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HELP! Young church music director dealing with attitudes

Hi all,
I'm a fresh college graduate (BA in Piano, with lots of choral experience, private voice, and choral conducting classes), and I've been the music director (choir director and organist) at a small church (8-10 = average choir attendance) for about a month. Prior to assuming the "music director" role, I was the organist for a year and a half, so I know how this choir is used to working. For the past several decades, the church had had very poor musical leadership, and quite frankly, the singers don't really don't know what it's like to have a productive rehearsal. Week after week, they would put up with frustrating rehearsals and performances, and as a result, they are not a very confident group.  However, we (and especially I) were very fortunate to have an interim period of a few months where we brought in a worship consultant who was both a trained choral conductor and a pastor-in-training. She helped get the choir singing, ditching the piano for rehearsals and teaching by call and response. Much of the music she introduced was much simpler than what they were used to (not the four part classics), but it got them singing. She also got them reconnected with the congregation in terms of them leading singing during worship (something they hadn't really been doing due to where we had the choir stationed). My job now is to find a balance between the choir's rediscovered role as worship leaders (often involving simpler music) and their belief that they sing "real" choral music often.
There are a few members in the choir who simply don't trust my knowledge/expertise. Partly I feel it is because I am young. They give me blank stares and even laugh when I try to run warm ups, often not really giving them a try. I have been criticized in the middle of rehearsal for choosing music that is in unison. I am trying to challenge them within their bounds and build a healthy, unified choral sound through simpler music to start, but they're so used to showing up and slogging through four part choral music, even if it was a frustrating experience. It's very important to me that I use their volunteered time well, but they have voiced that they feel underestimated. I have planned in the coming months to sing some more difficult stuff.
I am thinking about contacting the aforementioned members individually, let them know I am listening and understand their concerns, but also tell them that I need their trust (something they're not giving me). Any thoughts about going forward?
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on August 19, 2013 7:20am
Hi Lukas,
I think all young church musicians experience this lack of "trust."  I'd actually encourage you to put aside the age part, and look at the bigger picture.  Chances are, any new person in charge regardless of age would experience the same thing.  Your choir is probably wondering two things: does this person love me, and is this person going to make me look like a fool?  Often (all too often) our church musician role is mostly about pastoral care and salesmanship, with the music coming in dead last.  Our singers are not going "give" us trust.  We have to earn their trust by giving them victories they can understand.  A couple things that might help you achieve that "buy in" I think you're looking for: (you may know this theory already, but we all need refreshers)
1)  Always start with a warm-up they know and are comfortable with.  Give them an easy win, and always compliment them (even if there isn't much to compliment) before asking them to fix something.  With each warm-up, have one key concept you're teaching and make it a concept that applies to the music you've chosen.  For example, maybe you're looking for a nice four-measure phrase in one of your anthems, so choose a warm-up that focuses on four-bar phrases.  The most important thing with warm-ups is to know when to quit.  It's easy to go overboard in perfecting warm-ups.  The issue is that you're choir probably isn't going to understand why you're doing this even if you explain it to them.  The most important thing is to begin the application as soon as possible.  
2)  If they want to do music that has more than one part, go with that.  I understand what you're after in choosing unison music, but it sounds like that is going to be a really hard sell.  What if you chose pieces which MOSTLY has unison singing (or even sop/alto unison & tenor/bass unison) that also incorporates a short 4-part harmony section?  Many hymn arrangements do this.  It gives your choir the 4-part texture they're after, and gives you plenty of teaching moments with the unison sections.
3)  We can communicate effective rehearsal time management without making it obvious.  I use a whiteboard in my choir room, and every week I write that day's rehearsal schedule so everyone can see it. (I picked this up in grad school, and it works)  For example, if I write "piece #1 - 7:45 -7:55" on the board, the choir knows we are only going to spend ten minutes on it.  After awhile, they'll learn that less time = more intense rehearsal.  What's important is that we stick to it no matter how well or badly things are going. (hopefully we've done some advance planning so we're working on music a good four to six weeks ahead of time)  You'll be amazed at how your choir's focus and even reading ability will change.  There is a lot of good rehearsal theory that I can't communicate effectively in this forum, but feel free to contact me privately for more about this.
