How to integrate new singers into your choir

Recruiting new singers into an established choir is a balancing act. You want to make the choir accessible to newbies, but you don’t want to bore the old hands. You also have many other considerations about what you rehearse and when. Here are few tips to help you deal with integrating new choir members.

Recruit deliberately

You don’t need to wait for people to ask to join the choir. Open rehearsals or ‘come and sing’ events are a great way to attract new blood. When you hold this kind of event, it can be designed with prospective members in mind. You can spend more time than usual on ice-breakers and warm-ups, then move onto easy songs that give quick results.

Be careful when you let new people in

If you welcome new members outside a planned event, be cautious about where you are in the choir’s season. It might be best to avoid having new people join just before a performance; they may feel overwhelmed and worried that they can’t meet the choir’s standard. Conversely, although a new member will feel right at home if everyone’s learning something new, they might not get the best impression of the choir because rehearsals of new repertoire can feel a bit plodding at times (although there are techniques you can use to combat that).

Stick to your plan

If you have a plan for your choir’s season of rehearsals (and I hope you do!), don’t let yourself be derailed by the presence of new singers. Of course, you want to be welcoming and friendly, and you want that new person to feel at home as quickly as possible, but you can’t start re-learning repertoire for the benefit of one person. This is the time to encourage your new singer to take advantage of any additional resources you provide to your choir, such as rehearsal tracks. You could even simply recommend that they listen to the repertoire on YouTube. It all helps.

Be up-front about possible challenges

If someone joins the choir at a less than optimum time, such as close to a performance, be candid about potential problems. You could suggest that they join in the rehearsals, but skip the performance, for example. Make it clear that your new recruit is welcome and wanted in the choir, but that they might encounter a few bumps along the way before they feel like they’re truly part of the team. Forewarned is forearmed.

Finally, I’d just like to give you this reminder (and I know it’s one of my soapboxes): you can’t please everyone. Your choir has an ethos and a style that won’t be to everyone’s taste. You will probably, occasionally, have new recruits who simply aren’t a good fit for the choir, and vice versa. Let those people go, with your thanks and good wishes. Don’t take it personally – as long as most people in your choir are happy and enthusiastic, you must be doing something right.

Comments on How to integrate new singers into your choir

  1. Avatar Ellie says:

    Great blog. I Chair a traditional choral society. We started a big recruitment drive 2 1/2 years ago where we encouraged everyone to join. Lots of people tried us out, however, many had not really sung before and it terrified them. We literally had people turning green and slinking out mid-rehearsal! Those who stayed left after a term and did not come back. Last year we modified our advertising to state that music reading ability advantageous. We are still recruiting and growing but expectations are now much better managed on both sides and our retention has improved considerably.
    FTR we still have the odd non-singers each term who really embrace the challenges of singing full choral works and they are amazing additions to our choir.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Ellie. It sounds like you’ve hit on the right formula. One of the most important things I’ve learned about marketing over the years is to be clear about who your product/service/offering is NOT for.

  2. Avatar Juanita says:

    Thanks Victoria. Much appreciated great advice!

  3. Avatar Ann Clewlow says:

    Thank you Christine for a great article. Did you see the discussion about this on Facebook?

    We do all of these things with no different result. We had a come and sing day. About fifteen came and long term we kept two. We did ice breakers and all wore name badges. We did rounds, unison songs, easy, well known two and three part songs (e.g. My Favourite things, the Happy Wanderer), all of which they were able to sing well and make a lovely sound by the end of the evening. All my members integrated with them to make sure they felt welcome. Some kept coming for a few weeks and then dropped off, but a year later, two are still coming, and doing solos, too. I’ve learnt that some have joined other choirs – that’s great, there is a choir style for everyone. Some said they just found it too difficult, so it’s a good job they found out now because it was only going to get harder.

    I agree it’s a minefield about when to encourage people to join. The ideal time is often not convenient for them due to life chucking things at them at the last moment, so they come a couple of weeks later – and a couple of weeks nearer to a performance when the choir has done a lot of the hard work on new songs.

    I give new people a “buddy” to show them the ropes and introduce them to people. They are encouraged to go into the kitchen for refreshments, where all the gossip happens round a large table and a biscuit tin!

    So yes, we will have another come and sing day – it’s fun to do something completely different with the existing members anyway – but we will continue to welcome prospective members as and when we get the enquiries. The success rate is probably better from the latter. My first question to them is always, “What sort of choir are you looking for?” If we are the right choir for them they will stay, no matter when they start. I have turned many a prospective new member away or pointed them to another choir if because, by talking to them, I know we do not sing the sort of repertoire they want to sing – “I just love singing pop/rock songs!”

    Your last paragraph says it all. We are not the choir for everyone, and they may not the right member for us. We have to learn to get over it. Take a breath and carry on!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Ann,

      Sounds like your come and sing days have proved ideal for you to attract potential new members. I like your buddy idea as I think it can be daunting for new people to start in a choir.

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