17 September 2008

How Not to Give Your Choir Director a Career Headache

The Philippine Madrigal Singers
The best chorale you will ever experience; ever.

So you want to join the choir? Know what? The Bible verse which says,"…many are called, but few are chosen" certainly applies to this ministry. Through the years people have come and gone; joined but eventually left. I am thinking they have realized it is not fun nor cool at all, or maybe the ministry is not really for them. Conversely however, a handful have thought otherwise. So before you hop in, consider the following things and see if you are one most likely to enjoy and linger through the years. And yes, spare the man who sweat it out to bring the group to greater heights the heartaches and disappointments of having to make do with the listlessness and halfhearted participation of anyone looking out for all the wrong things in the choir ministry.

1. First of all, before joining the choir, do some self-appraisal. Are you genuinely interested to be a full-time chorale singer? Can you allot that particular time every week for the rehearsals? I mean, what if the regular rehearsal falls on a Saturday afternoon where many off-choir events occur simultaneously. Are you willing to let go of your regular Saturday afternoon gimmicks with friends or family, or at least shorten or reschedule it to make it to the practices regularly? Note: many parties occur on Saturdays. If you cannot answer these affirmatively, then reconsider. Don't give your choir director tough time and expect him to be patient with your tardiness and absences. Join only if you have considered these things. 'Gotta have time.

2. Can you sing really? Surprisingly, there are a many "tone-deaf" choir members. Personally, I am not closing the door to these persons, but they have to realize that they have to have a lot more dedication than the others if they desire to be a part of any chorale ever. If he has, like some, less time for the choir, then it is better for him not to join and spare the man a lot of crosses to bear. The sad fact is, singing in the choir is not for everybody. Ask a brutally frank friend if you have what it takes. Or have the director give a subjective analysis via an audition perhaps.

3. Make singing your lifestyle. Do not confine your singing in the choir room. Sing through the week. But please choose music conducive to your choral career. Also, bring home the music piece and do self-study. If you brought home some pieces, by all means be sure you study it so there will be less time to spend in learning them. Continue correcting your faulty singing habits. Review terms you encountered for the first time, e.g., Vertical Vowels, Diaphragmatic Singing, Chest Voice, Head Voice, Nonsense syllables and the like. Develop your musical vocabulary. Ask him about things you vaguely understood. You will notice that the more you dwell on these things, the clearer they are driven home.

4. Come to rehearsal ready to practice. Several people come to practice to socialize; with a mindset of "hanging out" with friends. After the opening prayer, drop any conversation and give the leader your undivided attention. The last time everyone did it, the rehearsal wrapped up quickly. And everyone was happy. Then, you socialize.

5. Be ready to submit yourself to your mentor. No student is above his teacher. Otherwise, form a group of your own and be the teacher. Every choir leader has some unique technique he has acquired. Be open to his suggestions and tips for he has surely burned enough brow to learn his craft. If you have more brilliant wisdom in your head concerning certain "choir" matters (this happens), deal with it later out of respect for his leadership. You are certainly not in there to undermine his capabilities in front of his other students. Share it with him (or correct him ,if you must) one-on-one.

6. Show him you are accumulating his singing techniques. Before attempting to sing, consider his past lectures pertaining to vocal production and techniques. Make him feel that you are truly learning his methods. Do not start the singing like you forgot all the 'singing doctrines' in his many 'homilies'. Pause for a while and as you breathe in, review those routines in the mind. Show him he is not wasting his time with you.

7. He is your coach, and you are his player. The choir is a team. He calls the shots and you synch with everybody to hit your goals together. Everyone is in a way subservient to his "whims" as he beats (your backs?) through the song. He hastens, you run, he slows down, you float with him. You dance with the music (his). Afterwards, you can slap his shoulder if you must.

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