We all get a bit nervous at times. Standing up in front of a group and giving instructions can be particularly nerve-wracking, even when we’re doing something as enjoyable as making music. If you struggle with confidence in rehearsals, try these top tips to get your head in the game.
Know your stuff
Preparation is a big confidence booster. Having a clear rehearsal plan and doing your homework will help you to lead your choir in a professional and organised way. Of course, we all have to be reactive in rehearsals. Things don’t go exactly as we plan; questions arise and issues take longer to resolve than we expect. But having a baseline plan and knowing the music thoroughly gives a rehearsal structure and pace, and frees us to be fully engaged with our choir.
Stay on track
Inevitably in rehearsals, questions arise from choir members who are struggling with a particular issue or who don’t understand something. You may also have found that it’s the same hands being raised over and over again. This can be really stressful for a choir leader – you want to do your best for all your choir members, but persistent questions or comments from a particular individual can derail your rehearsal plan and annoy the rest of the choir.
How we deal with interruptions is a marker of our confidence as choir leaders. Personally, I will listen to and deal with a query in rehearsal as long as the issue is a general one (ie, not exclusive to a particular singer) that doesn’t depart too much from my rehearsal plan.
If someone asks a question that I think would interfere with the flow of the rehearsal, I make a note and either address it later in the rehearsal or ask the singer to talk to me afterwards. Become practised in politely and amiably declining a request can really boost your confidence because you don’t feel that you have to buffeted around by people’s questions and worries.
I’m a huge proponant of the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ school of leadership. There are two reasons for this. The first is that adopting a confident posture and demeanour will actually make you feel more confident. The second is that your confident demeanour will be mirrored back to you by the choir. If you stand tall and have a bright, engaged expression, it’s more likely that your singers will too.
At any point in your rehearsals, you can take a moment to breathe, correct your posture and smile. It only takes a second and your confidence will soar.
Know when to move on
As a recovering perfectionist, I know only too well that niggling away at a task until it is ‘perfect’ (which, of course, it never is) is a sure sign of lack of confidence. It comes from a fear of being judged and of not being good enough.
We have to find the resolve to work on a piece or section of music and improve it, and then have the guts to leave it when time is running out, or when it is obvious that there is no more improvement to be made on that occasion. This comes back to having a sound rehearsal plan and sticking to it. If it’s late in the rehearsal and your singers are tired, you’re probably going to find that further work on a particular issue or section is counter-productive. Make a note to return to it next time, then move on.
‘Fess up to mistakes
It’s incredibly stressful and confidence-sapping to feel that you have to be right all the time. Accept that you’re going to make mistakes, no matter how carefully you prepare. Handle those mistakes with humour and humility and you’ll feel the benefit. If you can acknowledge the mistake, laugh and move on, you’ll feel so much more confident than if you live in terror of being ‘found out’ as the imperfect creature you are.