Being a choir leader is fun, rewarding, challenging and fulfilling, but it’s also a job. And like any person with a job, I sometimes really need a break.
We’ve had a very busy year with our choirs so far, and we’ve also had some unforeseen challenges. There have been some really nasty bugs going around this winter, and they’ve hit Christine and me at different times (not to mention many of our choir members). We’ve had an exciting performance opportunity, but it has meant extra rehearsals at weekends.
So all in all, much as I love my choir, I’m getting pretty desperate for a break now, but I don’t have any holiday planned until late June. How can I continue to give my best as a choir leader when I feel like this? Here’s my take on the problem.
One of the things that I notice when I’m getting a bit run-down and jaded is that I start to make mistakes, not usually great big ones, but little oversights and slip-ups. To avoid that, I rely on my preparation process for rehearsals and performances. If I stick to the system, I know I have things covered and I can take the best advantage I can of whatever time off I can muster. If you’re worrying all the time that things are getting missed or not getting done in time, you can’t enjoy your leisure time and re-charge your batteries when the opportunity arises.
If I have a reliable rehearsal plan in front of me, then even if I’m feeling a bit tired and scatty, I’ve got the information I need to run an effective rehearsal.
Empathy is central to how we run our choirs and how we operate as choir leaders. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our choir members and focus on what they want from the experience of being in our choirs.
When I’m approaching rehearsals feeling tired, and maybe a little hard-done-by, I try to remind myself of what my singers are experiencing. If I allow those feelings to affect the way I run my rehearsal, perhaps by being a bit short with the choir or by not really listening to what’s going on, I’m doing them a huge disservice. It’s not their fault that I’m tired and desperate for a holiday. They deserve my full attention and my best efforts.
And, let’s face it, choir rehearsals are usually only a couple of hours long. Even if I’m very out of sorts, I can slap on a smile and give it my best for that long!
Most of us who run choirs do so on our own. No one’s going to congratulate us for doing a good job or make us employee of the month. Of course, it’s rewarding to see the choir enjoying themselves and to give a good, well-received performance, but consider giving yourself little rewards here and there just for showing up and doing okay, especially when you’re not in the mood. For me, those rewards also remind me to take some time for myself every now and then. I might decide that once I’ve got my rehearsal plan done for this week, I’ll give myself an hour in the garden with a good book, guilt free! Little, enjoyable things that remind you to pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you’re doing a good job.