5 life skills every choir leader needs

When you work as a choir leader, you quickly realise that musical aptitude is only a part of the skill set you need to do a good job.  Here are five skills that you’ll need to lead your choir successfully and keep your life in balance.

The Organiser

Running a choir effectively takes good organisational skills. There’s score preparation, rehearsal plans, venue bookings, performances and membership management for starters. All these elements take planning and administration to work well, which in turn keeps members happy and returning to the choir.  The behind-the-scenes part of running a choir is far more time-consuming than actually turning up to rehearsals.

If the above sounds like an exciting challenge which will keep you busy, running your own choir business might just be up your street.  If it sounds like an organisational nightmare, you might be better suited to leading a choir which is organised by others.  If the admin appeals more than the leading, perhaps you should look to team up with someone who has complementary skills. Although the list of administration tasks seems long, help is at hand at Total Choir Resourses, which is all about supporting you in your choir leading work.

The Diplomat

If there’s one skill you will need as a choir leader it’s diplomacy. Dealing with a group of people will inevitably involve coming across many different characters and preferences. I learnt long ago that it’s impossible to please all of them all of the time. When problems do arise it’s essential to remain calm and deal with things in a fair and diplomatic way. A ranting and raving choir leader achieves nothing but alienating their singers.

Diplomacy is not just needed to deal with complaints, it is also essential to have a good manner when dealing with general queries, either during the rehearsal or when members approach you elsewhere. Always give valid reasons for your answers which acknowledge the query and offer a solution, or explain why something is not possible. However trivial an issue might seem, never forget that it’s important to that person.

The Timekeeper

I guess there aren’t many jobs where good timekeeping isn’t a necessary skill. It’s definitely an important one for choir leaders. It’s essential that you are set up and ready for your rehersal before your choir starts arriving. As hard as it can be with people coming in late, we’ve found that it’s important that rehearsals start on time. If you let the start time drift, people will get used to that and start coming in even later. If you start on time, those coming in late will probably feel a bit awkward and make a note not to do so next time.

Of course, sometimes lateness is unavoidable as members with jobs and families have busy lives and may struggle to fit in choir at all, but as a rule starting on time good for the whole choir. Similarly you will need to make rehearsal plans so that you can achieve everything you need to do within the time available and not keep members late or leave them unsatisfied that they’ve not covered everything they need to.

The Disciplined Worker

Running a project or small business requires a huge amount of self-discipline, especially if you’re used to working in roles where your tasks and timetable are dictated by others. From experience, I’d say the first few weeks are the hardest when working from home. It is so easy to get distracted by the knowledge that you can do as you like, especially with all the little jobs that need doing around the house.

On the other hand, it can be very hard to leave work for the day and switch off from it. My advice is to look at all the tasks you need to achieve, break them down into manageable segments for each day and make sure you stick to a daily plan. Be realistic when setting these tasks and allow yourself breaks for a cuppa or lunch. Perhaps you could go for a short walk to clear your mind,especially if you are at the computer all day. Working alone can feel quite isolating so getting out of the house and being amongst others can really help, such as working in a coffee shop. I have found that I’m much happier and more effective at work when I balance work and family life well.

The Enthusiast

This is one of the most important skills for a choir leader to have. A motivated choir leader creates exciting opportunities, makes rehearsals enjoyable always strives to improve. All these attributes will be reflected back to you from your choir, who are much more likely to stay for the long haul and recommend the choir to their friends. If you are working alone it can be hard to motivate yourself. To maintain your drive and creativity, it’s great to make contacts and meet other choir leaders. The Total Choir Resources Facebook MAstermind Group offers the perfect place to do this and get chatting to us and other choir leaders about your experiences and questions.

Until next time, have an organised, diplomatic, punctual, disciplined and enthusiastic week!

Victoria Hopkins

Victoria is a founder and director of Total Choir Resources. She leads Total Voice Chamber Choir in the UK.

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Paschestar - a few months ago Reply

This is very helpful! Thanks to Vicky and her colleague.

Shelagh M. Rogers - a few months ago Reply

Thanks – I fall down badly on a couple of these and need to be reminded, and to work at them. Meanwhile, I’m off to have an organised, diplomatic, disciplined, punctual (well no, I don’t think I ever arrived at a campsite on time in the last seventy years), enthusiastic holiday. The dog, the keyboard, the music, the canoe and me.:-)

    Christine Mulgrew - a few months ago Reply

    Have a fab hoiday Shelagh, hope you get some nice camping weather.

Harrie Spronken - a few months ago Reply

There`s a lot of wisdom in your skills. Allthough you are still very young. Thank you very much.

Henry - a few months ago Reply

Hi Christine, very insightful advice. How could I get in touch with you?

    Victoria Hopkins - a few months ago Reply

    Henry, there’s a contact page on the website, or you can find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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