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Attendance: When an indispensable singer misses a Dress rehearsal


Subj: Absence Policies Compilation
Date: 12/14/2003 6:58:08 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: RUTHEMAL
To: choralist-l(a)listserv.indiana.edu


BELOW ARE SOME OF THE RESPONSES I RECEIVED TO THE FOLLOWING LETTER. There
were many, so you will receive them in several instalments.

Ruth Maletz
Bethlehem, PA, USA
ruthemal(a)aol.com


At 11:29 PM 12/8/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Choralist,
>
>A conductor friend has a concert coming up and is faced with a dilemma, so
>I'm writing to ask your advice in this matter.
>
>The attendance policy of the community choir he conducts clearly states
>that members must attend the dress rehearsal (and the rehearsal prior to
>the dress rehearsal) to sing the concert. The schedule has been out since
>the beginning of the fall. The other day, one week prior to the concert,
>the best soprano in the group called to say that she couldn't be there
>until the last hour (of a 4 hour rehearsal) because she couldn't get out
>of work. She teaches in a university and it's the last day of classes.
>(The dress reh is in the daytime)
>
>This woman is a professional musician, though she's not paid to sing in
>the group---she is a team player and a tremendous asset. Without her the
>concert will suffer greatly. She's worried about her job and is no
>position to lose it or put herself in jeopardy.
>
>How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without causing
>a major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too
>bent out of shape, because this woman will likely be allowed to sing the
>concert --- it's too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent
>people from expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending
>that will likely happen for this woman, for this concert?
>
>Sincerely,
>Ruth Maletz
>Bethlehem, PA
>Ruthemal(a)aol.com


Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 5:16:33 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: dfb(a)mv.mv.com (Donald Burrill)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Remember what a policy IS. (Most people haven't the foggiest - they're
even more confused about "policy" than they are about "priority".)

A policy is what you do when everything is working the way you hope it
will. In a sense, it's rather like a zoning ordinance: when one comes
up against circumstances in which the blind rote mechanical application
of some form of "policy" is clearly dysfunctional, one asks for a
variance. One may not always get it, but one does ask for it; and
there is always someone invested with enough authority to award, or to
deny, the variance. This is true of all policies. In the case you
describe, it is clearly the intelligent thing to do to allow a variance
from the stated policy. That's all it is: a variance. It may be
allowed "without prejudice", meaning that it won't be treated as a
precedent in the unfortunate legal sense of something that has always to
be done because it was done once, or it may be acknowledged to set a
precedent (perhaps in a way that calls for restructuring the policy to
be, or to appear, less rigid than now appears to be the case).

>From a perspective only slightly different, the purpose of a policy is
to provide guidance to action when one doesn't want to be bothered to
go back to first principles in order to figure out what action to take;
rather like a rule of thumb, or a convention (a useful word,
"convention": related to "convenience", which is what a convention is
for, usually). Useful for the lazy, or those who are less capable than
most of rational thought. (Thus speaks ye resident curmudgeon...)

Luck! -- DFB.



Subj: Attendance Question
Date: 12/9/03 5:11:19 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Stultz1(a)marshall.edu (Kenny Stultz)
To: Ruthemal(a)aol.com



Hello,

Thought I'd give my input to your question.

It sounds to me like this woman is bending over backwards to fulfill
both her duties to her job as well as to the ensemble.

If she was unable to attend the dress rehearsal completely, people might
have room to complain. But she is making the effort to do both things.
I would allow her to sing, and I would make it clear to the ensemble
what was going on.

As far as preventing rule bending by others, there is no good way to do
so. If people do not have the desire to be responsible, they will bend
the rules until they break. It is probably because of abuses in the
past that your friend had to put such rules into effect in the first place.

Don't worry about offending the rule benders - they probably tend to get
bent out of shape anyway.

Kenny Stultz
Vinson Middle School
Stultz1(a)marshall.edu




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 4:23:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: sing(a)treblebynature.org (Sharon Pitchford)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Ruth,

This is a sticky wicket. I'm of the school that the rules are made for
a reason, and it's pretty important to adhere to them. The director
needs to think about the spirit of the rule and whether this absence is
just the kind of thing he/she is trying to avoid by having the rule.
If so - it shouldn't be broken. If, however, this situation seems to
stand alone, then an exception could be made.

It sounds like she must have known this earlier than she announced,
which doesn't help her case. If the director and choir had had time to
get used to her not being there, it might not seem so panicky. It's
unfair to the other singers since some of them probably lean on this
lady - but they may be perfectly capable and it would be a good moral
booster. I don't understand why she didn't realize the conflict
earlier.

I'm also of the school that everyone is expendable. Choir is a team
sport. No one person should carry the section or the group. It seems
like we choir directors spend a lot of time pampering our "great"
singers, and I wonder how the other singers feel about that. Sure, you
don't want slackers, but you also don't want prima donas. Yes? I
don't know.

I can't think of a way to break the rule without risking the self
esteem of the choir. Maybe the singers should have a private vote. If
they don't feel they can do it without her, maybe they would feel just
fine making the exception. However, it isn't like a family emergency
or something that couldn't have been avoided.

Like I said, sticky wicket.

Good luck!

