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!

Comments on 5 life skills every choir leader needs

  1. Avatar MrScience says:

    Thank you for the tips. It has really helped me.
    How can I join the group chat?

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Glad the blog was useful. Not sure what you mean by ‘group chat’.

  2. Avatar Doluwamu Kehinde says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s helpful. God bless you.

    Kenny from Nigeria

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Kenny, glad you found the tips helpful.

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    I’m indeed grateful for these useful information shared. How do I improve more on myself as a music director?

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for your message Chris, pleased the article was useful. You’ll find lots more information on a variety of topics relating to choir leading on our blog and podcasts.

      You can also check out our membership Community Choir Professionals which offers training and support for choir leaders.

  4. Avatar VIC says:

    Thanks Victoria for all these helpful posts and comments

    1. Avatar VIC says:

      Hello Victoria! I am an instrumentalist and I was made the choir leader in my local church recently with little knowledge about music. Please I need helpful information. Thanks

      1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

        Congratulations on becoming a choir leader. You’ll find lots of useful information on this site. You can use the search functions on the blog and podcast pages to find articles and episodes to help you in your new role. Best of luck.

  5. Avatar Orison says:

    Hello Christine,
    Thanks for your prompt response. Please have you got in sales the materials for vocal training or do you offer group training?

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Orison,

      You will find lots of help for running your new choir on our blog and our podcasts which are all free on Total Choir Resources. We cover topics from leading the choir to warm-ups which help develop your singers, planning performances and much much more.

      We do have more in-depth training courses which are available inside of our membership Community Choir Professionals.

  6. Avatar Lee says:

    God bless you Victoria Hopkins & the total choir resources team.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Lee, we’re so pleased you enjoy Total Choir Resources.

  7. Avatar Orison says:

    Hello Christine, thanks for making time to share your experience, I believe this will impact the lives of choir leaders positively.
    I’ve recently been appointed as the choir leader of a church. Just want to know if training classes for vocal lessons including singing techniques programmes. Thanks Orison

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Orison,

      I’m pleased to hear the article resonated with you. Congratulations on being appointed as choir leader at your church. In terms of vocal lessons and singing techniques I tend to include this in choir rehearsals with warm-ups. We will often focus on exercises that will help singers improve techniques in our current repertoire. For example, if a piece has a descending note pattern where pitch may be an issue, we do an exercise working on pitch to help singers feel they have the tools they need to enjoy their singing and do a great job. If you want to take this further you can also offer vocal teaching sessions or run workshops focusing on specific elements of vocal techniques. I’ve found all this things to be beneficial to the choir. I wish you every success as you move forward with your new role.


    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Matthew. You’ll find lots of useful articles and podcasts on this website. Good luck with your choir.


    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Matthew. You’ll find lots of useful articles and podcasts on this website. Good luck with your choir.

  10. Good morning, I was just appointed as the new Choir Leader and I have never held any post like this. how can you help?? Thanks

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Dayo, and congratulations on becoming a choir leader. You’ll find lots of help in the blogposts and podcasts on this website. Best of luck.

  11. Avatar Tosin says:

    thank you christine for this tips, worth the rudiment to becoming a leader indeed. however, i am a newly elected leader of a church choir, and i love music and sing but could not play instrument, does that matter to my being effective?

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Tosin, thanks for your message and congratulations on becoming a choir leader for your church. In my opinion not playing an instrument doesn’t matter at all, although of course I’m not familiar with your specific choir. It sounds like you are a very musical person and this will stand you in great stead going forward. Also a passion for what you do is so important when leading a choir. You can always work with musicians to play for the choir, that doesn’t have to be you. Good luck with your new role.

  12. Avatar Travis Reynolds says:

    I’m trying to start a church choir for a Christmas program, but I am the piano player also. Being someone who isn’t a traditional church pianist and doesn’t read music (I only play by ear) I think it is doable. I deffinatly have my own style of playing…but people like it. Just looking for some advice. God bless and thanks.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Travis, sounds like an exciting new project. Good luck, I’m sure the choir will enjoy your playing style and you’ll do a great Christmas programme. You can check out our blog and podcasts for loads more tips and tools to help you out.

  13. Avatar Oluwaseun says:

    Hi,These points really met my needs this present time,because of my current challenge with my church choir. Thanks

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Oluwaseun, thanks for your message, I’m really pleased to hear the article was just what you needed right now. All the best with your choir.

  14. Avatar Hosanna says:

    Waoo. Thanks ma’am for this lesson. I was wondering how to start playing my role as a new choir leader in my Church. I feel released. Thanks alot

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Hosanna, good luck with your new choir leader role.

  15. Avatar Amos Gangmei says:

    Good I like it very much

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Amos

  16. Avatar Kingsley says:

    Thank you very much for this piece of advice. I’ve just been made the choir leader in my church and I’m glad I found this helpful article. God bless you

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for your message Kingsley and congratulations on your new choir leader role at your church. Sounds like the article was perfectly timed for you. Good luck with all your future choir activities.

  17. Avatar Loveday Benedict says:

    wow thanks Ma’am. I’ve always wanted to be a very good choir director, had to ask google how and I ran into this amazing steps, I’m lacking in some. This piece is quiet helpful, thanks for sharing Ma’am. God bless you.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Loveday, thanks for your message, really pleased you found the article helpful. You can find lots more tips and ideas for developing your choir director skills on Total Choir Resources.

  18. Avatar Karen says:

    Thank you for your ongoing motivation, encouragement, and wisdom.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Karen, thanks for your lovely message, it’s great to hear from choir leaders like yourself. It’s encouraging and motivating for us!

  19. Avatar Naitri David says:

    Wow… Am so happy for what I saw, thanks so much ma, God continue to increase your knowledge and understanding. I will be a better leader.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Thanks David.

  20. Avatar Henry says:

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

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

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

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

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Harrie.

  22. Avatar Shelagh M. Rogers says:

    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.:-)

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

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

  23. Avatar Paschestar says:

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

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Paschestar.

    2. Very helpful! Thank you, Victoria!

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