4 easy time management tips for choir leaders

Sometimes it’s not easy leading a choir. It can feel like the moment you’ve finished one rehearsal, the next one rolls around. The meticulous preparation you’d planned hasn’t happened. Again.

In this post, I’ll set out a few habits you can cultivate to avoid that sinking feeling, get on top of the work involved in leading your choir and get more enjoyment out of your role.

Learn to say no

Whether your choir is amateur, charitable or professional, offers of engagements are very hard to turn down, but you’re not doing yourself or your singers any favours if you end up with a glut of events in your calendar.

This is particularly the case if a series of events requires very different repertoire. It is a difficult balance to strike. You want to challenge your choir and give them new and interesting music to learn.

You don’t want such a burden of new learning that your singers start to feel that being part of the choir is a chore.

So even if a proposal seems too good to pass up, think carefully about the demands that it will place on you and your singers. Will it bring out the best in you, or will you be guaranteeing a mediocre performance?

Work little and often

Most choir leaders I know have ‘day jobs’ as well. Some are musicians, some are music teachers, others have jobs in non-musical fields. If that applies to you, it’s unlikely that you have long, uninterrupted chunks of time to work on the management of your choir.

If, like me, you are a bit of a perfectionist, this can lead to major procrastination.

I have always been plagued by the mindset that unless I can finish a task to perfection, I may as well postpone starting it.

This has led me, over the years, to not practise the piano, not study for exams (my colour-coded revision timetables were gorgeous, though), not prepare for important meetings and (still) not clean my house.

What I’ve realised, though, is that the available time for accomplishing a task from start to finish to perfection never comes. So you may as well make a start.

As an arch-procrastinator, I have to make bargains with myself. I put a timer on my phone and focus on one task, be it score preparation or performance planning, for ten or twenty minutes.

It’s amazing how much I can get done in that short burst of work.

Delegate stuff

You are, no doubt, an ace at what you do. Your singers worship the very ground you walk upon. Audiences rise to their feet as one, lauding you to the rooftops.

We all like to think we are indispensable, but the sad fact is, we’re not. Much of what we do could be done by others.

A colleague in the legal profession (my former calling) once told me that as a senior person in my organisation, ‘you should only do what only you can do’. It’s sound advice.

If you think through all the things you do for your choir, how many of those tasks can only be done by you?

Let’s assume that, like me, you both manage and conduct your choir. There are things that only I can do, for example prepare a piece to conduct, but there are lots of other tasks which, if I choose to, I can delegate: taking the register, distributing scores, fundraising, organising social events etc.

Handing off some activities might also help promote a sense of cohesion and ownership within the choir.

Automate stuff

In our internet-based world, we are, more and more, able to automate repeated tasks.

Communication with your choir members, in particular, is an area where there are numerous free tools available to save you time and help you avoid mistakes and oversights.

You could set up a Facebook group to communicate with your singers and to keep track of availability for performances and events, or share an online calendar so that your choir has an always-updated rehearsal and performance schedule.

You could send a weekly email newsletter to keep everyone up to date, or have a members-only area on your website where your choir can access rehearsal tracks.

This way your choir will know where to go to get the information they need without contacting you directly saving you and them time and making you look super-organised and professional.

Comments on 4 easy time management tips for choir leaders

  1. Avatar Ruth Woods says:

    Thanks for these wonderful ideas. They are very helpful. God bless.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Ruth, glad you found them helpful.

  2. Avatar Kamali says:

    Very helpful tips, as usual!
    Thanks a lot.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Kamali,
      Glad you found the tips helpful. :)

  3. Avatar Andrea Reid says:

    Thank you for your extremely good advice!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Andrea,

      Glad you found it helpful. :)

  4. Avatar ESSIEN SAMUEL says:

    thanks a lot for this, you are most amazing

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Essien

  5. Avatar Tobex says:

    Interesting insight… Will have to work in achieving this. Great exposure.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Tobex

  6. Avatar Valerie says:

    Hallo Victoria,

    THANK YOU FOR THAT WONDERFUL ARTICLE, on easy time management. I am going to follow your terrific advice (watch out world, lol)

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Valerie

  7. Avatar Benedict Sackey says:

    Great ideas shared on your site. Keep it up.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      THanks Benedict.

  8. Hi Victoria – I know my comment is 2.5 years post this post, however I wanted to say how much I relate to your experiences and really enjoy and appreciate the thoughts and strategies that you share regarding the wonderful world of choral conducting!