Sharon Pitchford
sing(a)treblebynature.org





Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 4:13:48 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: joshandnancy(a)juno.com (Josh L Peterson)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Rules were made to be broken, and pardon me for using a Biblical example,
but even God allowed the Israelites to worship when they were
ceremonially unclean because the book of the law had been suddenly
discovered and people didn't know what to do.
Make an exception, but also make it clear to everyone that this is
abnormal and only exceptional cases will be excused. Remember, the
spirit of the law is more important than the letter. I obey the traffic
laws, but if I have to rush my kid to the ER to save his life, I'm going
to speed, regardless of the ticket amount.

Good luck,
Josh





Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:48:35 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: abrown(a)srvumc.org (Andrew Brown)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



no rehearse, no sing. thank her for being a part of your excellent
organization and remind her that the high standards of upholding your
policies are an integral part of your organizations success. i wouldn't
risk the long term loss of commitment from your other singers. use the
opportunity to state your case to the choir. let them know how serious you
are by asking the sopranos for a bumped up level of excellence to compensate
for her absence. be kind to her and speak glowingly of her commitment to
the group and how her professionalism wouldn't allow her to sing a concert
when she couldn't be present at the dress. do this and your other singers
will have an excellent model of professional protocol; something to often
missing in the choral world. by the way, this scenario wouldn't be
tolorated in the instrumental world.

peace and good luck!

andrew




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:41:02 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: FredW27
To: RUTHEMAL



In a message dated 12/9/03 11:24:34 AM, RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM writes:

the rule-bending that will likely happen for this woman, for this concert? >>

If there is a membership board of directors, let them meet and establish a
policy of individual discretion on absenses from dress rehearsal. Perhaps it
could hinge on the attendance record of the individual for that concert segment.
If her attendance record was flawless for that rehearsal period, perhaps an
exception could be made on those grounds. Whatever the grounds, the membership
leadership should make the exception - take the music director off the hook.
Also, consider extenuating circumstances. If dress rehearsal gets weathered out,
you certainly won't cancel the performance because everyone missed. Perhaps
other unavoidable situations can be considered for exception.

Another way is to hold a make-up audition for the singer with a problem. Let
a small group of singers from her section listen to her sing their choice of
selections from the music to be performed prior to the concert - before the
last regular rehearsal, say. If she does well, shows that she knows the score,
she's in! VERY few singers will deliberately miss a dress if they know they will
have to go through that.

My 120-voice organization has policies of that sort (which I suggested), and
I know of no singers who have deliberately tried to goof off a dress rehearsal
because of them. The board of directors, who represent the members, are the
ones who administrate those policies.

Fred Wygal
Director
Reston Chorale




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:27:42 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: vaughnroste(a)yahoo.ca (Vaughn Roste)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



The attendance policy needs to follow up the "expected attedance" line with
something to the effect that "failure to do so may result in permission being
withdrawn to sing in that concert, with no compensation of fees, at the sole
discretion of the conductor." That last little clause gives you the escape, yet
doesn't lock you into anything. Soloists have had cases of the 24 hour flu on
dress rehearsal days, for example... and people with great reasons (not
excuses) and attitudes (again, to be decided by the director) and who know their
notes, etc, sometimes require a little grace. Your policy needs to have room for
that without giving room for everyone to expect that.
Hope this helps...
Vaughn Roste
Edmonton, Alberta



Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:27:42 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: vaughnroste(a)yahoo.ca (Vaughn Roste)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



The attendance policy needs to follow up the "expected attedance" line with
something to the effect that "failure to do so may result in permission being
withdrawn to sing in that concert, with no compensation of fees, at the sole
discretion of the conductor." That last little clause gives you the escape, yet
doesn't lock you into anything. Soloists have had cases of the 24 hour flu on
dress rehearsal days, for example... and people with great reasons (not
excuses) and attitudes (again, to be decided by the director) and who know their
notes, etc, sometimes require a little grace. Your policy needs to have room for
that without giving room for everyone to expect that.
Hope this helps...
Vaughn Roste
Edmonton, Alberta



Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:26:08 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: vwilliams(a)trinitymoorestown.org (Vernon Williams)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Dear Ruth,

Actually this seems like a simple situation. The last thing a conductor
wants is to lose the trust and respect of the choir, and I think this is
what will happen if the woman is allowed to sing. It is a matter of
long-term versus short-term thinking. Resentment and low morale are
insidious and hard to turn around, especially if they are the result of the
conductor's decisions. An analogy might be those times when a star athlete
breaks school rules and is benched for the big game, possibly causing the
team to lose. If the coach makes an exception for the big game, everyone
will know winning (that is, the coach's win-loss record) is more important
than the team rules, and thus the team will "lose" regardless of the score.
The trick is to step back and look at the big picture. Without the hotshot
singer, the remaining singers have a chance to rise to the occasion and feel
great about their accomplishment. The choir will admire the conductor's
integrity, and their respect and affection for him will grow, even if the
musical result is less than in would have been otherwise. After all, during
the concert the conductor and choir will be "in this thing together."

Of course there is the other possibility, that some in the choir will resent
the conductor "ruining their concert" by being so hardnosed about the rules.
Even in this case, however, it seems to me the conductor should model
respect for the choir's policies.

Finally, if the attendance policy is found to be unreasonable, it can be
changed -- later! If it is reasonable, then stick to it!

Tell your friend good luck!!

