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Support system from overall choral community - a study

Hi everyone,
 
I am putting together a focus group in my city to chat about how we can enhance the support system in our choral community. We are facing challenges where it can be rare to see other members from other choirs at another choir concert (despite a well marketed media plan and reasonable ticket prices) and it often can result in our singers feeling discouraged that the outer choral community support barely exists. Our city has about 70 choirs of all levels and seems to be somewhat detrimental in maintaining a support system for each other because there are so many concerts happening at once. 
It also seems to be a bit of a competition between choirs at times, especially between the more advanced choirs. My choir is an auditioned semi-professional chamber choir therefore we see much of this atttitude from others. I may be biased in saying this but our choir is very laid back and easy to work with...we are often praised for having a very drama-free environment.
When speaking with peers from other cities, few of them boast about how amazing their community is and I am curious to know what it is that seems to be working.

So my questions to you are - 
1 - What is your choral community like in your city? 
2 - What do you do to enhance the community as well as building that support system?
3 - Since research has been mainly aimed at the community within a choir, I seem to be having no luck in finding an in-depth study of the overall choral community and how to make it thrive. Any tips? Recommendations that I may have missed? 
4 - Do age gaps play a role? 
 
Note - I am keeping internal choral relations completely separate from this topic as it can open a can of worms where it would not be my place to try to resolve.
 
Thanks so much!  
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on July 14, 2015 10:30pm
Dear Amy,
 
I feel your pain and really *get* what you are saying.  I, too, conduct an auditioned semi-professional chamber choir which is drama-free (real my occasssional ChoralBlog here at ChoralNet about Choral Ethics and know we're coming from the same place) and we too feel discouraged about the lack of support of our peers.  I am in the suburbs of Chicago, and in our community there are about three large choruses and my chamber choir (the only one in the area).  Chicago and other suburbs, have many, many choruses not exactly in direct commpetition with us and I don't think of them as our *real choral community*.
 
A few years ago during the summer, I decided to do something to enhance our suburban community's choral community and invited the directors of the three large groups to join me for coffee.  Attending the first meeting I had one director from one group, the promise of cooperation from another and a board member from another.  We had a lovely time, passed out the brochures for our upcoming concert seasons, agreed to *try* to attend each others concerts and the *big fellas* thought to borrow music from one another.  The next summer, I tried again. This time all the directors attended and it was a music borrowing meeting, with more brochures, which left me out...though I promised if anyone needed 18 copies of something, I'm their gal!  I decided it was too much work for me to do to organize this with little to no pay off for me. There's also an attitude around here that *small can't be as good as big* (maybe it's a version of what you're experiencing) and I got the feeling some didn't want me playing with the big boys. I still try to foster good feelings with other music directors and I have, mostly. But with a few, you get the feeling it makes them uncomfortable to be nice to their perceived competition.
 
I am now involved with the formation of a community umbrella arts organization, conceived by the local small business association.  One of the choral directors from the group I was trying to form is also involved with me.  This group has performing arts(music--choral, orchestral and jazz--drama and dance), visual arts(galleries) and museums as well as a core of small businesses trying to come together for our community as a whole.  Our facilitator is actually the curator of a local university's scupture park!  This group is a bit like what I had enviisoned for the choral organizations but since there are many kinds of arts groups working together, I think there will be less territorial issues.
 
I don't think age gaps play any sort of role in my area but perhaps they do and I just don't realise it.
 
Hope this helps!
 
Marie
on July 16, 2015 7:48am
Hi Marie,
Thank you so much for your input. It really helps to get other perspectives on this topic!
The idea of getting the directors together is a great plan. In my city (Ottawa ON) the directors get along quite well and frequently meet to socialize. It is just a matter of making these specific meetings happen (every 3 months or so) and getting the point across that we need to support each other better. I am sure they would be completely open to this idea. Fingers crossed that it would be successful. 
Like you, our downtown area has about five prominent choirs that sing together quite often however when it comes to our own individual concerts, the other choirs are barely in attendance. When we sing in a combined choir for massed choir shows at our main performance hall, everything seems go to smoothly until I receive complaints saying some of the singers have an "attitude" and tend to tell other singers from other choirs the proper choir etiquette and how to behave properly. I hate pointing the finger, but it is generally the older crowd that seem to pick on the younger ones, even when these younger singers are in training to be professionals singers. It also happens the other way around and it is all a recurring issue. 
 
This is where my curiosity on age gaps come into play. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that our choirs are all ages and that we share the same love of choral singing. I've made many dear friends who are quite young and others that are even 40 years my senior. Unfortunately it never fails in a massed choir show when a chorister comes to me in tears because another choir called them out on a very silly remark which can ruin the whole performing experience. 
I often wonder if this is a factor in the lack of a support system... Perhaps their negative experience and/or impressions of the other choir's members have deterred them from supporting each other? 
 
Has anyone experienced this? 
 
on July 16, 2015 10:30am
I think your experience is more typical than you might realize. While I do not work with a community group I am an organist and church musician, and I can say that the same issues exist in the church music and organ worlds as what you are describing. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the lament at the lack of attendance at a concert by other church musicians, or by other organists.
I do think that there is often a sense of "competition" that comes into play, and perhaps to some extent this is inherent. It also sounds like you are in a geographical area that is super saturated with cultural events, and I'm sure that also factors. I know that is true here in metro-Detroit.
I think that we as leaders can help to effect the necessary change. In one experience my church hosted a concert by a local semi-professional handbell choir. I have good relationships with my local church music leader colleagues and made sure to promote the concert to them and ask that they share it with their musicians. After the concert, which was not terribly well attended, a member from one of the other area church handbell choirs told me that she was glad she had seen the concert mentioned in the local paper, and then admonished me for not sending info about it to her director - but I HAD! It simply never progressed beyond my message. Now I'll be the first to confess that I'm not always quick to promote the events of others, either, especially if I perceive that for any reason it conflicts with something we are doing. So take that for what it's worth...
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