“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus
Today is the first Thursday of October and Chorus America’s “Choral Conductors Today: An Updated Report, A Comparison of 2017 and 2005 Findings” was released four weeks ago. We here at Choral Potpourri have been reporting the key findings for you the last three weeks. Today is the day to speak to what their report means to us, those in the trenches, and our profession.
I mentioned in my first Chorus America Blog post that I participated in the 2017 survey. So I wasn’t surprised as to what information was collected. I wasn’t even really surprised at what the outcomes for those questions were either. There were only a few things I was really surprised about; more about those later in this Blog.
I think the good news is; Choral Conducting as a profession seems to be healthy. And it seems to be evolving, keeping up with the times to stay healthy. New choruses are continually being founded. And while established choruses often keep their founders for, on average, 10 to 15 years, many thrive even after a transition of leadership. Maintaining health after a succession or two is a sign of health in an arts organization.
Those with full-time teaching jobs tend to make more money with benefits, no surprise there. Those in the community sector who are part-time tend to make less, also no surprise. Most respondents to Chorus America’s survey seem happy and fulfilled in their work, many direct multiple choruses to create a career.
I was not surprised, in the least, that many choral conductors do more than “just” rehearse and conduct their choirs. Many do more arts management type things for their choral organizations, accompany rehearsals and do outreach tasks. Some do have paid administrative help, but most do not. Choral conductors work hard!
Being a longtime ChoralNet User, and a Moderator here on ChoralNet for the past six years, I was also not surprised many of the respondents were member of professional organizations. Or many continue their education by tending workshops and conferences or by taking private lessons. Certainly, I was also not surprised most began singing in choirs when they were quite young. Or that many plan to continue to work in the choral field for a good number of more years.
What did surprise me? Only a couple of things. One was the number of choral conductors involved in other arts in their communities, though it probably shouldn’t have. And the amount of charitable giving by choral conductors to their own organizations surprised me. Again, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.
The second thing that surprised me is the data about women conductors. And, perhaps, “surprised” is not the correct word. I think “disheartened” is more like it. Or maybe shocked things haven’t improved for women in our profession. I am a “woman of a certain age” and have long struggled with gender bias. I had hoped things have gotten better for my younger “sisters” and “daughters.” I guess it might be a bit better but when I was a 13 year old girl and wanted to be a ballet conductor, I was told girls didn’t conduct orchestras. I dreamed someday I would be able to conduct who, and what, I wanted but guess that day still isn’t here.
What I wrote on September 21 bears repeating; female respondents (42 percent of all survey respondents) are as overall satisfied with choral conducting as a profession as males. But, as in the general population, they receive 73 percent of male conductors’ income. And receive lower compensation regardless of having obtained a doctorate and regardless of their workplace setting. Females and males are often associated with different types of choruses which could be a factor. The wage gap is highest between females and males directing professional choruses (52% difference) and lowest in independent children’s choruses (18 % difference).
I believe the Chorus America report is a good place to start to continue evaluating our profession. We can look to the data and know we are in good company in our own situations. We can take heart our profession is growing and evolving with the times fulfilling needs of our singers and communities. New choruses are being formed and older choruses have steady leadership. Choral conductors are involved in their arts communities and not just their own genre. We continue to keep our profession healthy by being the best choral conductors, teachers and human beings we are capable of being.
Next week we are back to Choral Potpourri and Choral Ethics…see you then!