“Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.” Oscar Wilde
You have the perfect Music Director Search Committee gathered. You’ve soul-searched and all members of your committee are on the same page for the future of the organization or ensemble. You’ve hired a competent interim. You have sent out audition notices (and advertised for the position here on ChoralNet) and have sorted through the résumés. You have scheduled the audition/interviews. Now what? It’s time to formulate your interview questions so you may hire the best and most Choral Ethical director for your choir.
Each member of the committee probably has one or two questions they feel are of utmost importance to ask your candidates. Those questions should be asked but limit those *musts* to one per person. Are there some questions important to the group as a whole? If your former director handled a sticky situation particularly well, you’ll want to ask your candidates what they would do in a similar situation. If your former director didn’t handle a sticky situation well, it’s fair to ask what the candidates would do in the same situation. It is important to decide on interview questions during your committee organization meetings before any interviews take place so you may be efficient and comprehensive in your questions. Allow yourself at least thirty minutes (an hour would be ideal) for the interview per candidate; faster doesn’t mean better.
If you are at a loss for some music/choral ensemble related interview questions, ChoralNetter Lulu* sent me quite a few last fall. There are sure to be several fitting for your particular organization. I feel her list of questions is quite comprehensive as far as breathe of scope for leading a performing arts organization including some ethical questions too. Thanks Lulu!
- What efforts do you make to guide the members in learning the music? What is the minimal number of rehearsals you give a piece before programming it?
- How far ahead do you give your accompanist the music?
- What would you do if you asked the accompanist to lead a sectional, and found that s/he was criticizing your choices and changing the way you had directed your singers?
- How would you handle a squabble over who gets the solo?
- Without naming a name or situation, how recently can you recall criticizing a colleague?
- How would you handle it when a singer did not show for concert, and called a week later to say there had been a death in the family?
- What would you do if the music ordered was late and the concert imminent?
- Once or twice a year, schedule permitting, will you accept requests for the choir to sing in a charity situation where you would receive no [extra] pay?
- What efforts would you make to encourage diversity in the choir? In the audience?
- What would you say to a member who showed up for practice and performance with a heavy fragrance – either perfume, or cigarette smoke, or something equally risky?
- What would you do if you witnessed a member being harassed – verbally, physically, psychologically, or any of the above?
If you still feel the need to ask the ubiquitous “where do you see yourself in five years?” why not ask, “where do you see the Okay Chorale in five years?” You’ll probably get the same basic answer but the second will spur the candidate to think about the organization and not just themselves. It is your responsibility to hire the best director, musically and ethically, for your ensemble and the whole interview process should be about the organization and not just the committee or the candidate. And the music, it should be about the music.
Please feel free to chime in with your own question suggestions. Questions you believe need to be asked or wish you had been asked as a potential music director. Next week, we will discuss being interviewed for such a position.