4)  No matter what, always remember that for us music is our job and even our life.  For our singers, it's a fun thing to do and if we're lucky, they might even view it as a calling or service.  While it's our job to help them be the best they can be and bring them up to our standard of excellence, we always need to remember that we need to meet our singers where they think they are.  This is perhaps the most important way to gain that needed trust.  This can take years.  Gentle persistence is needed.  
Good luck, and stick with it!
Applauded by an audience of 6
on August 20, 2013 3:46am
Lovely advice from Bryan there.
I would add that your plan to talk to people individually is also a good one. It's good for you to get to know them, and get more insight into their motivations and anxieties. And it's good for them to know that you care about what they think and how they feel. And when you've listened to them, they'll be more ready to listen to your goals and aspirations for the choir, and you'll have a better feel of how to present them so as to meet their needs. 
I would hope that the blank stares and laughter would stop once you have put some time into these relationships, but if they don't, you'll be in a better position to ask them if they could modify their behaviour during warm-ups. They may not realise how it can make a director feel, and I am sure they do not intend to be unpleasant.
Being "too young" self-corrects all too quickly, but the leadership skills you learn thereby continue to be useful for decades! 
Good luck, and would you let us know how you get on?
on August 20, 2013 4:44am
Hi, Lukas,
My path in college was the same as yours. With my first church choir, most of the people trusted me, although the most musically accomplished member (besides me), who often accompanied us at the piano, expressed doubt when I tried to help them hear and sing the leading tone higher for a bit of "just intonation" training. She had studied piano but had sung in big festivals with Robert Shaw, and had sung in other choruses, and said that if it were true that the 7th scale step should be sung higher, other conductors including Robert Shaw would have said this. This conversation took place before the arrival of the Internet, and I didn't have any choral books at my disposal which discussed just intonation (it had simply been taught during my classes at the conservatory), so I had nothing to show her to back it up. My credibility was undermined on this issue, and being young and not wanting to create a royal mess, I dropped the matter after a brief discussion. I wasn't very assertive back then!

Roll forward a few years...At the age of 40, I took on my second church choir. I ignored my pastor's advice not to make too many changes for the first year, and to just use the first year to win their trust. I was the first person to ever lead them in warmups. I also tried to take 10 minutes out of each rehearsal for a lesson in music-reading. The pushback I got was amazing. ("I've sung in this choir for 40 years...Why do I have to learn to read music now?") ("Warmups are a waste of time. We should spend the whole time working on our music.")

Ultimately, I dropped the music-reading but kept the warmups. I explained to them that in good conscience, I just couldn't risk harming their voices by not leading them in warmups. I used the warmups as valuable instructional time in vocal technique, and after a while, they bought into it and took the warmup time seriously, and made great gains, individually as well as chorally. One woman even wrote a card to me saying she had "found her voice" under my direction. I had nine wonderful years with that choir (well, the first was a bit bumpy!) and recently had to step back with my regrets due to family concerns. But by a few years in, they were willing right away to do anything I asked of them gladly.

So, I agree with Bryan: give it time and patience, meet them where they are and work to make the warmups convincingly beneficial but maybe no more than 10 minutes in duration (later you can go a bit longer after they learn to value them), and don't think their resistance is because you're young! I got it at 40, after establishing a fruitful career!

