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texting during rehearsal

We have several Mellenials (22-25 yr olds) in our 100+ voice adult Symphonic Chorus who text (sometimes each other) during rehearsals. My strong inclination is to absolutely BAN texting during rehearsal - the problem is what should the penalty be for infractions. We would very much like to hear what other similar organizations do before developing a policy. Mind you that this is not within an academic setting which would make it much simpler. Thank you in advance.
Edwin Foster
NJ Conservatory
Mountain Lakes, NJ
on October 15, 2013 1:54pm
A local community chorus has a policy that requires members to pay $$ (I think $5) whever their phone rings during rehearsal.  Perhaps something similar might be applicable?
Julie Ford
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 16, 2013 3:56am
I feel your frustration, but I also have a certain disquiet at the thought of 'penalties' for breaking rules in an adult choir - that would seem to encourage an us-them relationship, with the choir management as controlling parent and the trendy young things with their gadgets as children seeing what they can 'get away with'.

I think it would be useful to have a meeting with some of the people who feel the need to text during rehearsal and talk with them about why you find it inappropriate, and why they think it is okay. You need them to udnerstand that others find it distracting, and that it impacts on the sense of ensemble if there are cliquey bits of gossip going on in the interstices of the rehearsal. You may also hear some things that you don't really want to about why they feel they have enough spare attention to carry on a parallel conversation - are they not being stretched enough? Do they get a bit bored? 
Whilst I absolutely agree that this behaviour needs to change, I also think it's important to keep your twenty-somethings on board. These are the people who will be maintaining choral traditions for the next half-century after all. I consider your wish for a ban to be perfectly reasonable, but the people who really need to believe in it are your millenials!
Applauded by an audience of 5
on October 16, 2013 5:27am
I became (in)famous for asking one young lady what she was doing with her hands in her lap that looked so strange. Texting has not been a problem. ;)
Applauded by an audience of 3
on October 16, 2013 5:47am
Hi Edwin, Assuming the folks you are talking about are volunteers and not paid section leaders, I think it would be a mistake to ban texting. People need to keep in touch with their kids and their work. They may be waiting for an important email from a client or distributor. If they have to choose, they may decide to skip rehearsal.
I do think you need to appeal to their better natures and ask them not to text or email during rehearsal unless it is urgent. You can joke about not checking Facebook during rehearsal. I assume this only happens when you are rehearsing another section. If they are blatantly ignoring you when they are supposed to be singing then you may need to speak privately with the individual. I wouldn't suggest talking to several singers at the same time. All the best to you!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 16, 2013 5:54am
There are some problems I can foresee with the suggested approach.
1.  Who enforces?  If it's not the director (are you REALLY going to be spending your time looking for texters?), it's going to have to be chorus members - who should be paying attention to their music, anyway.
2.  While some texts "ring," once the policy is known, they'll put it on "vibrate" or some other notification means - which will be harder to identify.
So here's my suggestion:  state the policy, plainly, as a courtesy to all - not simply because of the disruption to themselves (and thus they are contributing less than the whole of themselves), but because of the disruption to others around them.  If you happen, after stating the policy (and you may want to put it in writing), to "catch" (or someone else catches) someone violating the policy, the punishment is simple:  one PUBLIC warning, and then dismissal from the chorus - without return of fees, or any other consideration.  If they challenge you, make the point:  "if you are so unwilling now to commit yourself fully to the preparation and communication of the music in question and it's only in rehearsal, I have serious doubts about your commitment in performance - and that is grossly unfair to your fellow choristers and audience."
My ultimate point:  Get your board behind you; get them to commit to such an approach; put it in writing for ALL to have; and then enforce it.  NOTHING, save "blood or puke" (pardon me!) is more important than what you do in preparation for the concert(s).  The young must learn, and if it means a societal "cuff," perhaps it will have a better effect in the long run than trying to be "too nice."  Those who do not act in an adult fashion cannot expect to be treated in an adult fashion.
Chantez bien!
