“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain
About half of all emails I get are from folks who want my opinion about the right thing to do. I’ve written about this before; many choral directors don’t trust their instincts any longer and want validation. I don’t blatantly tell them what to do; I ask questions and let them work it out in their own minds. I believe everyone who asks really knows what to do; they just want to be given permission.
You know the right thing to do means including all who want to sing in your non-auditioned church choir. And your church choir members and clergy know this too. While your inclination might be to ask the 80 year old soprano who has a vibrato you can drive a truck through to NOT sing, it would not be right. You are perhaps sacrificing musical perfection but you are making up for it in your music ministry. We often forget, as professional church musicians our ministry includes our choir members as well as our congregation.
Your highly auditioned community chorus has a reputation of musical excellence. Each singer is proud of the level of musicianship of your chorus. You are getting complaints about one of your long time members. He is one of your founding low basses, and has developed a terrible, distracting vibrato. You very gently ask him if he feels he is still able to contribute. Relieved, he tells you he is no longer able to sing but would like to manage the box office.
Another choral organization in your community tends to contact only those who successfully audition. Your organization has always contacted everyone who auditions; whether they pass the audition or not. Now your board thinks they would also like not to be bothered with those who don’t make it. You still think it is not only the right thing to do to contact all, but it will end up making your organization look bad in the long run if you change policies.
Your chorus posts a list on the chorus room door of those who successfully auditioned for various things. Each person is required to initial their name so you know they have seen it. One person did not initial their name last time and was quite miffed they were being asked to do so.
Your academic chorus has a tradition of having many soloists for each concert. If you perform a large work with multiple solos for the same voice type, you have a different soloist for each solo. You like giving everyone a chance to sing in public but your new department chair has different ideas.
One of your tenors is your usual soloist. He has a great voice but with every solo you’ve given him, he has gotten a bit more demanding and arrogant. The last time, he threw his music at your accompanist. You decide enough is enough and choose someone else. He quits in a huff.
One of the singers in your children’s choir did not show up for your last concert. You have half a mind to ask them not to return. When you call their parent, you find out they did not have concert dress because they could not afford it and was ashamed. The child said nothing to you about their situation. Knowing this now, you change what your chorus wears for concerts so everyone is able to participate and feel comfortable.
The policy of your university chorus is to give ‘As’ to everyone who sings the concert. If they do not, they are automatically given a ‘C’. One of your singers did not sing the last concert because they were in a car accident two days before and was in the hospital. You decide to give them a ‘B’.
The community chorus which is in direct competition with your community chorus is having difficulties. Several of their members have joined your chorus, gossiping all the way. This is an organization that has a history of gossiping about and maligning your chorus but you get no joy from their misfortunes. You walk away when the gossip starts because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Each similar situation might have a different “right thing” to do. You know, in your heart, what that is. Now do them!