get relaxed and lose structure. Hopefully this will help any meetings to stay on track and finish at a reasonable time.
By placing trickier issues at the outset of the meeting, people can air their issues early on and hopefully feel like they are able to get their concerns off their chest, so to speak. They will also go home with the less contentious agenda items fresh in their mind.
Be proactive to help your choir committee understand what is involved in planning, especially around repertoire and concert programming.
Have you ever been asked to get a piece ready for a performance in a ridiculously short amount of time? Many people, even choir members, don’t really undertand the full process of preparing music for a performance. My choir performs two large concerts each year. I start teaching the choir pieces for the November concert in Janurary of the same year. This means I’m choosing this music in the previous Autumn. Buy the time the music is purchased, posted, distributed and learnt, several months can go buy. Help your committee to understand your timescales when you are programming, by explaining it to them. This is paticularly important for the people who book your performances and also your music librarian.
Always be professional
You may have become close friends with some of the members of your choir. This is a wonderful position and I’m fortunate to be in this postion too. However, if you are a paid employee of the choir, you need to always keep this fact in the back of your mind. Be professional in all that you do when you are in the role of MD. This includes posts on social media relating to the choir and emails.
Thank your choir committee!
My final suggestion, is to quiety thank your individual committee members when they help you. With this, I come back to my initial point, which is that many committee members are there because they are passionate about the choir and want it to be a success. Whilst a public declaration of thanks can be good, a quiet acklowledgement can be just as powerful, if not more so. Someone who feels valued for their contribution will often go above and beyond to help the next time they are needed.
As in all teams and organisations, there can be bumpy moments in the running of a choir. Fostering positive relationships at the outset though can help to smooth over those moments….and more importantly help your choir to become a thriving musical and social activity for people to participate in.