Vernon Williams
Director of Music

Trinity Episcopal Church
Moorestown, NJ
phone 856-235-0811
fax 856-235-2187
vwilliams(a)trinitymoorestown.org





Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 3:25:57 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: gretchenliechty(a)hotmail.com (Gretchen Liechty)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



I wanted to add one more thing. As professional musicans (teachers) involved
in community choirs, we know how much we are needed at rehearsals. We know
becuase we have the same rehearsals ang get upset when OUR students miss them.
However, if I can't make a dress rehearsal because I have to be teaching a
class, it's because I have to! And I can't get out of it. It doesn't make me want
to stay in the choir if this is ovelooked and I am not allowed to sing in the
concert. I have never been in the situation where I was told I couldnt' sing in
the concert, because my directors were understanding. However, I think that
you may lose valuable members if the policy isn't slightly leniant, taking the
fact that members do have other things in their lives that are just as
important. I like the idea of having members fill out a form stating if they have any
conflict with any rehearsals at the beginning of the semester. This can then
be discussed well in advance with the chorister, and shouldn't really open a
"can of worms." People know if their excuse is legit.



Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 2:11:16 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: ParkerJ(a)gischools.org (Jim Parker)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Of the top of my head, it's not wise to have a dress rehearsal during the day
when people work. The community choir I direct always rehearses in the
evening or on the weekends, and I still have folks who "have to work". I just have
to deal with it, but I don't and wouldn't advise making hard and fast rules
that are not reasonable. Probably too late for this situation, but maybe for the
next time. Jim Parker.




Subj: Re: Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 2:06:05 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: allen(a)choralnet.org (Allen H Simon)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



At 11:29 PM -0500 12/8/03, RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM wrote:
>How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without
>causing a major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for
>people to get too bent out of shape, because this woman will likely
>be allowed to sing the concert --- it's too costly musically to
>leave her out? How can he prevent people from expecting that they
>can take advantage of the rule-bending that will likely happen for
>this woman, for this concert?

We dealt with this problem by saying that anyone who misses the dress
(or too many rehearsals in general) had to audition privately with
the director to get permission to sing the concert. This gives the
conductor discretion in such cases (and the audition can be pro forma
[or quietly waived] for obviously qualified singers). Giving the
conductor all discretion for any rule-bending leaves the expectation
in place.

This leaves the problem that the good singers feel they have a blank
check to be casual about attendance, but you have to handle that with
the guilt trip.

--
Allen H Simon
Chair of Web Services
ChoralNet Inc.
http://choralnet.org
allen(a)choralnet.org




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 2:03:35 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: John.Howell(a)vt.edu (John.Howell)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Well, the critical mistake seems to have been scheduling a critical
rehearsal during the day, unless the entire membership except for
this one woman are retirees! I don't care how much notice you give;
people have jobs and they can't always get out of them when you want
them to. They also have families and family emergencies and are
suseptible to illness or injury. Major mistake, here, to schedule a
daylight rehearsal.

Yes, you'll have to let her sing. I also teach college, and missing
the last class meetings of a semester would NEVER be an option for
me. And yes, other people will take it as a precedent and ask for
the same consideration. No way to avoid it at this point. Time for
a sit-down business meeting after the concert to discuss the matter.

It's very easy to set a strong requirement for attandance that looks
great on paper. What you have to ask yourself before establishing
such a policy is whether you are willing to stand behind it and deny
the opportunity to perform to anyone--ANYONE!--who doesn't meet the
requirement.

When I came to this school to take over a very fine touring ensemble
with a long history that included some very stringent rules for
remaining part of the ensemble, I faced a set of operating procedures
that was in place already. I had to decide which rules I believed in
enough to enforce them, and which ones I would not enforce. (Yes, I
could have dumped the whole bunch of them and started from scratch,
but I was making a conscious effort to encourage an important sense
of continuity.) At least one student did challenge what he
considered my being too soft on enforcing the rules, and he quickly
became a former member of the ensemble. I really don't like to
discipline people, but I had to stand behind MY rules regardless of
who broke them. My hope is that those students who had to be
disciplined learned some important life lessons from the experience.

Either enforce the rule and lose the musical contribution of someone
who sounds important to the group, or make an exception for her
FOLLOWED by a rewriting of the rules. You can't have it both ways.
(IMHO, of course.)

John




Subj: Critical absence
Date: 12/9/03 1:59:44 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Myrnmusic
To: RUTHEMAL


How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without causing a
major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too bent
out of shape, because this woman will likely be allowed to sing the concert ---
it's too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent people from
expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending that will likely
happen for this woman, for this concert?
Just be upfront about it, explain the situation and the concerns. Rules must
be broken or we plow ourselves under. I'd say something on the order of "I
know that no one will take advantage of this exception and therefore feel
comfortable in making it."
Myrna
church of christ Millis, MA

Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 1:57:51 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: boulwarefam(a)msn.com (SEAN BOULWARE)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



I have the same issues with my community choir as well.
Here is how I would handle it.
Have a conversation with your soprano and let her know the position that you
are in. Allow her to understand that this places you in a difficult situation
but you want to work it out with her and resolve to the best of everyone's
comfort.
THEN... talk to your choir. Tell them. Don't hide it or sluff it off. You
will probably find that your choir will support the decision to allow her to
sing. It sounds like the choir needs her as much as you do and would understand.
Take the time to open it to the group and allow opinions to come forward.
Open communication with your singers is the best way to develop trust, and when
your singers trust you, your art is better!
Start by telling them, "We have a challenge here and I need your help..."
This also gives ownership to the singers and allows them to feel like they are
part of the process.
Ruth, I hope that everything works out well for you and if I can be of
anymore help, let me know! Best of luck with your concert and group dynamic!
Sean Boulware
Conductor, The Towne Singers
Minister of Music, Fullerton First United Methodist Church
boulwarefam(a)msn.com


Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 1:40:32 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: cappellagirlschorus(a)charter.net (Stephanie Charbonneau)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)aol.com



Hi Ruth,

We have a similar policy with our girls' chorus. As with all policies, at
times you must bend the rules. When I am faced with a predicament such as
yours, I look at the reality of the situation and realize that it is beyond
anyone's control. Your soprano's situation is much different from a singer
who simply forgets about the rehearsal or intentionally skips it. Seeing
that she has spoken with you before hand, I would make the exception. If
anyone questions your decision, simply state that it was a unique, one-time
circumstance and that she consulted with you to make the arrangement
beforehand. As always, stress that communication with the director is the
key. From my experience, the majority of people will respect your decision
and will not take this as an invitation to begin bending rules.

Good luck with your concert!

Stephanie Charbonneau

Cappella Girls' Chorus, Artistic Director
Port Orchard, WA





Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 1:11:11 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: susan.goldberg(a)sympatico.ca (Susan Goldberg)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Our community choir also has an attendance policy but we also have a
process for appeals. We try to make clear that the purpose of the policy is
to ensure that those who perform are well prepared to do so, not to
"punish" people for missing rehearsals. So if a singer can show the s/he
did some extra work to be ready (or attended the optional extra sessions
offered), and his/her music section leader says that this person's
participation will help rather than hinder the choir, the chorister can
perform in the concert. In one case last year we specifically asked someone
who was not planning to appeal to do so on the grounds that some of the
more inexperienced people in her section relied on her as a helping singer.
It sounds as if in this case, there is no precedent for "violating" the
stated policy, but perhaps it can be presented as a case that has forced
the conductor or board or whoever makes the decisions to recognize that
rules are not written in stone and individual cases should be considered
from the point of view of what is most helpful to the choir as a whole. It
sounds as if this soprano is constrained by factors beyond her control and
will be putting in as much time as she can at the dress rehearsal.





Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 12:53:17 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: SongmanDC
To: RUTHEMAL


It is unfortunate that the woman in question is unable to attend all but the
last hour of rehersal. If the policy states attendance is mandatory in order
to participate, then I feel it's necessary to stand by it. A choirs success
should not depend on one person. In the future, I would rewrite the policy to
state. "Attendance at the dress rehearsal is required. Only unresolvable
conflicts will be considered as excused. This is at the discretion of the director. A
person with an approved absence may only miss half of the dress rehearsal.

I would be sure to have some solid examples of what would be considered an
excused absence.

--
Michael Ehrlich
songmandc(a)aol.com
W. T. Woodson HS
Choral Department
9525 Main St.
Fairfax, VA 22030
703 503-4667




Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 12:46:08 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: gretchenliechty(a)hotmail.com (Gretchen Liechty)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



I think it needs to be recognized that teachers simply cannot get out of work
most of the time. We are responsible for classes. When I sang with a
well-known community choir in DC, I always had to miss the daytime dress rehearsals
because I couldn't just leave my teaching job every time we had a concert. We
had a slip of paper we had to fill out ahead of time that explained our reason
for absense. There were quite a few teachers who filled this out. This had to
be done ahead of time, of course. I think so long as the teachers have made the
majority of the rehearsals and are responsible enough to get notes from a
chorus member, they should not be penalized. I teach public school and am only
give a couple of personal days per year... in order to make the dress rehearsals
I would have had to either lie and call in sick, or take Leave Without Pay.
Not a great position to put your choristers in.



Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 12:22:46 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: glissman(a)rollanet.org (Liz Glissman)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Hi Ruth,

Could you please post a compilation? I too have had this as an issue in
my choir.

Sincerely,

Liz Glissman
Choir Director, Saint Patrick Catholic Church
Rolla, MO USA
glissman(a)rollanet.org





Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 12:21:36 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: dralanmason(a)hotmail.com (Dr. Alan Mason)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



You need this singer, you're the director. You call the shots. Forget
about the policy. It is subject to revision at any time at the discretion of
the director.




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 12:10:53 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: BBallweg(a)snu.edu (Brent Ballweg)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



I think the problem is the time of the dress rehearsal (conductor's fault).
If it's not during the regular rehearsal time for the choir or an obvious
"not-during-normal-working-hours" (like a weekend) then it's hard to require the
attendance. I would have a big problem with requiring a rehearsal during a
normal work day.

I also see fault in the soprano waiting until this time to tell the
conductor, since the schedule was known way in advance.

Based, though, on my first point, I'd let her sing!

Brent

D. Brent Ballweg, D.M.A.
Professor of Music
Southern Nazarene University
6729 NW 39th Expressway
Bethany, OK 73008
405-717-6245
bballweg(a)snu.edu
http://home.snu.edu/~bballweg.fs/



Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 11:57:56 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: whinson(a)piedmont.edu (Hinson Wally)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM




For the long-term success of an ensemble, the rules must be followed whether
the singer is a leader or not. If she is allowed to sing, the choir will
consider the policies to be unimportant and that the better musicians are allowed
to break the rules when it suits them. This could get really ugly if another
singer (with less "talent") at another time needs to miss the dress rehearsal
and isn't allowed to sing.

The unpaid, professional musician should understand this policy. Your
conductor friend should make sure that she knows it is nothing personal--he must
adhere to the rules for the good of the choir.

