Back To School - Back To Basics

School is starting and it’s back to basics. Please enjoy these simple reminders as we re-engage with our singers this fall:

1. Love Completely 

We must truly love and care for every singer who walks into our teaching space. We may not ‘like’ all of them, but we must love them. Love means looking out for their interests ahead of our own. Love means acceptance and concern. Love is patient and kind. Our singers know if we love them. Every person is valuable and has great importance. Love them all!

2. Clarify Boundaries 

Every rehearsal space has rules and expectations. It is important that they be defined and clarified to every singer. Managing expectations is a huge part of directing an ensemble. Each singer must know what’s expected of them and what they can expect from us.

3. Celebrate Diversity 

Everyone singer is unique; no two fingerprints are the same. And, it’s our uniqueness that makes us strong. Seek ways to celebrate each person, what they bring to the ensemble and their own special uniqueness.

4. React Fairly 

When difficult situations arise, we must be careful how we act and react. If we allow our emotions to get the best of us, we will often over-react, and this can be harmful to our singers. Take time to collect facts and information. Give yourself time to assess and think about the situation. Seek wise counsel. Be fair and even-handed.

5. Teach Passionately 

Whether it’s tone, blend, balance, diction, posture or intonation, our singers need to see our passion for choral excellence. Remember, our passion is transferable. It rubs off very easily onto our singers.

6. Listen Intently 

Choir directors spend a lot of time listening, right? We’re listening for blend, balance, tone quality, and so much more. But, let’s be reminded to listen also to what not only what our choirs are singing, but what our choirs are saying. Reading singers’ body language and listening carefully to choir officers can tell us a lot about the state of mind and temperament of our ensemble.

7. Invest Greatly 

My first opportunity to conduct a choir was at age 15. I’m sure it was quite painful for my director to watch, but what an incredible difference it made to me. Our singers can do anything we teach and allow them to do. Investing greatly in our singers yields fantastic returns for the generations behind us.


8. Clarify Constantly 

As directors, ‘saying it once’ is never enough. We must continually find new ways to express our vision and direction for our ensemble. Be relentless in selling your vision, until it comes continually back to you from the mouths of your singers.

9. Sing Joyfully 

Don’t forget to have fun along the journey. Singing in a choir is a wonderful experience. There’s nothing like it, right? Make singing fun. Let your joy be contagious. Singing in a choir is something we can all do for the rest of our lives. Sing joyfully!


 John Parker is a conductor, composer, clinician, author and publisher residing in Austin, TX. He can be contacted here.

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