For many of us, the long summer vacation is coming to an end and children will be heading back to school for a new term. I love this time of year, with its autumnal chill and the promise of great things ahead. September, much more than January, is the time when I like to plan ahead and feel that I have “all my ducks in a row”. Here’s what I’m doing right now to make my choir’s new season as good as possible.
Season rehearsal planning
There are lots of tools, articles and podcasts on Total Choir Resources about rehearsal planning. The way I like to approach it is starting at a high level, then zooming into the detail. I’ll start off thinking about the season as a whole and the performance commitments the choir has already made. Then I’ll look at how many rehearsals we have leading up to those performances and how much rehearsal time I think each performance will need. Will we be able to finish one project before starting the next, or will it be necessary to start rehearsing for a performance before we’ve finished the one before? How long before? You can work through this process step-by-step with our podcast on season rehearsal planning.
Individual rehearsal planning
Once I know how many rehearsals I have to devote to a particular work, I can begin “drill down” into the detail of how to rehearse each piece or section. This involves a lot of score study – something that I have to admit I’m prone to procrastinating about. Once I knuckle down to it, though, it’s a process I really enjoy and, of course, the more score study I do, the more confident I feel when I step in front of the choir. You’ll find a three-part series on score study for choir leaders here.
I always want to be a better choir leader at the end of a season than I was when it started. But how can I achieve that even when life and work get incredibly busy and I feel like I don’t have time to fit anything “extra” into my week? Firstly, I can rein in my inner perfectionist and acknowledge that I’m not going to do everything perfectly or miraculously become the best choir leader in the universe. I need to think in terms of progress, not perfection. Secondly, I can take practical steps to improve my skills. Have you ever videoed yourself leading a rehearsal? It can be a bit uncomfortable to watch yourself conducting at first, but it’s so incredibly beneficial that it’s worth getting over that discomfort. It’s by far the easiest way I’ve found to become aware of bad habits when I’m conducting.
What’s it all about
Finally, I’ll be thinking about what I’d like my choir to get out of the experience of rehearsing and performing this season. I want to ensure that all the work I do, whether it’s rehearsal planning, score study or professional development, is done with my choir’s experience in mind.