What are you currently doing to attract singers and grow your choir? What are you telling folks to get them to join you in a singing community? We talked in last month’s blog about communicating the value of choir, especially outside of musical circles – the “business of choir” per se. This week we continue that discussion but from a slightly different angle. You first need a little background.
If you’ve checked out this month’s Choral Journal, you’ll see a film review in there of “The Conductor and Choir,” a documentary that highlights the power of choir and not only the relationships and community built, but how that community and quality is strengthened when traveling. You can read more about the movie in your journal or online, but the fascinating part of writing that review was talking to the main character, retired director of the LA Children’s Chorus (LACC), Anne Tomlinson. But wait, you need to know what sparked that conversation.
The first thing that hooked me with the film was the opening. Pop-sensation Billie Eilish appears on screen raving about the benefits of none other than BEING IN A CHOIR! Seriously, all I could think about was how do I snag that clip and play it on repeat for all the pop singer fans around town. I can see it now, “Be like Billie, join your local community choir.” We’d be busting at the seems with interested singers, right? After a little digging I realized Billie herself sang in LACC, so the logical next step, I had to interview her director, Mrs. Tomlin, and see what she had to say about it all. Now you know all the background – let’s talk about what we can all learn from this.
When sitting down with Mrs. Tomlinson, she told story after story, yet kept going back to the importance of quality collaborations. The film highlights the power of community, travel, and fun that comes with choir – all very important advocacy tools and stories you can share when seeking new members or building support for your choral organization. However, Mrs. Tomlinson also brought up a key point when she said, “the film captures the importance of people working together to create something beautiful, something that they couldn’t create by themselves, and something that creates a situation where we rely on one another, and it tells the fun story of crazy choir people. We are kind of like a niche, one of the kids says, we are sort of a species.” We advocate with the authentic stories of our choir people and have to know (or learn) how to communicate the power of those stories both within and beyond our “species.”
A great way to create stories and practice the art of communication is through meaningful collaborations. During our conversation, Mrs. Tomlinson recommended the following steps for creating quality collaborations:
- Start with things in which you’ve already found success and go from there. Before diving into a collaboration, brainstorm what you are already doing well on your own. Or, what are you successful at doing now, but could improve in another area with an intentional collaboration?
Consider what your organization can handle and be realistic. Think time, as in your, your singers’, and your collaborators’ time. Then think logistics: where, when, how. Come to the table with ideas and realistic considerations.
Intentionally go out and get in front of people and organizations in your community – be visible. Are you reaching all of your possible community? Are there areas of town that could use a concert? Do they even want a concert, or would something else be more beneficial to them? Take time to know what would be helpful or beneficial and then identify where or who.
Identify the mutually beneficial benefits – take the time to build relationships and listen. The key point here is “mutually beneficial.” A collaboration isn’t simply an invitation to be a part of someone else’s thing. Each party needs to gain from the experience. Said another way, don’t ask someone to bring the bag of ice to your party and call it a collaboration when they don’t even need a party. Take the time to talk with your potential partner/collaborator and create an event or thing that will benefit each party’s mission, vision, and goals.
Take action and make the to-list to get it done – as a team. Once mutually beneficial things have been decided, create the action list and divide and conquer. Be sure to set check-ins and benchmarks and a time or place to evaluate if it event was indeed a quality and meaningful collaboration.
- Document and share the stories along the way – advocate. Write down the stories, take all the pictures, create the memories, and then don’t be afraid to share them! Your choral community is lucky to have you and the folks not in the room should hear about the awesome things you’re doing.
What started as a simple film review ended up becoming a tool and resource for advocacy and collaboration. Our takeaways? Tell your stories. Create the opportunities. Enjoy the process and get excited for the incredible moments we have the opportunity to dream up and experience thanks to the wonderful choir world we get to call our careers. Need help getting started with a collaboration or looking for more about advocacy? Check the ACDA Advocacy & Collaboration Standing Committee on Facebook and Instagram or at ACDA.org/advocacy.
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MVCQdnJm8_E (or episode 112 on the “Music (ed) Matters” podcast wherever you listen to pods).
Dr. Emily Williams Burch chairs ACDA’s Advocacy & Collaboration Committee. Dr. Burch has served in various positions for ACDA at the state, regional, and national level in a variety of roles, including co-programming chair and honor choir coordinator for the Southern Region ACDA conferences since 2014. You can subscribe to her podcast for music educators wherever you get your podcasts, or at EmilyBurch.org/podcast.