Barnsley magic

With over 450 singers, Barnsley Youth Choir, artist director, Mat Wright MBE, knows a great deal about recruitment. Together with his musical team, he has grown one of the UK’s largest and most successful, children’s and youth choir programmes, renowned both here and internationally.

Mat shares his experience on choir recruitment here:

“Recruitment and retention are really important parts of choir life, in order to maintain viability and also to bring a freshness to the work that we do. Some ideas that may be worth pursuing include:

What is the brand of your choir? What does it stand for? Who does it serve and what difference does it make? If you are able to articulate answers to these questions well, and communicate them in an exciting and compelling manner, people will be drawn to you and want to be part of your team.

Congratulate new members and welcome them privately and publicly. Make them feel part of the team/tribe straight away. Give them a t-shirt….for free!

Develop relationships with groups that complement the work that you do and seek to recruit as part of this. Ensure that you always ‘give’ before you ‘take’ to maintain a positive and long-lasting partnership. Could you agree to do a gig for free for a workplace and have a captive audience to recruit from?

Create a buzz! Use social media to celebrate the work that you do. Get involved in things that raise the profile of the choir – newspaper article (a good press officer is invaluable), radio, social media and website. Take part in activities that have a good audience and try to ensure that as many people as possible see the choir. Always have fliers with you!

Bring a friend night is always a good idea. Remove barriers such as costs and auditions. Focus on engaging new members first. Assign new members to people to ‘buddy’ up with them – ensuring that they feel safe and secure.

Put on events that are exciting and make the choir more attractive to outsiders such as free singing days / events. There are lots of choirs that do this well, offering attractive one-off events that people come to and then choose to stay.

Sell the wider benefits of being in a choir. Never forget to share the social side of the choir and your special community, such as social events / a drink after a rehearsal / meals out – they all help to make people feel connected and valued.

Use testimonials. Ask for members to advocate the work of the choir and how it impacts on their lives, then share this publicly.

Keep it fun, keep it exciting and always praise and celebrate at every opportunity. Try new things – innovate! Don’t be scared to try new repertoire that puts a smile on people’s faces. Choirs that take themselves too seriously and sing the same repertoire all the time often struggle to recruit and retain members.

Seize on opportunities to connect with events, other organisations and projects. Take a few risks and expose your choir to new audiences and to working in different ways. Your choir will grow because of this, and new people will see the work that you do.

I’m sure none of this is new and SO many choirs do this incredibly well. What I would say is keep the faith! Lockdown has impacted on so many choirs but the singers will return and, as we come out of this period, the need for singing and connection has never been more important”

About Mathew Wright…

Mathew, Eleanor Wright and Keith Norton established Barnsley Youth Choir in 2009. The choir now involves over 450 children from the local community, in an area of significant deprivation, formed into 6 separate choirs aged 4 – 24 years old. BYC has developed an outstanding international reputation, winning 8 first prizes and gold medals in international competitions and 3 Grand Prix including the World Choir Games 2014 (Riga), the European Choir Games 2015 (Magdeburg) and the European Choir Games 2017 (Riga).BYC is currently ranked 5th in the World in the Interkultur World Rankings – the highest ranked choir from Great Britain. Mat has taken Barnsley Youth Choir on numerous international tours since its inception 10 years ago. Barnsley Youth Choir has won a number of awards since it was founded including, most notably, the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2017 which recognised the outstanding work that the large volunteer team is involved in. Mat has also helped to establish a large adult community choir in Barnsley in 2016 – Barnsley Singers. Read more about Mat’s inspiring work HERE