Applauded by an audience of 4
on October 16, 2013 6:19am
Or if a person is found texting, their phone could be confiscated and put in a "phone basket" until the rehearsal is over, when they could pick it up again.  Hopfully it would be enough of an embarrassment and a nuisance to keep them from trying to do it.
on October 16, 2013 6:19am
Isn't it possible that you simply tell your choir that you do not want anyone texting or making/taking phone calls during rehearsals?  If I saw someone involved in one of these activities I would simply stop rehearsing and wait until they are finished.
The silence, the embarrassment, and peer pressure will make all the difference in the future.  If this kind of thing is running rampant in your rehearsals, the choir has a huge attitude problem that must be addressed.  Your professional relationship to the choir is all important and they should respect your request in this matter without the need for written policey.
Applauded by an audience of 5
on October 16, 2013 7:06am
There are times, especially in non-academic settings, where "policies/rules" should be developed by the ensemble and not the director. Though you didn’t state why you were upset by this practice, I assume it is because you find it irritating because the offenders are not listening to you. Do you engage the whole ensemble when rehearsing a single section? e.g. "Listen to the altos sing this because the rest of you are not getting this passage either."  With a large choruses such as you described, you probably have [or should have] some sort of organizational structure. Explain to the officers why you're not pleased with texting during rehearsals and why you think it impedes progress for the chorus. IF they agree, let them develop a policy and explain it to the group. You have enough control of the rehearsal from the podium; exercise caution for unilaterally forcing rules that dont really apply to singing or you may have fewer than 100+ singers the next time.
on October 21, 2013 7:02pm
In my high school, phones stay in backpacks.  If I see them, they are mine until the end of the rehearsal or a second offense, the end of the day.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 22, 2013 3:30am
We have a rule that says no use of phones during the rehearsal (note that they can use them during the break), unless there is a specific reason that they've explained to me and their section leader first. I put the caveat in when I set up the chorus, having previously had a job where circumstances occasionally required colleagues to ring me out of hours and also to cover Mums with youngsters who were worried about hubbys looking after the kids. Having said that, there have been other reasons people have requested to have their phones to hand (on silent/vibrate) which have been appropriate. Texting each other during the rehearsal does sound worrying, but as Liz says, maybe this says more about their level of engagement (or not). If an unexpected phone goes off, the look from me usually is enough to embarrass them!
on October 22, 2013 7:11am
If you're dealing with adults, then an all-out ban feels rather rude and dictatorial.  A reminder to be respectful of everyone's time and ensure a productive rehearsal is a good idea.  
A little bit of friendly chatting (or texting) is symptomatic of a happy, close-knit group.  That's a good thing!  It may also be an indication that you could stand to keep rehearsal moving a little faster.  Don't stop to run that line over and over with the basses if everyone else is tuning out as a result.  Ask the basses to mark it and run it at home, or stay after for five minutes to run it with you, and move on.  Or run it against the other parts, so everyone is staying engaged, but have everyone else hum, or ooh their notes, or only play the bass line.  Avoid long-winded explanations of what you want.  Get people singing, cut them off, say, "bigger forte and a bit more staccato," and run it again.  People are there to sing.  Keep them sings.
Is the texting just distracting to you?  (Yes, that's a legitimate complaint.)  Or is it distracting to them and their neighbors as well?  Is this a case where their older section mates are whispering while you work with a different section, and the millenials are texting instead?  In which case the texting may feel more rude to your older members, hello generation gap!, but the whispering is actually more disruptive.  
In our choir, several parents regularly receive a prearranged check-in text or phone call from their children during our evening rehearsals.  They are considerate in the way that they handle it, and it makes them feel comfortable leaving the kids at home unattended, so that mom and dad can get to rehearsal.  There are also occasionally folks who need to leave their phones on because they are "on call" with work for the evening.  Again, if it means they are at rehearsal, we're happy as long as they are discreet.  
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 23, 2013 5:45am
The rules for my college/community choir are simple: if you are expecting an important call/text, let me know prior to the start of rehearsal. If/when you receive the call/text, step out of rehearsal quickly and quietly to answer. Otherwise, phones are off and not to be used.
Applauded by an audience of 2
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