To ask them to change anything is to challenge them, and as humans, we don't want to change unless we are really convinced it's necessary, and there will be resistance. So allow the process to require the time that it requires, and live among them as a loving shepherd, spiritually as well as musically, and you'll get there. Ask a singer how his sick father is doing, make a meal for someone who just had a baby, encourage someone with a good voice to try a solo, visit a choir member in rehab after their knee replacement surgery, look for opportunities to serve them. These things will all return to you 1,000 times over as the singers begin to feel affection for you and begin to want to please you and work hard at doing what you ask of them musically. It's amazing how demonstrating your holistic dedication to them as people will change their hearts and remove so much of the resistance. But, it does take time to do this, and a willingness to actively remember what they tell you about their families or to see what their needs are and try to meet the ones you can and have the time to Meet. We took prayer requests before our closing prayer, and this was a time where I learned the concerns on their hearts and I tried to follow up later and ask how things were going.

Meeting with them individually may help, but they may still feel unready to just give you their trust blindly even if asked for. However, you may end up with one or two of them getting to be on your team, and in a choir of this small size, that would be significant. But be prepared for them to say things (if they are quite stubborn) that could even further discourage you or cut you down, or to "instruct you" as to how they think you should do things. Sometimes, the shortest route to what we want is the long route, and trust takes a while to earn. I found this with my community chorus, as well.

All the best!


Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 20, 2013 7:18am
Try "partner songs" that encorporate two melodies, instead of melody and harmony.... Natalie Sleeth is (was) especially good at this, and if they are still in print would be an excellent step forward.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 22, 2013 7:02am
They are still in print. She even has some two-part songs in collections thast use this device.
on August 20, 2013 8:25am
Ah! This post couldn't have come up at a better time! I recently got a new church job and have many of these same concerns.
My former church job was at the church that I grew up in so I was seen as a "son of the church" and slowly took over the music program. I didn't have many attitude problems because everything happened so slowly. I would have stayed there, but my high school choir teaching job location lined up with this new church job's location so it worked out well. I am also young also (26).
I just finished my third week playing three Masses a weekend. The cantors I have worked with have been fine, but choir hasn't even started yet and I am already starting to hear "things."
  • "The keyboard is SO loud... I had a headache leaving church! These songs are supposed to be played on the organ!" (The former music director – one of those, "sweet, old lady" types – played EVERYTHING on the organ, and much of the current Catholic Church repertoire (David Haas, Marty Haugen) is really written for the piano.
  • "We ALWAYS sit in the loft, even when the choir isn't singing! That is our place and people say it helps them sing better with us behind them." (In my introduction letter to the choir, I very sensitively and pastorally asked them to sit with the body of the church and sing with their brothers and sisters in Christ. I haven't heard too much flack from it, but I think I will come September 4th, our first rehearsal.
  • Lastly, I had an elderly cantor and choir member come up to me after Mass on Assumption and while fighting tears, yell at me about how she didn't get a choir letter in the mail. I later found out I forgot to put the apartment number in the address after it was sent back to me from the PO. She was also quite upset about me asking them to sit in the church and not the loft. I very calmly tried to explain to her about what probably happend to the letter and also about the pastoral reasons to sit down with the body of the church, but she left in a tizy. Then, this Sunday, I saw her emphatically talking to some parishoners before Mass and pointing to the ambo and the music loft... very clearly complaining about me. I can work with attitudes, but when people start talking crap to the parishoners... that's NOT ok. She also said that she would REFUSE to sing down in the church because I "drown them out"... and she didn't sing on Sunday. 
Ok, I do have a request for advice, but I just wanted to vent a little! :)
Our first choir rehearsal (and the first time I will see many of them) is September 4th, but I am going to have everyone meet down in the church hall and we are going to sit in a circle (as opposed to the you vs. me arrangement of choir pews and director stand). We might sing a song just for fun to start and then maybe a prayer. Then I have a few activities planned. I will give everyone a few pieces of blank paper and I am going to ask general questions such as, "What do you think the choir's role is in the church and in the liturgy?" "How can a choir help the singing of the assembly?" "What is the best way to recruit members to music ministry?" They will write down their response (without their name) and turn it in. Then I will pull them out and we will discuss them. This offers me an opportunity to kind of steer the conversation where it should be going by using their responses. I am also going to let them share something about themselves with me in a questionnaire since I told them about me in my introduction letter. We won't be doing much singing (other than a song here or there), just a lot of getting to know each other and discussing our roles as music ministers.
