What fuels your choir – Vision or Fear?

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

When Columbus departed Spain in 1492 on the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, I am pretty sure that the following was NOT the process that was followed:

  • Step 1 – Columbus wants to go on a sea journey
  • Step 2 – he finds a sponsor and hires three boats
  • Step 3 – he assembles a crew and, afraid of crew members quitting during the journey, asks them “so, where would you like to go?”
  • Step 4 – He then weighs every decision re his upcoming journey against what he thinks will ensure his crew is happy and content and, most importantly, still on board.

Of course, this little scenario breaks down when one realises that it is not really possible to abandon ship in the middle of the ocean.

But it does illustrate the way choir conductors often approach their choirs: having maybe spent years building up the instrument, they are now so scared of losing choir members that their decisions are not guided by a vision that sparks creative energy, but rather by fear.

Maybe this is a more accurate version of the events that led to Columbus’ journey:

  • He has a vision
  • He assembles a sponsor, ships and a crew
  • The crew joins the boats because they “buy in” to his vision. (Even if they only joined because they expected huge rewards, they still had to “buy in” to the vision to reasonably expect that there might be rewards.)
  • He embarks on the journey – and the journey is driven by the vision.

Fear of choir members quitting is one of the reasons why choir conductors compromise on “best practice” in their choral journey.

It takes courage and determination to stick with “best practice” but articulating your vision and regularly reminding yourself what it is, makes it easier.

“Best practice” can mean many things, but for me some of the most important aspects of “best practice” for a choir can be summed up as follows:

  • Insisting on attendance and focused participation from every choir member
  • Insisting on attention to detail by every choir member
  • Insisting on a willingness to improve personal skills from every choir member
  • Insisting on a willingness to cultivate good personal practicing habits from every choir member

So, mr/ms conductor: what’s your vision? Where do you want to go with your choir?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please respond in the comments below or drop me a mail? (leon[at]ctyc.co.za)

Leon Starker