Tell your friend to stick to his guns, especially since the policy is clearly
stated. In the long run he will be glad that he went ahead with the
performance without the soprano. The choir will respect him for it. They will know that
everyone is on the same level and each individual singer is just as important
as the next.

----------
Dr. C. Wallace Hinson, Chair
Department of Music
Piedmont College
P.O. Box 10
Demorest, GA 30535
706-778-8500 ext. 1211
Fax: 706-776-0133
whinson(a)piedmont.edu




Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 11:50:09 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: f.wells(a)verizon.net (Frank M. Wells III)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



In my experience, such policies almost always do (or, in this case I
suppose: should) state:

... Must not miss this rehearsal, that rehearsal, so many rehearsals,
dress rehearsal, etc. WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE ARTISTIC
DIRECTOR.

Tah-dah, add that to the by-laws/rules/policies, and give yourself the
flexibility to cover such situations without giving everyone leave to do
as they please.

Best of luck -- please let us know how it turns out!

Frank Wells
Tampa Bay Concert Choir
fmw(a)tbchoral.org




Subj: RE: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 11:48:12 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Thomas.Porter(a)bsc.nodak.edu (Thomas Porter)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



Exceptions are a necessary part of working with community groups. Have her
come to as much rehearsal as possible. Video the rest of the rehearsal and
have her watch the video. There will be some "fall out," and you just have
to deal with it as it comes.

How does a community group get everyone to a daytime rehearsal??? My group
would riot!

Best of luck.
Tom Porter
Bismarck-Mandan Civic Chorus




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 11:32:27 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: janower(a)albany.edu (David Griggs-Janower)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



I face this often, and my line is that no one may sing if theymiss a dress
rehearsal except at the discretion of the conductor. That doesn't much help
when one singer is allowed to sing and another weaker singer is not under
similar circumstances, but everyone MUST understand that ultimately the rules
are for the sake of the bestpossible concert, nad if having her sing makes it
better, and if someday not allowing someone to sing makes it better, that's
what it's about. Good luck(a)!



David Griggs-Janower
janower(a)albany.edu
228 Placid Drive
Schenectady, NY 12303-5118
518/356-9155; 518/442-4167 (w)

Albany Pro Musica
PO Box 3850
Albany, NY 12203-0850
Ph: (518) 438-6548
www.albanypromusica.org


--

Subj: Absence Policies Compilation
Date: 12/14/2003 6:52:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: RUTHEMAL
To: choralist-l(a)listserv.indiana.edu


BELOW ARE SOME OF THE RESPONSES I RECEIVED TO THE FOLLOWING LETTER. The
response was great, so you can review it in several instalments.

Ruth Maletz
Bethlehem, PA
ruthemal(a)aol.com


At 11:29 PM 12/8/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Choralist,
>
>A conductor friend has a concert coming up and is faced with a dilemma, so
>I'm writing to ask your advice in this matter.
>
>The attendance policy of the community choir he conducts clearly states
>that members must attend the dress rehearsal (and the rehearsal prior to
>the dress rehearsal) to sing the concert. The schedule has been out since
>the beginning of the fall. The other day, one week prior to the concert,
>the best soprano in the group called to say that she couldn't be there
>until the last hour (of a 4 hour rehearsal) because she couldn't get out
>of work. She teaches in a university and it's the last day of classes.
>(The dress reh is in the daytime)
>
>This woman is a professional musician, though she's not paid to sing in
>the group---she is a team player and a tremendous asset. Without her the
>concert will suffer greatly. She's worried about her job and is no
>position to lose it or put herself in jeopardy.
>
>How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without causing
>a major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too
>bent out of shape, because this woman will likely be allowed to sing the
>concert --- it's too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent
>people from expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending
>that will likely happen for this woman, for this concert?
>
>Sincerely,
>Ruth Maletz
>Bethlehem, PA
>Ruthemal(a)aol.com




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/11/03 8:07:14 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: pribb(a)ctc.net
To: RUTHEMAL(a)aol.com




on 12/8/03 11:29 PM, RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM at RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM wrote:

> How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without causing
a
> major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too bent
> out of shape, because this woman will likely be allowed to sing the concert
> --- it's too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent people
from
> expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending that will likely
> happen for this woman, for this concert?

In most choirs, I believe directors make decisions for the good of the group
whether the decision specifically is supported by a hard or fast rule or
not.

Everyone can think of instances where an inflexible adherance to the 'rule
of law' we often worship more than a Higher Being here in this country has
caused undue hardship and runs against the grain of human compassion and
common sense.

In an endeavor like a choir where the sense of group community influences
the primary goal of the group - an artistic and soul-touching communication
using the human voice - there must be a construct where the primary goal of
uplifting the sense of community is always served first, rather than the
law. This is especially true for any group which is made up of volunteers.

All rules exist to prevent polarities or extremes in behavior. In this case,
a polarity on one end would exist when members of a choir flagrantly ignore
the attendance rule with trival excuses like hair appointments, a child's
soccer game or an optional out of town recreation are chosen rather than the
previous commitment to the choir they already promised. The opposite pole is
when someone's job or family safety and health is threatened by trying to
meet the rule. Neither situation is acceptable. On the one pole, the singer
makes a frivolous choice. On the other pole, the singer has NO choice and is
caught between a rock and a hard place.

The rule is the problem.

Most intelligent human beings will understand the difference between these
two poles and make room for the bending of such a rule when they are allowed
to think about how they would approach this particular situation were they
the only one making the call.

