Problems with choir committees - power struggles - Choral leader needs advice :(
Date: March 4, 2014
I am an MD of a very large community choir which resides in a prestigious venue in the UK. The choir have a committee of ten people. Aside from the chairman and two others, the remaining committee members are obstructive, unsupportive and fight my every input as musical director. I do not feel these members act on behalf of the choir members but on behalf of themselves and they negative behaviour is starting to effect the choir. Recently the committee have started to make decisions about repertoire and performances the choir are taking part in without first consulting me.
I do not currently attend the monthly committee meeting as I am not invited. I am not on the committee and do not have a vote. Some members of the committee feel that as they are paying me, they should dictate to me what the choir would like to sing. Others agree that as MD I should exercise my judgement on what repertoire the choir are capable of performing (which does include taking on board what the choir enjoy to sing) and what performances we are capable of committing to annually. I feel that we should work together and that on matters concerning music and performances, I should have final say. This is, after all, what they are paying me for. I should just mention that this committee are inexperienced, are not musicians themselves, and have not led a choral committee before.
In 2013 we agreed a schedule of four performances for 2014. But the choir are popular and often receive requests for performances. Each time a request comes through certain committee members push for us to take part - even at short notice. After their last meeting I received an email saying the choir were going to take part in two additional events in the very near future which would result in six weeks of valuable rehearsal time being lost. When I stated that I could not lead these activites due to a lack of time to prepare, the committee said that a choir member would lead in my place and that they would utilise my rehearsal time to do so. I have told the committe how I feel and I have explained that when I say 'no' to a performance opportunity, it is because I don't feel we have time to prepare for it and not because I am being difficult. But they do not listen to me.
I have also experienced ageism and verbally agressive behaviour from committee members. I was once told to stop asking people to stop talking during rehearsals because they were 'old enough to be my grandparents'. A month ago another committee member shouted at me about something quite petty which caused me humiliation in front of the choir.
I have lead this choir for nearly five years and I am an experienced musical director. The choir have grown 200% in number, have gained a good reputation under my leadership and members are happy and focused in rehearsals. I am happy to, and often make compromises with the committee and have suggested that as the choir is so large, a smaller group is formed for members who would like to take part in extra activities - and suggested that they rehearse separately to the main choir.
I feel as though the committee undermine and disrespect me. The choir at large are not aware of the situation I am in and I do not want to involve them as we have a great rapport. I do not want to leave this choir. I have invested heavily in it, have worked extremely hard to develop it and love the members.
I would like the committee to work with me, to relax and to enjoy the choir. I feel a little as though it is a conduit for their everyday stresses, which come out through fighting me, being generally unsupportive and through making my job difficult. The annual meeting is in July and we could vote new members into the committee, but these people are a tour-de-force and other choir members are intimidated by them!
I am in the process of trying to arrange a meeting with them but at present I am struggling to find anything online from people who have experienced this type of issue. It would be great to take some printed documents with me to a meeting to explain more clearly what my job is or what is to be expected of the choir committee (which I thought dealt with membership, accounts, insurance, purchases and social events?).
Sorry for the length of this. Any advice? Tips? Suggestions of where I can look further?