So any other ideas on how to start the year off right? Both of my high school positions have been after beloved conductors and I didn't have much problems with starting the year at either (student attitude wise), but I know that church choirs can be different. I am surely going to use some of the fantastic advice here, but just wondering if anybody has any more ideas for my "orientation" night on September 4th. Thanks!
on August 23, 2013 4:30am
Corey - I'm a Catholic choir director, have been here at Fort Belvoir for the last year X eight (it's a year-to-year contract, so the odd way of saying this is a reminder, in humility, that it's one year at a time), as well as having directed choirs in three military bases, sung in a bunch of places, etc.  A few thoughts:
1.  If you're going to begin with a prayer somewhere near the beginning, BEGIN with the prayer - then do the "fun" music piece. (We pray at the end, and it's a call for prayer concerns we all have and should think about during the week.)
2.  Sadly, and I say this with all due respect, you're right that the piano is a good deal better instrument for much of the music of the Church that has been written since 1966 - which actually was written for guitar groups (yes, I know, that turns the piano into an 88-string guitar!).  It is also true that too much of it is NOT played on the piano in too many parishes; but depending upon the physical setup, it may not be practical to go from organ to piano for the appropriate pieces (our setup, for instance - organ in one corner of the sanctuary, piano in the other - and no HOPE of moving things around - military chapel, doncha know!).  If you have the luxury of a setup where you can go from the one to the other, may I as a singer ask that you please conduct an examination of conscience before you ever sit down to play, organ OR piano, and ask yourself, "Am I playing this to let everyone know how grand an instrument I've got, or am I accompanying the choir and congregation?"  Too many organists of my experience, while wonderful keyboard artists, tend to suffer from what I call "organitis" - a peculiar disease, especially prominent among male keyboard players, which is often reflected in the attitude, "I have this WONDERFUL instrument, let me display the fullness of its wonders!"  That may, and I say only MAY, explain the comment about the keyboard being too loud.
3.  To be honest, I have very mixed feelings - and that's what they are, feeliings - about choirs sitting in the congregation.  I've seen this promoted, and I understand the reasoning behind it - but I don't fully agree with it.  Let me be perhaps a bit more clear:  I can understand that IF the choir isn't singing as a choir some one or several Sundays, they should feel free to sing with their families/congregation.  But there are two other thoughts that I would ask you to consider:  one - choirs see themselves as families, and feel far more comfortable being together as a "family" - as this choir develops, they develop friendships (I see this in many ways in my own choirs).  This is something, in a larger sense, that we're losing, if it's not already lost, in the Catholic Church - that the church's life was an essential element of our own, and we sought and had relationships with the people in the church, as opposed to workplace, etc.  The second thought is, if the choir IS singing on Sundays, they have a ministerial role which does set them apart, as much as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, the priest, the deacons, etc., have - and that role must be publicly and visibly acknowledged - even if the congregation doesn't see them (e.g., in a loft).  We don't have a loft here in Belvoir, and I am uncomfortably set with my choir's presence being towards the front of the congregational area - again, setup has a dictatorial role in this - but I am also frankly opposed to the notion of a choir being up front near or behind the altar, because it then runs the risk of becoming performance, vs. "presentation."
