“The art of leadership is saying no,
not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” Tony Blair
As November ends, we head toward December. We will be expected to accomplish miracles this month by our students, other teachers, our choir members and even our families. Our choirs have concerts; and the semester is ending so, when we finish Winter concerts, we still have to do grading before the Break begins.Our Church Choirs are gearing up for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services and perhaps, before those, we have special Lessons and Carols services too. Rehearsals are often daily events instead of the once-a-week usual. Whew, I’m tired just typing that! December comes quickly and sometimes, quicker than we expect.
I’m writing about Self-Care during the month of November. One of the most important things in the art of your own Self-Care is to know what you need and what is your limit. I, personally, know I cannot do anything else because I am at my personal capacity this December. Concerts, writing program notes for other performing arts organizations, the usual family holiday stuff (including holiday cards—yep, I’m a dinosaur but I LIKE to do them), entertaining in our home, attending parties for business and my spouse’s office staff party (which I host) and whatever singing obligation I’ve agreed to; I know I cannot do anything else.
In years past, I’ve tried to be a “people pleaser” and despite all of the above,have agreed at the last minute to gather singers for a December event. I conduct a chamber choir, so five or six of the eight or nine or ten of my singers usually works out for something like a luncheon or a holiday program.It’s not ideal, but I’ve made it work before. I don’t like it, they don’t like it but we’ve done it.
This year, two days before our November fall concert and after we’ve had our last rehearsal until spring, I received an email from a colleague. He works for a local village and sheepishly asked if I thought my choir would be interested in singing for his Village Tree lighting in THREE WEEKS. One of the village administrators had mentioned my group to my friend, and told him he thought it would be good exposure for us. My friend asked me but told me I was under no obligation to say yes.
I was collating pages for our concert program and only glanced at my friend’s email. My mind started racing and I wondered if it would be better to ask my choir during our concert warm-up or during intermission in the green room?Then, I stopped myself. What was I THINKING? I didn’t want to do this and I know my choir wouldn’t want to do it either. Several singers have told me they don’t like to sing outside when its 50 degrees or lower and it is sure to be colder than that on the night of the Tree Lighting. We would have to have at least one rehearsal if not more, but first I would have to throw together something lasting, what did he say, about ten or so minutes? I wanted to say No,with a BIG N-O! So, that’s what I did.
I emailed my friend and told him NO. I said it was too short a notice and I would have considered doing it if we had been contacted in September. I thanked him for thinking of us. He emailed back saying he thought that would be the case but asked anyway in the event it would have worked out.
I feel so good about saying NO, I’m almost giddy, but I struggled with this decision. It felt wrong to go out of my way for something I know wouldn’t be good for me or for my choir. Many of you also struggle with similar decisions and my advice is this; always do what is in the best interest of your choir. Sometimes, it might be saying YES. But if it is saying NO, don’t feel bad about it, just do it!