How to be a choir leader in your spare time

If you're leading a choir, it's quite likely that it isn't your only job. You may have a 'day job', be bringing up a family or dealing with any number of other commitments. Spare time can feel like a fantasy as you frantically try to juggle your weekly activities. However, with a little planning, running your choir can be a motivating and pleasureable activity which can really enhance your life. Here are my suggestions for strategies to take it all in your stride.

Get organised

It sounds obvious but a little organisation can go a long way when you're running a choir in your spare time. Any activity which is not necessarily your main focus can suffer from the distraction of other activities or the dreaded procrastination! To overcome this get the basics in place. Map out the months ahead rather than stumble into each performance. As much as possible, know where and when you will perform. That way you can plan what you need to do and when, and stay ahead of the game to avoid last minute panics.

Choose repertoire

Don't leave choosing repertoire to the last minute. You don't want to end up in a situation where you make a choice in a rush, only to realise a piece won't necessarily work for your choir as you had anticipated. The process will be easier and quicker if you do it early, so you can choose pieces in a relaxed and level-headed way and have time to become familiar with them before you teach them to your choir. If you are ordering scores, make sure it is done well in advance just incase something is unavailable or out of print and you need to re-think your options.

Have a dedicated choir work space

Not everyone is fortunate to have a separate office at home where you can shut the rest of the world out to concentrate on your choir. If you do, that's great, but if not, try to arrange yourself a space and time within your home where you can get some peace and quiet to focus. Perhaps you can compromise - you get some time to work and in return you then do an activity with the family. Using a project planning programme such as Asana can really help to make sure you know what needs doing and when. This enables you to divide your workload into manageable sections rather than being overwhelmed, thinking you need to achieve everything all at once when you get a moment to work.

Keep your musical spark alive

To lead your choir effectively, you need to motivate and inspire your singers. However busy life gets, try to take time for your musical passion. Listen to music you love when you can, whether that's in the car, while exercising or even when you're doing chores around the house. If you feel inspired, you will inspire others. The most important thing is that your choir gets to experience the best of your choir-leading, the best of your spirit and none of your stress!

Boost your skills

Working as a choir leader can sometimes feel a little lonely and isolating. Take advantage of everything on offer at Total Choir Resources. We designed this website to be a mine of help and support for choir leaders. You'll find new articles, podcasts and resources every week. Even better, tell us what we can do to help you. Continual learning can really boost your self-esteem and your ability to stay motivated and organised.
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1 comment

Victoria Hopkins

Hi Lynn. Christine and I run secular choirs, so I'm afraid we're not the people to ask about church-related things. From what you describe, it sounds as though there's a big clash of expectations between you, your organist, the choir and the congregation. If I were you, I would encourage as much communication as possible to find out what's troubling people and to work out ways, in friendship and compromise, to improve things for everyone in the community. Perhaps someone else reading this article may be able to offer some help particularly from a church choir point of view.
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