Running a sucessful choir is a little bit like cooking a lovely meal. It takes time, skill, the right ingredients and lots of love! As a choir leader, you will inevitably ask yourself ‘how do I retain singers’? This is something you have to consider both from the very start as you build up your choir and further down the line when you may find some of your long term singers departing. In the beginning, developing a choir is about finding your own way and with the right balance you will find those who love your style sticking with you. Once you have this identity the job is much harder – how do you keep everything fresh and interesting over time? When people move on from your choir it can be easy to take this personally but don’t forget many people will take up a hobby for a while and then try something new, it’s not necessarily a reflection on you. Always remain upbeat, friendly and professional if someone tells you they are leaving and thank them for their contribution to the choir. They may tell you the reason for leaving, they may not. If they do this will help you to know if there are any areas for improvement but as a general guide, these top tips should help to steer you in the right direction:
Keep rehearsals interesting and varied
When it comes to rehearsal planning, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut and repeat the same formula time and time again, particularly when it has worked well in the past. The danger is that rehearsals can then become too formatted and predictable, leaving singers uninspired. Shake things up a little by introducing new fun warm-ups and exercises which will give your choir a fresh challenge. Also try varying the format of the evening, if you usually start with announcements try launching straight into your warm-up or perhaps do a silly teambuilding exercise straight after the break to minimise chatter and get everyone’s attention. Keep things fresh and vibrant and people will be eager to come and see what’s in store for them.
Create exciting performance opportunities
When you have been running a choir for some time it can be tempting to stick with the same performances that have worked successfully in the past. However, the danger is that members will start to find this format too predictable and they may lose enthusiasm. To combat this, try introducing new ideas each year, perhaps a studio recording or a big concert with other choirs – something that will really challenge and excite your singers. There’s nothing wrong with also carrying out annual performances, particularly if they are at the heart of your community, but make sure you develop your offering each year.
Get to know your singers
I’m not suggesting you invite your choir members one by one round for afternoon tea (in fact when you’re in charge of a group, a little distance from your members is wise) but don’t be oblivious to those people who come along each week and participate in your choir. Get to know their names and take time to chat with them during rehearsals either in the break or before or after singing. Things like this can make a real difference to people and how much they feel part of a group. From my point of view, I love knowing a little about my members and interacting with them and I think it helps create a sense of belonging both for them and me.
Make your workload achieveable
If you are running a choir, particularly a community choir, getting the right balance of workload and performance dates is essential. If you overload your members with songs and performance dates which are very close together, you may overwhelm them. With good planning, this will not be an issue for you at all. Think carefully about new and existing repertoire and how long the rehearsal process will take. Don’t be unrealistic in your expectations – people are there for enjoyment and not a hard slog.
Be someone people want to come and see
Perhaps the most important way to retain singers is by being someone members want to come and see each week for rehearsals. They probably joined in the first place because they liked your enthusiasm or style or the way you teach songs. Don’t ever forget these fundamental things about yourself and always strive to be the best you can. This can be really tricky if you’ve had a bad day and aren’t feeling enthused but it’s vital to the success of your choir that you leave any woes at the door and be inspirational during your rehearsals. The wonderful thing about working in music is that with a well-planned session and lots of great songs to sing, you’ll probably come out feeling on top of the world!