4.  It's unfortunate about the cantor.  Sadly, people become very "possessive" about their roles, and sometimes do not have the necessary distance in their lives to realize that things change, but that it doesn't necessarily mean her role changes.  She was being entirely emotional - and that's not a bad thing, really - it tells you that she really cares - even if it may not be for all the right reasons.  She may be very lonely, doesn't have a lot of family nearby, lives for her mail - who knows, and, frankly, while not really germane to the immediate problem, these may have far more of a role in her reaction than you would otherwise know; and she's scared, and a lot of people deal with this either through "flight or fight"- and she's done both.  (Incidentally, mail things:  my mother's in a retirement community, and two years in, she still gets madder than a wet hen about people she's told about having to have the apartment number on her address, and they don't have it there - sigh.)  I agree that there is no justification for her talking to other members of the congregation about it, but here we run into two competing viewpoints:  "I'm an American, I'm entitled to my opinion, and I'm entitled to express it - LOUDLY - and to whomever I will!" vs. "There's a right way, and a wrong way to do things."  (Liberty vs. order)  Furthermore, while you may be right that she was indeed damning you to Hell and back, you don't KNOW that, do you?  There isn't anything you're going to be able to do about those she spoke to - the damage is already done, and you can only hope that your and the choir's actions will convince these folk otherwise.  As to the cantor herself, if you getting in touch with her doesn't address the problem, you may have to get the pastor involved - this is one of those things that drive pastors crazy, but it's also something that has to do with a larger issue (and you need to keep that in mind in talking with him about this) - that this person clearly needs to vent; that she has already done this, but in a way that is damaging not only to you, professionally, but to the good order of the parish; and that it may be time for him to just call her and listen to what she says.  If she gets the "boss," it may just defuse it enough, especially if he's good at handling people - which, sadly, not all padres are - and at the very least, it will tell her that the "boss" is onto this, and doesn't entirely approve, at least enough so as to call her.
In my judgment, you do have a larger problem.  You're trying to change things which, at least in your view, are called for by the Church.  Problem is, we deal with realities in the church - small "c" - and some of them are not submissible to the desires of the Church in the larger sense, at least not immediately, and sometimes not at all.  Please go back and consider the when and where of your choir, and what it is that is accomplished (and lost) if you choose some specific courses of action.  At the risk of being over-dramatic, to me you're running the real risk of frightening your musicians.  I think that your approach for your first rehearsal is pretty good, but be prepared for a lot of "things" you've heard - and haven't heard yet.  If I may, please just accept them - don't try to justify them until you've heard them all out (or read them out, if you will!).  We musicians, as you well know, are a pretty emotional lot, and a lot of emotions get thrown around, often led by the question WHY.  What we all have to do is reduce these emotions to WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO, HOW - which makes them more readily rational to approach and to resolve.
Keep us informed - this is germane not only for you, but for Lukas as well, who I suspect is just as interested in what happens as I am.
Chantez bien!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 20, 2013 9:17am
Hi, Lukas.
I agree with all of the above comments, and would add only two more things:
1) In warm-ups that they mock, take a moment to explain what you're trying to accomplish with the warm-up, and how it will help them in singing their music.  If they see a vocal goal that will actually help them sing better, they might be a little more accepting, given time.  You could also remind them that the reason you're doing unison music from time to time is to focus more on vocal quality, even if that isn't the primary reason.  That too may make them more accepting of your doing unison music with them.  
2) Remember that this is a volunteer situation.  They don't have to be there, and so if you push them too far too fast, they can simply drop out.  Try to stay positive, but if someone says something that openly and strongly mocks you, don't be afraid to say, "wow, that was hurtful," and look right at them. The others in the choir will be sympathetic toward you, and even the person who said it may regret it.  (You're allowed to have feelings too, even if you try to mask the hurt most of the time.)  That may help them to treat you more respectfully during rehearsal.  
You're thinking the right thoughts and doing the right things.  Be patient and stay connected with them, and slowly but surely implement your vocal and musical strategies in rehearsal.  
Good luck.
on August 20, 2013 11:31am
Hi, Lukas.
You've received some excellent advice so far, covering all of your questions.  Here is another thought on warm-ups, for your consideration.  
