“Be nice to people on your way up
because you meet them on your way down.” Jimmy Durante
We’ve been busy, email-wise, here at Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics during the last few weeks as the choir year ends. Academic programs are finished when school ends. And community programs, with all sorts of different types of choral organizations, are having their last concerts, if they haven’t already. The church choir year ends with Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, so the end is in sight for them too.
The End-Of-The-Year comments and queries, with their desire for advice are similar, no matter who writes. The writers are singers, accompanists or directors themselves, all wanting to know one thing; why can’t people be nice? After a whole choir year of putting up with people being snotty or cranky, they can’t take it anymore and reach out, wanting to know what they should have done. Hindsight is always 20/20 and most of my correspondents are curious if they’ve done or said the right thing or if there was a better way to handle the situation.
It’s more complicated than simply saying, “Let’s be nice to one another.” People get upset when oversights leave them out. Or when they believe they are made to look bad and are scolded for things beyond their control. There are certain people who also believe there is a right and wrong way to do certain things. As the end of the year approaches, emotions run high and if things don’t go according to plan, or the way they THINK they should go, that’s when folks get testy and cranky. This year, “pettiness” rules with my “not being nice” emails.
Gene’s* name was (again) left off the concert program of the community chorus he accompanies for. When asked why his name was left off, he was told to get over it. He quit. Sasha* was yelled at by one of her singers for not carrying her music in the correct hand as she came on stage. She was NOT supposed to carry her own music but the person who WAS forgot. Her singer didn’t care because it “looked terrible” so Sasha quit her community chorale job. Jordan’s* choir director at church decided to scold the whole choir (all volunteers) at their last rehearsal for their terrible attendance this choir year. Jordan sang the Pentecost service but won’t be back in the fall when the church choir year begins again.
All of these folk QUIT rather than continue because of some rather petty reasons. And all of my correspondents admit these are pretty petty reasons. The problem is these are the LAST of a series of petty issues and comments, culminating in that proverbial straw. Gene and Sasha and Jordan asked what they should have done and I told them; they should have spoken up before. When I asked what they would do now, since they are no longer employed or not going to sing as a volunteer, all three told me they began to look for new jobs or a new church right after the winter concert and Christmas. In other words, they were primed to leave.
This leads me to ask; do we put up with others being nasty and petty so we don’t have to confront them? Is confrontation, even the benign type, so difficult for some people they would rather leave? There are some working situations when saying something will accomplish nothing, as in Gene’s case. He is right to quit and his new job seems like a much better situation for him. Sasha has one or two busybody singers who must say something about, well, EVERYTHING. If she has said something long ago, this wouldn’t have become an issue. And if it was such a Big Deal, one of those singers could have made sure her music was on the podium to begin with but not being nice must have been easier. Jordan has a point about scolding volunteers about attendance; church choir directors with volunteer choirs must take care not to offend those they depend on, otherwise, they get what they get. It seems so simple just to be nice, no matter what, in that situation.
I will be taking a bit of a Choral Ethics break during the summer and have scheduled Choral Ethics Blog repeats beginning July 4. But I will be working on the Fall’s Blogs during the summer, so if you have a Choral Ethics dilemma or query or comment, please email me: .
Have a GREAT SUMMER!