There is a common myth that to be a successful community choir leader, you need to have a big personality, in the centre of attention and larger than life. Plus that we need to be in the crowd and enjoying building relationships with all of our singers – all of the time.
But what if you are an introvert and a community choir leader?
Working with this level of energy could leave you feeling drained and burnt out.
Plus….does it mean you are going to be limited in your ability to be successful at your job? Does this mean that you are a shy, quiet teacher? Or that you will struggle to command the room? How are you going to interact with your singers, in a way that will build healthy, authentic relationships?
There’s much misunderstanding about the definition of what it means to be an extrovert and an introvert. In her book, The Introvert Entrepreneur, Beth Buelow sums up the difference with clarity, saying “The reality is that introversion inherently has nothing to do with social skills and everything to do with how a person gains or drains energy, processes information and relates to the world.”
I used to be very quiet and I still class myself as reserved. However, I am super happy directing my choir in front of a large audience, even in a demanding setting, like a competition. In fact, I love it! I love whipping up an audience in a singalong, and interacting with them. I also love leading my sessions in a fun, dynamic way, working to encourage my singers to achieve the best sound and learn new songs. I’ve learnt ways to do this in a manner that is true to myself and not fake.
However, after high energy sessions and events with people, I do need recovery time afterwards, especially after the day of the week when I lead three choirs, totalling 5 hours of switched on leading and focus. I am a classic introverted community choir leader.
So as an introverted community choir leader, these are a few tips that I have learnt, which have helped me do my job as a community choir leader. And most importantly, these tips have helped me sustain the energy not only to successfully lead my community choirs week in, week out but also for the other parts of my life too.
- If you can, intentionally plan for a quiet downtime day after busier choir leading days or performances.
- Allow yourself space from your singers during your refreshment break. Go outside for fresh air or use the facilities. Your singers will be happy enough socialising together!
- Your gift is in self reflection and evaluation. Lean into this strength as you plan for your choir. You also have the skills to facilitate your singers in reflective activities, such as when you are digging deep into the meaning of a song.
- It is ok to have a different public and private persona – as long as both are true and authentic to yourself.
- Your gift is that you are self reliant. Are there other people who you can support and help as a result?
- If choir social time and small talk is tricky for you, think of yourself as a host.
- Plan for lower energy sessions, after high energy sessions. For example, the fortnight after my choir performs a concert, I strip back my sessions to teaching beautiful, fun and simple a cappella pieces, so that we can focus on breathing and harmony.
- Be yourself. Be authentic. If you need space to recharge – find it.
Beth Morgan, founder of The Great Day Choir and MD for the Bristol Military Wives Choir, launched The Creative Choir Leader 2 years ago at the outset of the pandemic. As an introvert, Beth has always found the idea in-person professional networking daunting. However, starting the Creative Choir Leader Facebook Group to support community choir leaders, has enabled people like Beth to network, meet new colleagues and find their own voice as a choir leader.