When I was faced with reluctant participation in warm-ups, I was able to get around this when I used the hymns to be sung that week.  This isn't rocket science, or even original with me, but I was able to accomplish the same goals (warming up the voice, preparing the body to sing etc.)  My approach was to have everyone sing the melody in their own octave on a neutral syllable of my choice (loo, da, etc.)  Then I might do the same thing using the alto or the bass part.  Then I might have them pulse eighth notes (or quarters etc) on a neutral syllable and so on. Of course, all the while I was having them stand, sit, sing softly, sing loudly, switch parts and generally exercise their entire range without them really noticing.  By the time we got down to singing the hymn in 4 parts, their voices were warm AND they had an understanding of how to be worship leaders on that hymn.
Soon, my "no warm-up, this isn't a voice class, it's a church choir" hold-outs were coming on time - to rehearse the hymns!  They even grudgingly agreed that it was helpful to take them apart a little and remarked that congregation members liked/appreciated how good the choir sounded on the hymns.
Maybe this might work for you.  Good luck!
on August 21, 2013 1:01am
Hi everyone,
Thank you all for the good advice. What a great community at ChoralNet, especially for the newbies!
Since my post, I've read your comments, spoke with my pastor, and have been on the phone with a couple of choir members. I've been thinking a lot about my pastoral role. I managed to make things right, for the time being, with one of the disgruntled singers through a nice conversation. I also called another choir member who has been sick and plan to make a few more calls this week. Also, my pastor has been very supportive of me (I'm lucky) and has given me some ideas for building a relationship with each choir member. 
Using the week's hymns as warmups is a technique I know and will definitely bring back. The choir has responded well to this in the past. I guess with the "academic" warm ups I was hoping to give the singers a chance to really isolate certain concepts. Someday... The hymn technique really does kill two birds with one stone though.
The disgruntled members, who happen to come from one family and are usually on time, also don't like how the other members are always late. How I might address this is help them learn some of their parts (my only altos and bass) when they come on time, and then do a brief, familiar warm up (5 minutes) when everyone has arrived, showing that I care that the whole choir utilize warm ups. The plan for a few weeks though is to dig out some multipart music, for better or worse. There are a few anthems I want them to have under their belts, so now would be the time to learn them.
I think those are good ideas for the first rehearsal. I would definitely start with singing, perhaps something call and response. The circle arrangement is perfect for this. Our interim director taught us a gathering song to the text of "Where two or three are gathered, I am there," which was effective for this. Also, discussing the choir's role as music ministers is crucial because it frames everything you do musically from that point forward. Maybe you could have the group sing only the familiar or simple, like a Taize chant, without making the first rehearsal seem too nitty gritty.
on August 22, 2013 3:26pm
H Lukas,
You are on the right track, consulting the pastor, building relationships with the choir members.
 In regard to latecomers,  Michael Kemp in his book "The Choral Challenge: Practical Paths to Solving Problems" (GIA 2009) suggestsl:  "So how can you make the first ten minutes of rehearsal more enjoyable and effective, and thereby increase people's desire to arrive on time?  One way is to begin rehearsals with singing instead of talking. Adopt a default opening sequence, beginning with singing the same chorale, spiritual, canon, or verse of a favorite hymn at each rehearsal. You can use standard harmonizations, or even let the choir improvise on a well-known tune, such as 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Within a few rehearsals of starting this way, the music should be memorized, allowing it to be sung without the complication fo getting music out, even by those just coming in the door. This opening music should be relatively short, enjuoyable, to sing, lovely to hear, and preferably quiet and sustained. Don't rehearse it; just let the choir sing. No one wants to miss singing this beautiful opening music, which occurs only once each rehearsal and begins exactly on time, and therefore singers work harder to be prompt and immediately engaged."  This has worked beautifully for me.  
on August 21, 2013 9:51am
Hi Lukas!
