“No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.” Samuel Johnson
For the month of September, Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics will be reviewing what Choral Ethics is and how relevant it is to our profession, now more than ever. During the tough times we are going through with the COVID-19 Pandemic, self-reflection seems like a good idea. I will get you started by sharing my own personal code of Choral Ethics.
My personal Choral Ethics code is a work in progress but has three basic parts. I try to treat my singers and accompanists as I would want to be treated. I try to always say something good about my colleagues if at all possible and if I am not able, to keep my mouth shut. And I try to keep my own skills as good as in my capability. This does not mean I expect less from my singers, accompanist, or myself; I just try to be nice about it. What does all this mean in practice?
I am boring because I hate drama. If you sing for me, you receive a rehearsal schedule before rehearsals ever start and an absence sign-up sheet and most, if not all, of your music. You will know five days before every rehearsal what we will be working on so you can work on only that and nothing else because I respect your time. I won’t call extra rehearsals if I can help it and if I do, it will be known to all as soon as possible. If you audition for me, I will calmly tell you if you did, or did not, make it when I told you I will tell you. Oh, and no matter what happens, “save the drama for your mama”, because I won’t tolerate it. And that’s it exactly–many people, even those who are the supposed “professionals”, think it is the drama and the last minute changes and the lack of schedules because their ensemble should be the only important thing in your life makes you a “professional musician”. I believe it to be the opposite.
I had my doubts when I first started writing this blog that there would be an interest. Now I see not only is there an interest, but a real need. Since I began regularly writing Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics, I have been contacted almost weekly by ChoralNetters who want to share their stories about choral ethics, or the lack there of, with me. There have been MANY accompanists with horror stories of conductors-behaving-badly. There have been singers in community choruses with stories that will curl your hair. And newly hired music directors who have cleaned up after their predecessor’s “scorched earth” leave taking. All I can say is WOW!
Choral Ethics is something I believe important to every one of us in some way and has the potential to have an impact—positively or negatively–on our profession for years to come. It is my hope, conductors, music students and music teachers will see a way of behaving and performing—on stage and off—to better our profession, our students, and our music.
One of my friends is a retired Music Ed professor and her views are quite firm as to what those of you teaching music at universities should be doing to foster professionalism early. My friend believes having clear expectations and expressing them concisely and in a timely fashion is a start for teaching professionalism. She expected her students to attend class and be on time, be prepared with classwork and materials and NO ONE was excused from those expectations. If someone was late or missed class, she marked a percentage of their grade down. She made no allowances for anyone who didn’t inform her before class of a conflicting rehearsal or a death in the family but was understanding and kind if they did. If someone wasn’t prepared for a presentation or didn’t have materials which were requested they bring, they were also marked down. If she was contacted and told before class they would NOT be prepared for their presentation or not able to bring materials, she was again understanding and kind. She did not make any allowances for the gifted, talented, or favored students at her college; they were expected to come through just as every other student in her classes. Many remarked of the “professionalism” of her students; my friend believes it was because she expected the same behavior from ALL her students.
Choral Ethics will talk about professionalism next week. Until then, be well and be safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join me there this morning!