Share the situation with the choir. By now, they are going to know exactly
who you are talking about although anonymity would remove the influence of
quality of talent from the discussion, which it should be. It shouldn't make
any difference how needed a singer in this situation is. It is the SITUATION
created by the rule which is in error and if a director has not been giving
consideration to each singer on an individual basis, then such inflexibility
in the past is now going to bite them in the butt.

ANY singer whose livlihood or physical health would be threatened by meeting
the rule means that the rule is not well written nor thoroughly discussed
between intelligent people. Each member of your group would agree that a
death in the family, medical emergency or loss of job ought to be three
loopholes available to each of them personally to keep things compassionate
while still maintaining some discipline about missing the rehearsals for
trivial reasons.

Trust the group. Ask each to place themselves in the position of this singer
and see how they would feel if a volunteer group required them to choose
between performing and their health or their livlihood. How would they like
to be treated? What impact can they see ahead if, for the sake of
consistency (the hobgoblin of little minds), eventually no one will be
interested in being a part of a group with so inflexible a stance as to
still require their unpaid and often unappreciated presence in the face of
such hardship?

The musical consideration - that this is a singer you feel cannot be absent
from performance - is irrelevant. These are volunteers. They are not paid to
sing. NO singer should ever be faced or be supportive of a rule which
ignores the reality of securing commited volunteers. I am reminded about
what happened to the Shakers who regarded celibacy as a hard and fast rule
for membership. How many exist now?

It may mean that your Board will have to revisit this rule and amend it like
every law in our nation when the populace realizes how inflexible it is or
how little attention is paid to the variety of human conditions which can
place one in violation. Quite frankly, the authority to accept or deny
excuses for absences needs to be left solely in the hands of your director.
If he or she fails to build community within the group supportive of his/her
decisions, or fails to attract new members or retain old ones because of bad
decisions in this area, the Board can fire him or her. Anything else is
micromanagement.

The Director does indeed have tacet authority, after a clear presentation to
the whole group, to step in and make things work for everyone. If the Board
and/or group regards the rule as more important than the people for whom the
rule was created, then the Board can fire the Director. If that happens, the
Director will count themselves lucky to be separated from such unfeeling and
uninformed bureaucrats. But I'll bet you a mint that won't happen.

If a savings account of trust has been built between the singers and the
director, the singers won't let it happen. Especially when they realize they
will find themselves hard-put to find any professional director willing to
uphold such a Draconian rule against better judgement.

I think it would be quite acceptable for the director to state to the choir
conditions under which absences would NOT be excused and conditions under
which absences MUST be excused.

If there are those among the group who insist that there is no difference in
a soccer game and a job they shouold be told in no unlcear terms that "This
is a volunteer choir. We aren't talking about emergency medical personnel
asked to respond to the collapse of the WTC." Someone needs to tell them to
utilize a more realistic perspective which fits the purpose of the group. If
they can't bend, let them leave.

The people who make up this volunteer group are more important than ANYTHING
else. They are more important than the rules, they are more important than
any performance, they are more important than an overly cultivated sense of
consistency that disregards the human condition. They each need to feel that
they are still individuals, regardless of the artistic unanimity desired of
a choral group, and that situations like this can be approached on an
individually considered basis. Any other approach serves no one and it
certainly doesn't serve music.

Cindy Pribble
Director, Stanly County Chorale
Minister of Music for 35 years






Hello Ruth,
I am not sure what the problem is or who causes it. It seems to me that your
preparations for a concert are too heavy. I have never heard of a separate
rehearsal with dresses. You just wear down the choir. Work is work and a hobby is
a hobby.

Karl-Erik Kronström
Frihetsvägen 40, 10650 Ekenäs, FINLAND
karl-erik.kronstrom(a)surfnet.fi


--

Subj: Absence Policies Compilation
Date: 12/14/2003 6:55:15 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: RUTHEMAL
To: choralist-l(a)listserv.indiana.edu


BELOW ARE THE RESPONSES I RECEIVED TO THE FOLLOWING LETTER

Ruth Maletz
Bethlehem, PA
ruthemal(a)aol.com



At 11:29 PM 12/8/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Choralist,
>
>A conductor friend has a concert coming up and is faced with a dilemma, so
>I'm writing to ask your advice in this matter.
>
>The attendance policy of the community choir he conducts clearly states
>that members must attend the dress rehearsal (and the rehearsal prior to
>the dress rehearsal) to sing the concert. The schedule has been out since
>the beginning of the fall. The other day, one week prior to the concert,
>the best soprano in the group called to say that she couldn't be there
>until the last hour (of a 4 hour rehearsal) because she couldn't get out
>of work. She teaches in a university and it's the last day of classes.
>(The dress reh is in the daytime)
>
>This woman is a professional musician, though she's not paid to sing in
>the group---she is a team player and a tremendous asset. Without her the
>concert will suffer greatly. She's worried about her job and is no
>position to lose it or put herself in jeopardy.
>
>How could this be handled creatively to enable her to sing without causing
>a major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too
>bent out of shape, because this woman will likely be allowed to sing the
>concert --- it's too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent
>people from expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending
>that will likely happen for this woman, for this concert?
>
>Sincerely,
>Ruth Maletz
>Bethlehem, PA
>Ruthemal(a)aol.com




I would suggest that you give her a private singing test to ensure her
knowledge of the music and especially her part. Also, during this time you can catch
her up on some of the technical things missed in the dress rehearsal. This
way the other choral members will realize that she did have to "make up" the
rehearsal, but if it is behind closed doors it still leaves you the freedom to
determine whether an individual is ready to perform under such special
circumstances.

