“The best leaders are readers of people. They have the intuitive ability to understand others by discerning how they feel and recognizing what they sense.” John C. Maxwell
Since beginning this Blog in 2015, I have been contacted by numbers of ChoralNet Readers—I like to call these folks ChoralNetters–who want to share their stories about Choral Ethics, or 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 would curl your hair. And several newly hired music directors who have cleaned up after their predecessor’s “scorched earth” leave taking. All I can say is WOW!
When I first thought about writing about Choral Ethics eight or more years ago, I wasn’t sure there would be an interest. Now I see not only is there an interest, but a real need. 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.
I know singers who think nothing of not giving music to their accompanists, who still expect perfection. I know musicians, in fits of pique, “venting” to musicians who got the job they didn’t, screeching, “It’s not fair” when it probably is. And I’ve heard about conductors who expect their players to be ready to drop other obligations for their newly scheduled and inconvenient-for-all rehearsals. We all have worked with people who feel *they* are professional but who behave any way but professionally.
Having coffee with my colleagues and friends these subjects often come up. One friend is a retired Music Ed professor, and her views were quite interesting as to what those of you teaching music at universities should be doing to foster professionalism early in your students’ careers. Degrees or no, she can tell who is really the professional by their attitude!
One colleague recently brought up an experience she had while we were having coffee together. It had us all shaking our heads. She attended a Catholic University in grad school and had a church job to supplement her tuition and loans. One year, Easter was quite early, and the elite choral group she sang with had a concert the following week. The conductor of the choral group arranged to have their first orchestral rehearsal on Holy Thursday, from 5 to 7 pm and had arranged it only a few weeks before. He didn’t ask any of his singers if it was doable that day, he just did it, and it was a mandatory rehearsal. Several singers, in addition to my friend, also had church jobs and could not attend that rehearsal due to playing and directing music for Holy Thursday services. They told him as soon as they realized their conflict. The conductor was livid, went to the Dean who threatened to throw them all out of school if they didn’t attend that rehearsal. He also called them–which is why my friend brought this up–“unprofessional”.
Now this was a Catholic University and Holy Thursday is quite a big deal in the Catholic Church if memory serves, and the singers let him know they wouldn’t be able to attend in a timely fashion. But this conductor, who should have known church musicians earning money to go to school would have a conflict on a Big Deal for the Catholic Church, called then unprofessional. All of them arranged for subs at their churches, but how silly is that?
My friend the retired Music Ed Prof said this was just what she was talking about–what kind of an example did the conductor show for his students? That it’s absolutely fine to schedule–at the last-minute mind you–a rehearsal when perhaps many in his ensemble may have a very predictable conflict? And then throw a temper tantrum? The mind boggles.