When I first entered my current job as church music director, I used some sort of questionnaire or survey on a nearly annual basis.  I asked many questions, and especially those about choral literature.  Especially fascinating was the range of comments that came from the members.  Preferences were all over the map, even though the most vocal of the members would have led me to believe otherwise.  I have used the information I received and shaped my program to be inclusive of the preferences of each member, which leaves plenty of room for what I have in mind.  Over the years, I have come to be able to do anything I want to do without objections, because the trust relationsip has developed.  Many of us do not change easily or rapidly, and need to ease into a new situation.  We also want to know that we are going to be heard.  Grumblings among members are as old as the earliest of the churches, and will continue long after we are gone, but you can turn them into the start of something positive by your response.
Good luck and "take it slow, Joe"!
Nan Beth Walton
on August 22, 2013 7:08am
When I began my church position 14 years ago I was the youngest person present. To my advantage, however, the church had a lot of turnover the three years prior to my application and I had led a performance of a community choir the previous November during a community Thanksgiving service. 
I still had members questioning repertoire selections and tactics. I went with suggestions of things that were traditions, such as warming up with the coming Sunday's hymns, and worked my own ideas into warm ups and repertoire. I find the two biggest advantages I have now are my sense of humor and that they know I have a well-trained voice. I had NO church back ground when I started, although I had lots of choral background. Try not to give your attention to those who disrespect you but keep a sense of humor about being the new director and this may drive away the nay-sayers and bring in new singers to replace and grow your ensemble. Best of luck!
on August 24, 2013 10:42am
With respect to acceptance of unison singing, it might be worth making the point that choral unison generates the most powerful sound obtainable from a set of voices-- any set of voices.  It's adaptable to much music and can be extraordinarily effective a cappella or, in situations with complex underlying harmony, when paired with a well-arranged accompaniment.
"Simpler" (actually, I don't think that good unison is "simple") does not necessarily mean "less compelling".  
on August 25, 2013 6:27am
Understand that change is difficult for people, and especially a big transition in a place that has been a routine that they could count on for...years? decades? They are going to question things you do, and it is just because it's not what they're used to doing. Directing adults is different than teaching kids. Adults don't adjust to change as easily. Show your singers that you hear their concerns and that you care about them by talking one-on-one with them and explaining your plans. In reality, they probably could care less that you're young. They want you to prove that you care about them and that you honor their ideas and feelings. In this way, they're a lot like kids. Diffuse harsh criticism with humor and take it all with a smile on your face. A colleague of mine had a great line when people in his adult community chorus got their feathers ruffled about something: "It's OK, people! I'm a trained professional. I will get us through this!"
Balance your repertoire choices. I admit that if I were used to singing "four-part classics" and had them replaced with two-part or unison music, even if it were more appropriate for my level, I'd probably be sad and hurt. Throw them a bone now and then and give them something too hard so they can work towards performing it. It's not the end of the world if they don't sing it beautifully or cover all of the parts.
Lastly, remember why they're coming to your choir each week. Sure, they are there for you and for the congregation, and to sing well and develop as musicians. But mostly, they are there to feed their spirits. Remember that and nurture it in everything that you do for them.
Directing adult choirs is great and fulfilling work.
on August 25, 2013 4:02pm
Attitudes can be turned into positive experiences.  The blank stares from your choir members can be used as a general quiet time -- prayer time -- reflection time.  Remember, you in charge and not in competition with them.  Above all, don't let them goad you before services as everything will go down hill.  I tell my choir to hold questions until after services.  They get the drill.  Always remember, they are volunteers and you need them.  You are paid one.  Treat the attitudes with kindness and move on.  Respectfully submitted and GOOD LUCK!!!
on August 26, 2013 9:25pm
Hello, All,
  What a thrill it is for me to have the opportunity to read thoughtful, straightforward comments that, although different, reflect the reality that we are one in the spirit.
  Lukas, remember gratitude for ALL things.  That's the challenge of the 'faithful'.
  And I ask that you make the time to let us know, periodically, how/if there is anything more you might like/need/want any of us can offer.
  The folks in your choir are blessed to have you.  I wish you well.
Louise Rose
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