Fortunately, most of the singers, (especially those on her part) will be all
too happy to have the allowance made if she is such an asset.

My two cents.

By God's Grace,
Jerry Polman

Assistant Director of the Grace College Chamber Singers
Vocal Soloist
Private Vocal Instructor




Dear Ruth,

I never answer these kinds of things however I felt compelled to email you a
brief reply.

To me this is a non issue. The woman is a professional in every sense of the
word - she is a team player, and is a huge asset to the choir. Because of
that, she would undoubtably be at the dress rehearsal for any reason with
the exception of a family emergency, illness or if something happened to her
kids (if she has kids). If she misses her job committment she would likely
be fired. For her, it is a no brainer - as much as she loves the choir, she
can't be at the first three hours of the rehearsal.

I am the conductor of a professional level chamber choir and am the
chorusmaster of our symphony chorus. These things come up all the time and
you have to make judgement calls as they come up. I just emailed one of my
charter member basses due to his absences due to work committments - he
travels all over the world chairing an international committee. He had to
excuse himself from a concert this past November due to his being away. In
my email to him, I discussed his absences, how long he would be chairing his
committee, etc. He does not want to leave the choir and being a member of
nearly 15 years, a wonderful bass, a choir rep on the board, and a really
nice guy....I don't want to loose him. I also have six other basses who
make a great section so his absence was not a real issue as the other guys,
in this particular concert, got along fine without him.

That wasen't the point. He is committed to the choir however the only way I
can achieve the kind of blend, balance and unanimous sound I am looking for,
is for him to be there all the time to work with his colleagues. He and I
are going to try to work this out as he has told me he is committed to doing
that.

The reason I am telling you this, is that for me, the issue of your friend's
singer being absent for the dress is also a no brainer. It is ok to have the
policy however I would also be flexible enough to look at each case
individually. Sometimes we are expected to have the wisdom of Solomon!. If I
were the conductor I would stand tall, make the right decision for the group
and be a strong leader. If there are mumblings, or other attempts to
undermine the process, I would deal with these on an individual basis. If
there is enough of an upset, I would speak to the choir, letting them know
of my feelings. This would not be a discussion, however, my explanation of
the reasons why this singer was allowed to sing the concert. Short and
sweet and then on with the rehearsal.

As I said, I almost never answer these kinds of emails, as I almost always
tend to get wordy! I did! Sorry. Hope this helps a little and good luck
with your concert.

Jeff Joudrey



HI,

I handle this exact thing in this way:
1. "Ringer soprano" is a professional musician, and is clearly an asset to
the group. Without her, the performance will suffer. She is in effect
donating professional services every time she shows up.

2. "Ringer soprano" has a dead solid reason for not being there.

3. Because of above, the director uses professional discretion to apply
the rules differently to this unique situation.



Good luck!

Paul
Paul S. Meers, DMus http://webfaculty.aub.edu.lb/~pm05/
Director of Choral Studies
Assistant Professor of Music
American University of Beirut
961-1-353465, ext. 4041/4020 outside of Lebanon
01-350000, 374444, ext. 4041/4020 inside Lebanon



I too have had a similar problem....the best advice is to accomodate the
woman and say nothing else to anyone whilst instructing her to do the
same...if you have a section leader/attendance person inform them. If the
woman has not missed a rehearsal and is what you say she is about in your
post, then the question is settled among membership....when they don't miss
rehearsals and perform consistently, the same courtesy can be
extended-dependent on the situation.....I lost 5 this last weekend to snow
and my concert and dress is on fri and sat next. In the end, it is my
discretion per board and my own policy to decide who sings and when.

Best of Luck,
Brad Ford,
Bel Canto Chorale, Wantagh New York



four magic words added to the policy for dire situations: case by case basis.
or As determined by director.

Chris Rhodes




Dear Ruth,

My rule is that the rules only get broken at the discretion of the musical
director (that's me). So I would make an exception for someone like your
friend's soprano, but make it clear to the rest of the choir that it is a
special case. My choir is also a community choir, and I've realised that I
need to be flexible because of people's work and study commitments. If,
however the said soprano was the most able singer in the world, but had not
been pulling her weight in the team during the year, she would be more
likely to be out of the concert, and the choir would just have to manage
without her.

I also make exceptions occasionally for members who have had an unexpected
illness or family crisis. I once allowed a singer to miss a lot of
rehearsals for a while, because I knew she was suffering great family
stress, and that the choir was the only positive thing in her life at the
time. In this case I made it clear to the committee and to any member who
asked that I had good reasons for allowing her to do this, but that her
circumstances were private & confidential.

My choristers, being human, constantly try to bend the rules and ask for
favours due to birthday parties, theatre tickets, etc. I just say "If you
really want to sing in the concert, I'm sure you'll find a way to meet
attendance requirements" and they usually do!

Ah! the rich tapestry of humanity!
:-)
Margot.

Margot McLaughlin
Director, Macquarie University Singers
Macquarie University
2109 NSW Australia
margdav(a)terrigal.net.au
conductor(a)mus.org.au
www.mus.org.au



I have found a simple solution:

The person must pass a repertoire audition. Even if it's just jumping
through a hoop, at least you can hold that up as a standard.

