Posted 24 years 55 days ago ago by Creator Staff 1 Comments
by Cheri Walters
The essential nature of consistently motivating people to be committed to choir
"How can I get my singers to be more committed to the choir?" This question comes up at nearly every church music seminar or choral workshop. The need for faithful, dedicated choir members is universal, yet we all struggle to find how to cultivate that faithfulness and dedication. Ask any choir director—they can list a hundred and one excuses to miss choir rehearsal. They've heard them all. Sometimes the reasons are valid, but many times they are just polite ways of saying "something better came along."
Joanne was a terrific second soprano, and one of the best soloists in the choir. She really communicated when she sang, not only with her voice but with her facial expressions. Everyone was surprised when she dropped out of the music department. "My husband thinks I'm spending too much time away from the kids," she explained. Yet a few weeks later, she was taking several hours of tennis lessons each week, with her husband's blessing. Joanne was committed, but not to choir
What motivates people to commitment? What causes them to attend rehearsal week after week, even if they've had a bad day at work and they'd rather be at home with their feet propped up, watching the news? The foundation of commitment to any kind of Christian service is a commitment to Jesus Christ himself. But there are many Christians who are halfhearted at best in their participation in the choir or other avenues of lay ministry. How can they be stirred to give themselves wholeheartedly to a ministry?.
"What you say is what you get."
Choir directors who stress proper breathing have choirs with better-than-average breath support. Music ministers who put extra emphasis on facial expression develop expressive choirs. If we want to cultivate commitment in our choir members, we must tell them (and tell them and tell them) how important it is. Just talking about something doesn't make it happen, but it plants a seed. When new members join the choir, make it clear to them that faithful attendance is important not only to the director, but to their fellow singers. Let the choir members know their commitment is a high priority.
When we tell our choir members that we're more impressed by their dependability than their talent, we've got to back it up. Few things cause more choir dissension and hard feelings than seeing those who only show up for the Christmas and Easter programs get all the choice solos.
It's important to set minimum attendance requirements for all choir members, soloists or not, and be prepared to enforce them. (A watered-down version might include a mental record only of such attendance requirements; yet some expectation must be maintained and enforced.) Some directors rehearse each new anthem six to eight weeks, requiring singers to be at no less than two-thirds of the rehearsals in order to sing the piece on Sunday. When tackling an extended work, hand out a schedule listing all regular and extra rehearsals, with attendance requirements in writing. From the onset, it can be made clear to everyone that if a singer misses too many rehearsals, they cannot sing in the performance. In order to keep track of who has been at which rehearsals, a regular roll book must be maintained. Again, this says to each choir member, "Your faithful attendance is important."
Encourage commitment to each other
All of us feel the need to belong to something, to identify with others. Cultivate a feeling of "family" among the members of the choir as a whole, and as it grows, among the members of each section.
Choir retreats, "cast" parties, and ice cream fellowships after rehearsals contribute to camaraderie among choir members. Even beyond that, there are simpler ways to encourage this group of separate individuals to bind together. When a member is ill, a family is facing surgery, or a singer is being temporarily transferred to another town, the choir can openly and directly become "prayer partners" with the individual in need. Organize meals for those choir member families who are experiencing extended illness. When a previously unemployed singer is finally facing a new job, find a unique way for the choir to appropriately celebrate the event. Many choirs are finding it absolutely mandatory to add a "care person" to their slate of choir officers, helping the organization stay in touch with those often-overlooked needs of the choir family.
As a choir grows, members lose track of new names and faces. Even in small groups, singers tend to get acquainted only with those in their own section or social group. While visiting a "megachurch" during a convention, I observed in the choir room a large poster with a photograph of each choir member, name neatly typed underneath. Shortly afterward, I began posting names and photographs of my own choir, and they loved it! It helped "introduce" them to each other and gave them a sense of belonging."
Encourage Christian commitment
It's critical that the choir be continually reminded of their priorities. All of us need to stop sometimes and reflect on why we are doing what we're doing, and for Whom. We need to ask ourselves,"Am I doing this to make Mom proud? Is this a chance to showcase my talent? Do I feel obligated to the choir director? Or, is this my ministry to the Lord and His body?"
Hopefully, our actions and attitudes as choir directors will affirm a sense of ministry in our choir members. Pressed for time, we are often "all business" at rehearsals. However, it's important to take occasional moments, apart from working on blend or learning parts, to read scriptures on music and talk about the choir's role in worship. We must be in tune with our members' lives, knowing when significant spiritual changes are taking place. It may be appropriate to invite such a member to offer a short devotional on the relevant changes in their life.
The music minister is more likely to hear words of appreciation for the choir's ministry than would individuals in the choir. When members of the congregation make comment or write notes expressing their thanks, pass them along to the choir. The encouragement can be a positive lift for everyone. The choir members also need to be reminded that their primary audience, even more important than the congregation, is God. One conductor I know encourages his choir at the close of a long rehearsal, to sing an anthem they've been rehearsing "once more, with only God as our audience." When the last note has faded and there has been a palpable sense that God has listened, he reminds them, "Even if we never sing this piece again, this time was worth all our hard work."
Both in the church and in the secular world, many leaders do not believe commitment, whether to work, family or church, can be taught to adults. Certainly it's no new observation that a person who is dependable in one area is likely to be dependable in every other area as well. But whether commitment can or cannot be taught, it can be nurtured. In an atmosphere where commitment to the Lord and His body is stressed, encouraged and rewarded, it is sure to flourish.
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