If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly! That’s one of my all-time favourite sayings. It speaks to the importance of having a go, trying new things and being prepared to fail spectacularly. I truly believe that you cannot hope for success in any part of your life if you’re not prepared to risk failure. I also believe that it’s that willingness to jump in both feet first, fully aware that things might not work out as we hope, that allows us to enjoy real fulfilment in our work as choir leaders. We have to commit to what we’re doing wholeheartedly.
But, of course, risking failure is not the same thing as inviting it. There are all sorts of things we can do to improve ourselves as choir leaders and each little improvement contributes to helping our choirs get the most out of their singing. So what’s this secret weapon I’m talking about? CONFIDENCE. Confidence borne of commitment, hard work, knowledge, understanding and skill.
Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be in the minority of people in this world who can stand up in front of a group of people and direct them effortlessly in ways that allow them to flourish. Those people are few and far between. Most of us muddle through, two steps forward and one step back, questioning ourselves constantly and spending a lot of time worrying that we’ll be ‘found out’ any minute as the imposters we are.
I’ve seen many choir leaders at work over the years, some brilliant, some not. And knowing what I know now, I realise that it would not take very much to help those who were struggling. It’s easy to see who those people are: the big, jerky conducting gestures that lack clarity and expression; the attempts to shout over a group of people who are distracted and unengaged; the exasperation in their voices as they try to regain control and give instructions in meaningful and effective ways.
I want to help them because I was that choir leader when I started out and things are so different now. I know how to express myself in rehearsals so that I help my singers to work hard and get the results that give them fulfilment and enjoyment. I know how to lead them in performance with confidence, so that both they and the audience have a great time. I’m not suggesting that this is my experience 100% of the time. Like everyone else, I have off days. But when those happen, I know that they’re temporary! I can go back to the knowledge and understanding I’ve gained through training and know that I can get things back on track.