Friday, September 4, 2015

Tips from a choir manager

As I embark on another choir management opportunity, I felt it important to give you all my two cents on managing a choir efficiently and provide useful tips I've used in the past that have kept me organized (and sane).


You've likely seen this meme surface on social media and I can tell you it certainly applies to the world of choir management.

A choir manager can range from having complete responsibility to partial duties where tasks are split between executive members of the choir. No matter the caliber or size of the choir, a choir management position is equivalent to a part time job, perhaps full time in some cases therefore time management skills are of the utmost importance which brings us to the first tip:

Time management:

If you're like me, you work full time and like to maintain a social life. While it seems impossible to juggle life chores while managing a choir, time management is of the essence. 

Perhaps the first important document to create is a calendar of events with specific tasks assigned to each month and the length of time it will take within that month. Treat this as your choir Bible and keep it close for not only will this document keep you organized, it will also benefit your successor. The calendar of events will change every year depending on the concert dates but at least you have a good basis.

Depending on your choir season, tasks will vary every month. When the time comes for those jam-packed months, you will definitely be expected to spend two-four evenings a week writing/responding to emails and finishing up the final touches for the current concert. Set tasks for yourself on your phone or planner to stay organized. 

Email communications:

I firmly believe all choir managers should get an honorary degree in email communications. When it comes to sending information to your singers, the best advice I can give you is:

- be clear and get to the point. If you begin sending long emails numerous times a week, it is possible your group will not read the email to its completion and miss important information.

- save all your email contacts or even creating an excel sheet with the list of all internal and external contacts affiliated with the choir. This comes in handy if you need to fill spots and/or contact volunteers.

- do not overflow singers' inboxes. If you have many announcements and/or housekeeping to mention to your singers, compile it all into one email (again, get to the point). 

- create multiple sub folders so you can find your emails easier. i.e Rosters, schedules, finance etc. 

I feel like I could write a novel on email communications so I will leave it at that for now and write a separate post on this topic. 

Librarian tasks:

I've recently started a new system where I assign score numbers to each singer for each concert. This helps with tracking scores and hunting down singers who forget to hand back their scores.
OK - maybe the term 'hunting" is too harsh but I promise you, there will be some singers who are downright bad at being a responsible chorister. Always. 

If you have a heaping pile of music that is not in an excel document or filing cabinet, all I can say is - have fun. This is a good summer project or off-season activity to get yourself better organized. This will help you find music much easier and also be able to have a quick resource if other choirs ask to borrow.

You can coordinate the logistics of your library with the Choir Director. If you are willing to store scores in your humble abode, all the power to you. I do recommend trying to see if there's space at the Choir Director's office or storage room at their place of work. 

Document EVERYTHING!

This will save your in multiple ways. Whether it be for finding contacts, an important document, or confidential email - it doesn't hurt to save everything on a USB stick or in your email sub folders. 

Social Media and forums

If you are in charge of social media, make it part of your routine to be active on your platforms. To get online attention, follow choir-related accounts on Twitter and invite friends to like your Facebook Page. The activity is generally reciprocated and really helps get your name on the choir map. 

One great tool to attract more audience members is uploading your recordings on YouTube. I know the minute I receive the repertoire, I go to YouTube and have a listen from a choir's recording. This is your opportunity to really show off the choir's talent. You superstars, you. 

Recruitment

This is a tough one which requires you to tap into your sales skills. Some things to know:

- know your market and demographic
- draft the choir's best qualities as a selling point (fun repertoire, level of singing, mainstage venues)
- keep their contact info handy for any audition announcements and recruitment
- maintain positive attitude about the choir since you are an ambassador for your group. 
- be approachable and have good screening judgement for potential members

A big rule for me is to limit your level of aggressiveness when recruiting. People have lives and don't want to be pressured into volunteering their time more than they have to. If they aren't interested, don't push them. I've noticed that singers take initiative on their own if they really want to audition for a group.

Sure, it doesn't hurt to send a mass email to your contacts, but it can make people uncomfortable when you single them out and say they NEED to audition for your choir.

Grow a backbone

You will deal with difficult personalities and aggressive comments. I will not get into detail as this would be another novel but remind yourself to stand you ground when it comes to hostile situations and remain neutral. ALWAYS remain neutral. Depending on the severity of the situation, everything is fair game until you hear all perspectives and consult the executive board for the next step. Most choirs also have a by-law policy which should be followed in these cases. 

Maintaining a positive attitude for your choir

As an administrative leader and ambassador of your choir, you have to be positive practically all the time. This keeps your choir in good spirits and also reflects how they view you as a choir manager. You want to be approachable and respected by your members.

And finally...

Don't be afraid to ask for help!

I get it. You want to have absolute control of all administrative duties since you are involved in practically every decision. 
Well here's a dose of reality for you - you can't do everything. 

So before you burn out and forget what a social life is, your executive board is there to assist you. Assigning ticket sales, posting to social media, managing finances, or even librarian duties to your board won't kill you. You may need to provide input from time to time but at least the labour work is off your shoulders. 
This will give you more time for a Netflix binge and making Nutella and ice cream concoctions! 

And so I leave you with one of my favourite movie quotes from Across the Universe. 


- Blonde in the Choir

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