“They sit there in committees day after day, And they each put in a color and it comes out gray. And we all have heard the saying, which is true as well as witty, That a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.” Allan Sherman
You are a choral singer. You sing in your worship community’s choir or a community chorus or another kind of a choral organization not in an academic setting. You sing with a great choral director. I mean a great director. Your director is SO great, you don’t know what you will do if he leaves. And then, he does. Your chorus is so happy he has been offered a better job in a community far away or he’s retiring or he’s won the lottery. But you are a little dazed since he was the best choral director you have ever worked with. What do you do?
You are a choral singer. You sing in your worship community’s choir or a community chorus or another kind of a choral organization not in an academic setting. You sing with a choral director who can best be described as a “short-tempered jackass.” I mean a jerk of a director. Your director is SO much of a jerk; you don’t know the best way to fire him without creating more of a mess. And then he does something so terrible and awful, you have to. Your chorus is so happy he is gone but you are a little dazed since he was the nastiest choral director you have ever worked with. What do you do?
Surprisingly, the answer is the same for both of the above scenarios; hire an interim. That interim should be someone who will be a calming factor for your choir, to bridge the gap between the old director and the new director. You will need the interim, you really will, so your chorus has time to choose the best director possible. You should not feel pressured to hire right away because a) you want to hire someone as awesome as your previous director OR b) you want to hire someone nothing like your previous director. First you need to put together a director search committee and the make-up of that committee is very important.
The board president or clergy usually begins the committee selection process. The board president (clergy) as well as any paid staff working directly with the director such as an accompanist (organist) and executive director (personnel chair or council member in worship communities) should be members of the search committee. Any singers with special interests such as educators or a parent of a children’s choir singer or bell choir ringers or other music staff (other music directors working in the organization) should be asked. An “at-large” community member or congregation member could be included. You do NOT want the whole committee to have the same background and viewpoint simply because only one view will be represented. A committee with varied backgrounds, varied interests and varied hopes will choose someone everyone connected with your choir will be happy with. Or, that is the theory. The search committee’s biggest challenge as you begin your search is to agree on the direction your choir and organization should go and the type of person you want leading you.
The first work the director search committee should do is to decide what your organization wants and needs AT THIS POINT IN TIME. Is it the time to expand your organization or to cut back? Is the repertoire still satisfying to the majority of your singers (and to your audience/congregation) or do you need to rethink the music? As you begin the search for a new director, it is the perfect time to do some organizational “soul-searching.”
With a Choral Ethics view, what type of person do you want for your organization? Do you want a clone of your former director or do you want someone nothing like them? Do want someone patient or someone demanding? Do you want someone gregarious or someone soft-spoken? It goes without saying you want someone moral, but perhaps it should not go without saying in this day and age.
Next week, we will discuss interview questions. Please feel free to contribute!