    Since this post there have been many new tools created for managing groups online. One of my choirs in Sydney, Australia uses a sports team management app and it works a treat. We can post all our gigs, individually mark our availability, roster people on for supper (they can even nominate what they will be bringing), as well as post gig information sheets, group photos and rehearsal notes. Of course the app wasn’t created with music groups in mind but can be adapted for such a purpose very easily. Definitely worth looking into…

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Melissa. Thank you for your kind words. It sounds like a very good idea to re-purpose a sports team app.

  9. Avatar Lizzy says:

    Really please to find your page Victoria. I’ve given up looking for a local fun choir for my kids so I’ve decided to run one. Have taught school choirs before, but it was always within the safety of school. Should I be worrying about insurance/CRB checks for helpers, PRS, copy write for performance etc? If I just join the Musicians Union will they cover all that? I don’t have a big budget and I’m basically volunteering, so is it better to rely on goodwill and not worry to much about all that? There may only be a handful of us and it may fizzle out, but there is a good chance I could get inundated! Do many people charge for their time, or are most people volunteers? Lizzy

    1. Avatar VictoriaHopkins says:

      Hi Lizzy. What a fantastic idea to start a children’s choir. I applaud your willingness to step up and create something new. You obviously have a lot of questions – quite understandably. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer them all, but I’ll have a go (just be aware that these are my opinions – not any fumbling attempt at legal advice!). Yes, I think you will need insurance, probably public liability and professional indemnity.

      Christine and I don’t teach children, only adults, but we have looked into the CRB issue and it seems to be quite complicated (unless the system has changed recently). When we looked into it, you couldn’t get a CRB check on your own account, only via an organisation that was hiring you. I suggest phoning the CRB and having a chat with them about what you need to do.

      Similarly, copyright and licensing is not straightforward either. Performance licensing is about the venue where you’re making music. The law has changed recently and some places that used to need licences now don’t (although I seem to recall that it’s dependent on numbers of bodies and time of day). We’ve found the people at PRS for Music very helpful. We only perform in venues that already have licences, so we don’t have to worry about that, and we’ve bought licences in the past for recordings.

      I don’t know anything about the MU, I’m afraid, so I can’t help you there.

      Overall, if I were in your position, I’d probably get the choir up and running with the minimum of fuss and see if there’s a good response before getting too worried about the legal side of things. Others are welcome to disagree with me on that point.

      On the charging issue, we run Total Voice as a business and although we’re not going to be in a position to retire on the proceeds, we try to make it financially viable. Maybe you could look at what parents are paying for other out-of-school activities and charge a similar amount. Above all, I’d say don’t under-value your contribution. You’ll very quickly find that running a choir takes up lots of time over and above rehearsing and performing.

      I wish you the very best of luck with this. Do keep in touch and let us know how it’s all going. We’re happy to help along the way if we can.

      1. Avatar Lizzy says:

        Thanks for the quick reply Victoria, and the encouragement. You’ve answered most of my questions really, will get on to PRS, obviously worth checking that when we choose our venues. Have really enjoyed looking at your site, feel a bit out of my depth and it good to hear from someone who’s obviously enjoying the role! lizzy

  10. Avatar VictoriaHopkins says:

    Thanks Ian, what a great comment. I’ve been trying to use Dropbox to send rehearsal tracks to workshop participants, but with limited success. There’s something about the Dropbox website interface that seems to freak out the less tech-savvy. I’m going to have a re-think for the next workshop.

  11. Avatar Ian Davies says:

    Hi there Victoria.

    You’re post rings so very true with me! I run a community choir in the South West of England & all the above are things I’ve faced over the past few years, so thanks for sharing (and for the tips about how to overcome them!!).

    There are a couple of online tools I’ve found very useful over the past 12 months. As I have a Googlemail account, I have set-up an online calendar which I’ve made available to the choir (as you’ve indicated above). Alongside this, I’ve also set-up a Google Drive which allows me to share lyrics & backing tracks with the various choir parts on them (most of my choir don’t read music). This has gone down very well & is a great way of helping everyone to learn their various parts.

    Best of luck with whatever you’re doing now & I hope you continue to enjoy your life with music for a very long time.

  12. Avatar VictoriaHopkins says:

    Glad to be of help, Sabrina. No doubt your teenage choir members will be way ahead of you when it comes to tech-savvy time-saving solutions!

  13. Avatar sabrina says:

    thanks for this advice! I am managing a group of preteen to teen aged choir members. This was insightful. I am going to take the bull by the horns

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