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Things you might do/say if you were Starting Over With Your Choir

Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997 22:07:53 -0400
From: "Marlon G. Hurst"
Subject: Beginning Anew: Compilation Repost

Dear Choralisters:

My apologies to the list for the mess that was "Beginning Anew:
Compilation." I tried a test by sending it to myself & it came out
fine. But somewhere in the automated process, it really got jumbled
(statement of the obvious). So to the several that requested a posting,
I'm re-sending it in what is HOPEFULLY a more readable format. Again, I
apologize for the first post & hope that this re-post is beneficial.

1. Make it quite clear to all singers that punctuality is essential.
people think that 6pm in fact means 6:10pm, 6:10pm becomes 6:15pm, and
you're already on the slippery slope. It's not just a case of wasted
time, it sets the wrong atmosphere.
2. Ditto reliability. There are bound to be occasions when singers
come to a rehearsal for whatever reason, but they should see it as a
commitment, and realise that poor excuses will not be tolerated. Again,
firm stance is essential here.
3. On a musical note, I think that getting used to attending to detail
cures a multitude of ills. If singers are used to the idea that final
consonants should come together, they will, after a while, be in the
of watching the conductor for such things, or will sort them out within
their sections and not need to be reminded to do so. When things like
this become second nature, rehearsal time can be used for the lees
thing in music.
4. Ditto singing on the beat. This improves singers' confidence and
of responsibility, and prevents people from relying on a core of leaders

(so often a problem in larger choirs). It also improves the way people
breathe in, since they always know exactly when they are to start. As
1, once people get used to singing just behind the beat, and the
conductor accepts this, then you're already on the slippery slope.
long, you won't be able to do anything up-tempo, without it sounding
5. Encourage singers to think for themselves, rather than be the
conductor's robots. If you explain to singers *why* you want something
phrased in a certain way, they will over time be able to spot similar
situations and respond similarly to them without being explicitly told,
thus freeing rehearsal time.

Chris Johns, K10, Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL Tel: (01223)
24 Oaklands Ave, Littleover, Derby DE23 7QG Tel: (01332)

1. insist on a preparatory class of music theory and sightreading.
2. have started multi-cultural music long ago - my students love it.
3. have taken a course on mob psychology (not kidding)
4. have taken an accounting course
5. have spent several hours in front of a video recorder, correcting my
conducting technique

Andi Hofmeister, Mt.
Pleasant, MI
1) Audition each singer, even though we do not require precise readers.
think this gives a feel of seriousness to even a small community choir
as ours.

2) I would (am going to) set up an entry interview, so to make clear the

guidelines about attendance, etc.

- Marti Wing
Redondo Beach, CA
My daughter sang for commencement at a Christian HS where the
closed with 4 keys for success. As I listened to them, I thought back
the year with my school choir and what had held us back from reaching
potential. I thought these keys held the secret, so I'm using them with
community choir camp I'm directing this week.

1. Follow directions exactly, even if you think you have a better idea.
2. Have a good attitude.
3. Work hard.
4. Go the second mile.

Laura Swartzendruber
Associate Minister of Music
First Presbyterian Church
Kokomoo, IN
Stick to your beliefs about choirs and their function to the
service and the church.

This year there were many deaths that touched the lives of my
singers. One wonderful man, who is hard of hearing, is there week
and week out, lost his wife this year. At our end-of-the-year
of the choir he told my wife how much the choir had kept him busy,
that he felt needed by all those around him, that it helped him
through those early days of loss. This is so common. We as church

musicians must not lose sight of our ministerial responsibilities
dealing with our choir members.

Kim Bishop
Director of Choirs
St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church
Bloomfield Hills, MI
email: kim_bishop(a)
I have my choir members keep a journal of everything relative to the
along with their personal experiences with music. Many of my students
musical goals at the beginning of the year, or beginning of semester.
can include singing in a small group, singing a solo, extending their
range and becoming better readers. I make sure that they state their
goals in
measurable terms. This really helps them see how much they have grwon

Anna Montarro Mase
NEw Canaan Public Schools
New Canaan, CT
I have a small synagogue choir that I have built from 8 to 20 members,
over the last 2 years.
If I had it to do over, I would spend more time on vocal quality/blend
issues, and implement a steady sight-reading program, and concentrate
on frequent performances.
I'm afraid that's not exactly imaginative, but these are the things I
the most in my group. Then again, it's never too late to work on these

Caitlin S. McLaughlin
I've been thinking about how to begin anew with a couple of choirs that
One idea is to have occasional spot checks with all singers
I think this not only keeps them on their toes, but allows you to get
know them better and help them overcome any weaknesses. I would plan to

do this every 6 weeks or so, during lunch - - a required "quiz" type
activity of the choir.

I might also try having section leaders even in the younger choirs - -
singers who are strong and can "take care" of their section, calling
sectional rehearsals when they think they are needed. These sectional
rehearsals will be with me, but the secttion leader will decide when
are necessary.

Carol Schoch
Performing Arts Department
Escola Graduada
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Marlon Hurst, Director of Music Phone: (770) 929-0700
Conyers Presbyterian Church mailto:mjhurst(a)
911 North Main Street
Conyers, Georgia 30207

Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997 17:00:39 -0400
From: "Marlon G. Hurst"
Subject: Beginning Anew: Compilation (II)

Here's the rest of the compilation. I overlooked them initially!

THANKS! for all the responses. Lots of really good ideas.


In the Fall, I will "begin anew" as I have been on a one year leave
of absence after 16 years of, I WILL use mirrors (hand
Held) in the Concert CHoir (high school) class to insist on proper
facial mechanism and I WILL hold all students accountable for their
voice parts by having them Cassette tape their parts for me to hear
(a cappella) at the end of the each marking period. The rest of the
"stuff" I had done in the past will simply continue...
Would love to read the compilation...

Barbara in NJ


I would make sure the rehearsals are fun. People are much more open to
learning when they are being uplifted than when they are being

I would remember that the choir is a reflection of me, my conducting
skills and my attitude, and if they are singing or doing things in a way

that I don't like, I would look at myself to see what I'm doing, instead

of berating them for what they are doing.

I would remember that music is communication, and if it isn't
communicating good things to the choir and to the audience, it isn't

I would figure out how to keep all correction positive; no negatives!

I would know my music better before I try to teach it to my choir.

I actually do get a chance to start anew with my choirs this year,
I teach at a middle school and have been on sabbatical for the year, so
none of the kids will know me when I get back. I hope to incorporate
the things above, and look forward to receiving your list for other

Barbara Lee - Reno

Marlon Hurst, Director of Music Phone: (770) 929-0700
Conyers Presbyterian Church mailto:mjhurst(a)
911 North Main Street
Conyers, Georgia 30207