For my own chorus, it people miss more than a certain number of
rehearsals, regardless of reason, they must pass the repertoire. I have
found this weeds out people who don't practise, don't take the policy
seriously, and don't want to expose themselves to an audition.

The ones that do go through with it always say how hard they practised,
and that it was good motivation.

That way, everyone's conscience can be clear.

Good luck,

Rachel Grantham
Whitehorse Community Choir
Whitehorse, Yukon
rgrantham(a)yknet.ca



Dear Ms. Maletz,

The Hong Kong Bach Choir has a similar rule. However, the rule includes
the phrase, "at the discretion of the Music Director."

Best regards,

Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor
The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra




Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 8:11:18 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: ch.hoffman(a)verizon.net (Christine Hoffman)
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM



All non-paid groups struggle with this. Often, in the
moment, the other sopranos will be happy to
have this exception made if it makes their
performance better, or easier. Don't call attention to
the exception, and deal with any complaints
honestly and individually.
Probably the only way to solve it, long term, is to write the
policy to state that attendance is expected, but
"any singer who must unavoidably miss either
the dress rehearsal or the rehearsal before must have
the permission of the music director at least xx days
in advance of the absence," or "must speak directly
with the music director, who will make the decision based
on artistic factors." It makes the conductor deal
with such requests, but it allows for artistic discretion and
also allows that someone who really won't be an asset
to the performance without attending those rehearsals
may be asked not to sing.




Dear Ruth,

Your situation is very common. In my community chorus "rules," which are
similar to yours, such situations are resolved "at the discretion of the
Director (me). I have to rely on my instincts about the situation (has the
person been sincere and honest all along) as well as what the person in
question has told me. And the role the person plays in the performance. If
the person is a soloist, I don't bend the rules, though.

Let us know what you do, and what others say about the situation.

Yours,
Suzanne
--
Suzanne Tiemstra
Grand Rapids Cantata Choir/Coro del Sol
6242 Acropolis Dr., SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546-7102
phone 616-949-2528
stmstra(a)iserv.net
www.grcantatachoir.org
Resource for Latin American choral music



Subj: Re: [CHORALIST-L] Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 7:42:34 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: kjoanporter(a)juno.com
To: RUTHEMAL(a)AOL.COM




When your write "rules" there needs always to be an "escape clause."

That is, "or at the discretion of the director" to get you out of fixes like
this one.

I would also think that there should be a clause that says "pre-excused
absences will be allowed on a case by case basis."

This may not help you right now, but perhaps you need to re-write "the rules"
if they are so inflexible.

Karla Porter
Music Director
Church of the Nativity



Subj: Fw: Critical: Absence Policy
Date: 12/9/03 5:16:56 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: J.Wexler(a)ed.ac.uk (John Wexler)
To: ruthemal(a)aol.com



Apropos the conductor's dilemma (message from :
> The attendance policy of the community choir he conducts clearly states
> that members must attend the dress rehearsal to sing the concert. ... one
> week prior to the concert, the best soprano in the group called to say
that
> she couldn't be there ... because she couldn't get out of work.

> This woman is a professional musician, though she's not paid to sing in
> the group ... Without her the concert will suffer greatly.
>
> How could this be handled ... without causing
> a major can of worms to open? How can it prevented for people to get too
> bent out of shape, because this woman will ... be allowed to sing --- it's
> too costly musically to leave her out? How can he prevent
> people from expecting that they can take advantage of the rule-bending
> that will likely happen for this woman, for this concert?

Put the question to the choir.

* They MIGHT make difficulties, but - who knows? - they might come up
with a reasonable and acceptable solution.

* They MIGHT feel they need to rethink or restate what their purpose is in
being a choir, in order to make sense of the rule. That might be a Good
Thing, but there isn't time for it before the concert, so there would have
to
some interim decision taken before the big discussion. In that case,
everybody could agree that any present action does not constitute a
precedent.

However ... if your friend feels that he must proceed according to the rule:

She can't sing as a member of the choir. The choir could, though, engage
her
as a professional to bring the performance up to scratch. She might accept
a
purely nominal fee to make that possible.

Anybody else expecting the same treatment will have to ask themselves: will
the rest of the choir want me enough to pay me? Answer, for most of them,
probably not. So, if they can't meet the rehearsal requirements, they can
expect to be dropped without reprieve.

On the other hand, if the choir does not want to hire her for the occasion,
then
the conclusion must surely be that she shouldn't sing.

John Wexler
Edinburgh


--
on December 21, 2003 10:00pm
I sing with a community chorus. Our policy is a singer must attend 80% of the weekly rehearsals and the one immediately preceding the concert to be able to sing in that concert. However we do allow the director the option of waiving the policy if he is convinced a singer has done sufficient practice at home and demonstrates proficiency with the music at the rehearsals. With groups of this nature most directors are sharp enough to know who the serious singers are and who take the group as a "social occasion" to fill up an evening.
on January 3, 2004 10:00pm
If that person is competent, and the director of music has no concerns that the quality of the performance won't be jeopardised, then let her sing. On a more general point, since our choir is contractually bound to deliver its concerts, we ask people to commit themselves to rehearsals and concerts 9 months in advance. If they are prevented from performing by force majeure, then the choir management will hire a professional to take their place. If they opt out just for convenience like holidays or unexpected wedding, they know that they are expected to pay for the replacement.
Hiring professionals costs us