a choir is only as good as its weakest member -- what if that's you?
Date: December 20, 2015
I'm a relatively new member of an (adult, auditioned) choir, and I'm pretty sure I don't deserve to be. I sang in choir in high school and college, but rarely the advanced choirs, and I took voice lessons but I was never the strongest singer or a candidate for a major. Once I graduated I stopped singing entirely until the audition, which was much later, and completely spontaneous on my part, kind of an "early midlife crisis" thing. Obviously I passed the audition, but I was a midseason replacement and, realistically speaking, it's possible they were just desperate for someone, anyone, who could fill the part. Almost everyone here is much better than me. Many of them are professional vocalists or teachers. They all seem to have known each other for years, and every other new member seems to have assimilated great, socially and vocally, except for me.
I know some choirs have their members do self-assessments, and mine would be pretty scathing: I was never great at sight reading and almost a decade of never having to do it has not improved my skill, and it awes me how the rest of the choir can just pick up a piece of music and sing it near-perfectly. My voice is loud and historically I have had problems blending. My breath control is awful and I always run out of air well before the marked breaths, almost without fail. I'm not great at emoting or phrasing. I do not have the years or sometimes decades/lifetime of classical music experience the majority of the choir does, and when they talk about repertoire or advanced technique I rarely know what they're talking about. I've struggled all my life with being disorganized, which manifests here as forgetting to bring my music or making stupid and usually audible mistakes with notes/rhythms, sometimes during the concert, which is awful. I live with several roommates so outside practice is rarely practical, and I'm not in a place financially where I can afford voice lessons again. A decade of not having to worry about vocal health or lifestyle is starting to take its toll, and frequently at the end of rehearsals or concerts my voice is hoarse, my throat hurts and sometimes I completely lose my voice. (My older sister had vocal nodules that effectively ended her singing career, so this one worries me especially.)
In short, I feel like I'm close to the nightmare-scenario choir member, and I hate it. All of this said, I haven't received any individual negative feedback or criticism, either privately or during rehearsal, but I also don't know my director well enough to know if that means anything. Some people just prefer to leave it all until the "yearly performance review" so to speak, and I've read enough threads here about directors not knowing what to do with "that one person." Part of me thinks I'm stressing myself out way too much over what is, in the end, a volunteer activity I'm supposed to be doing because it's enjoyable. But I wake up every morning waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the email to arrive letting me know I can't continue.
The question part of this question: if you were a choir director (or if you ARE a choir director), what would you want this person to do? It's totally okay if the answer is "quit for your own sake and everyone else's."