“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Emily Post
Beginning next week and the rest of the month of May, we will explore a Choral Ethics way of looking at the hiring—and firing—of choral directors. I will share some insights sent to me by several ChoralNetters; issues they think hiring and personnel committees should think about before they hire someone, or fire them. Good stuff, trust me. And I hope you’ll join in the discussion. But today, I am blogging about another Choral Ethics matter.
In rehearsal, do you always say aloud what you’re thinking to your choirs? I hope you don’t. There are times when I am so ticked in rehearsal smoke comes out of my ears. I have made an informal list of things I would like to say (aloud) to my choirs but don’t.
- Shut up and sing.
- Is that a recording? Or are you just making the same mistakes you did last week?
- Is there a real reason you are late to every rehearsal? Or do you just enjoy watching me squirm?
- Take a shower. Wash your hair and for goodness sake, quit smoking…..we can smell you!
- I’m going to handcuff your folder to your right arm so you don’t lose your music AGAIN.
- Yes, I’ll stop rehearsal to personally tell you where I want the choir to begin this time. I told everyone else only two seconds ago…but you deserve your own engraved invitation.
- Why are we not rehearsing at the venue until the week before the concert? Weren’t you here for the five rehearsals it took to discuss this in detail? In excruciating detail? Guess it wasn’t compelling enough for you to pay attention at the time. My bad.
- Thank you for exposing everyone here to your cold. It was very thoughtful of you. You can keep your record of perfect attendance while the rest of us drink hot tea and curse you.
I probably could repeat aloud one or two of these “clever comments” to my present choir, a semi-professional chamber choir of adults who are conductors or organists or work in music publishing, but I don’t. And I didn’t say anything close to what I wanted to with my church choirs or my community children’s chorus or my school choirs. I certainly have days (evenings) when the snarky dialogue in my head after rehearsals keeps me sane while my choir is making me goofy with their stuff. Why don’t I let my inner Melissa McCarthy out? I respect my choirs and their feelings too much and know if I am snarky, only bad will follow.
Last week, you read about my son, Russell, who has autism. When he was very young and we were beginning our autism journey, the school district arranged for an educational psychologist to come into our home three times a week and teach me the behavior management techniques used with him in his early childhood program so there would be consistency from school to home. Those behavior techniques have helped me with him over the years but also have had a huge impact on my own music teaching, choral conducting and yes, the running of my rehearsals.
I learned to be simple with my explanations. I learned to make sure tone of voice matched the meaning of words. I learned not to be mean when impatient. I learned to smile when pleased and laugh when something strikes me funny. I learned kindness went a long way toward getting what I want. I learned to find joy. I learned to expect much but to notice even slight improvements as well and build upon those. In short, I learned what has become the basis for my Choral Ethics Project including words matter. For every one of my snarky comments in rehearsal, an equal and (sometimes) opposite behavior should be expected from my choirs, whether I want that behavior or not. It follows those behavior management techniques I learned long ago for my son. Because words matter. Words. Matter.