How to climb out of a choir-leading rut

As with anything we do week in, week out, it can be easy to become complacent and stuck in a rut with out work as a choir leader. Sometimes we're not even aware of it, but start to feel less inspired and motivated, even disatisfied, despite doing a job we love. If you're a busy person juggling lots of other tasks during the week, it can be all too tempting to stick to a regular rehearsal formula that is tried and tested. However, if this starts to bore you, the chances are it will do exactly the same to your devoted, long-standing members. To be an inspiring choir leader you need to feel inspired yourself. Here are some ideas to avoid getting into a rut.

1.  Avoid a "one plan fits all" strategy

Don't allow each rehearsal to follow exactly the same format. Okay, there are certain constants such as warm-ups, learning new repertoire and singing existing repertoire, but there are many things you can vary. For example, don't repeat the same warm-ups every week.  Vary the exercises, find some unusual rounds, think of some fun teambuilding exercises.  Although the core areas of warm-ups are fairly constant: breathing, range-building, relaxation, tone and team-building, there are many different variations for working on these elements.  Surprise singers by starting the rehearsal with something completely different - you'll certainly get their attention and spark your own creativity.  Don't be afraid to invent your own warm-ups, particularly for team-building.  Try it out, if it all goes wrong you'll learn how to improve it and have a good giggle with your choir in the process.

2.  Seek out new opportunities

As with rehearsal plans, it's easy to end up with the same performance schedule year in year out, which can end up feeling a bit uninspiring for you and your members.  Seek out new opportunities for performances, think quirky, think ambitious, think amazing. Dare to dream and see what you can turn into a realiity.  This is bound to spark your interest and will be a great boost for you when you tell your members about all the exciting opportunites you've created for the choir.  If you are excited by your performances, then you'll put your heart and soul into getting the choir prepared for them and be super proud of the results.

3.  Make new contacts in the choir world

Get to know other leaders and share experiences. Perhaps you'll pick up some great tips that you can bring back to your choir.  Total Choir Resources is a great place to share information and experiences, as is contacting other choir leaders in your area or further afield.  Most will have a website and this type of interaction might lead to joint choir projects, which is great, particularly if you work alone.

4. Remember what you love about it

Remember what it is you love and why you became a choir leader in the first place.  As musicians and singers we are creative types and it can seem very tedious to become bogged down in the administration and day to day business of running a choir.  Just like any job, it can't be 100% fun stuff.  However, don't neglect your passion. Take time to listen to music that inspires you and might work for your choir.

5.  Structure your choir year

Don't just run on endlessly week after week.  We all need a break from time to time to refresh ourselves and so does the choir.  In the past we have run our contemporary choir without a significant break (just a week here and there) and we noticed that over the summer months, particularly in August, attendance dipped as people were off doing other things or just wanted to take a break.  A bit of time off to restore and inspire yourself will work wonders.  It will also give you valuable time to get on top of everything and plan ahead.  This year we are taking August off from both our choirs so that hopefully by Christmas we will have a bit more enthusiasm and cheer than if we had worked straight through and were desperate for a break!

To summarise - don't get stuck in a repetitive rehearsal and performance rut. Keep thinking of dynamic new ideas and repertoire that will inspire you and your members, take time to listen to or create music that inspires you and finally dare to dream - what would make your choir the most exciting to belong to?  Make it happen!
Always learning: a conversation between choir leaders
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