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New Church Choir

At the beginning of 2016, I am suppossed to be starting a choir for ages 13 and up at my church. What can I do to ensure a good amount of people join? What can I do to ensure that we are successful in our first year, and no one wants to drop out? At the last church choir I directed, a lot of the members dropped out within the 1st month; I don't want that to happen to this one, so please give me any idea you have to prevent this.
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on December 30, 2015 11:45am
1.  Advertising is great, and everyone should be invited to join, but you need to find out who your good singers are and contact them personally. This works even better if you can identify the people who really want the choir, whether they are singers or not, and have THEM contact the people they know should be singing in the choir.
 
2. See if you can get people to commit to TWO months. It will take time to determine the skill level and interests of your group, and you might need to change your approach once you know who really shows up.
 
3. Have some music picked in advance that will sound GREAT no matter what, and perform as soon as possible. Start working on at least one challenging piece that might take awhile.
 
4. Have a plan for music, rehearsals, and performances, but let people have as much input as possible. By the end of the two months, ask people what they want to sing in the future, if the music is too difficult or too easy, if the rehearsal time needs to be changed. If people won't or can't commit to weekly rehearsals, find out if they would come for special occasions, where they learn a piece (or a cantata) for a given number of weeks and then have some time off. Find ways to get everyone involved.
 
5. This is really hard, but it's important. Keep track of the people who stopped coming, and find out why they stopped. Some of them may not have enough time or interest, but some may feel uncomfortable and it's important to identify problems that can be fixed. Promise to work with people who don't feel they sing or read music well enough. Promise the good singers to find ways to use their specific talents. Even if they're not coming back, find out what you can do better.
 
6. Remember that choir is a social organization. Make your rehearsals productive and don't waste people's time, but give the singers opportunities to socialize. Church choir is also a Ministry. Depending on your church traditions, prayers, devotionals, and brief scripture studies are all appropriate and help the singers grow together.
 
Best wishes!
Applauded by an audience of 4
on December 30, 2015 2:00pm
Thank you for this. One thing I used at my previous church choir (which only lasted for about a month and a half) for your 5th point is a online system called ClassDojo. It mainly for schools, a lot of the local teachers use it in the classrooms here, but I found it a great option to keep track of attendance. You have three options when taking attendance: present, tardy, and absent. It helps out a lot with your 5th point.
on January 4, 2016 1:43pm
An immediate success is necessary. Pick a song that will enjoyable to every age group in your choir. I recommend "Power of the Cross (Oh to See the Dawn)" or "Jesus Saves" (Travis Cottrell) if you have a soloist. Even if each rehearsal does not go perfectly, be positive about present improvement and future potential. Your positivity will rub off on your choir. 
Get feedback from a discreet choir member. See what they think is going well and what is not flying so well with the choir members.
Make choir practice an enjoyable time. 
Know when to stop hammering a section of the music. Sometimes, we need to just push on and revisit that tough section next week.
If you teach music theory or fundamentals, make it as basic as possible. Put it on the lowest shelf so that everyone grasps what you are trying to convey, and so nobody feels dumb or inadequate.
Richard Popp mentioned contacting choir members personally. Great idea. Very important. A text sent out via a mass text app does wonders for our choir attendance. Just letting them know what you will be covering that day in practice shows them that you have a plan, you are ready, and you are excited about it!
Be patient. They are volunteers, I am assuming. They are all the choir you have; treat them gently.
Most importantly would be having that immediate success! 
Melanie
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 4, 2016 4:06pm
Thank you for this.
 
When you say "pick a song enjoyable to every age," I have some Christmas music that I purchased for my previous choir (youth choir), but we never performed it. Would you say that it would be appropiate to use for an adult choir (ages 13 and up)? I think that even the adults will like the songs from it, but I want to be sure if maybe I need to plan something different for the adults.
on January 14, 2016 9:40am
If I was starting a new church choir I would teach something by rote for my very first thing at my very first rehearsal. There are many spirituals that work well in rote style. One I like to use is "Over My Head" - John Bell's simple arrangement from the book "Love & Anger; songs of lively faith and social justice" published by GIA is perfect for rote teaching. That way you're not worried about the music reading level of each person, and teaching by rote means there isn't a piece of paper blocking the path between you and each singer, thus you can immediately start to build a trusting relationship within the group. I also like using spirituals because I have always found that they seem to do a nice job of bridging the gap between folks who like more "classical" or "traditional" music, and folks who like more "contemporary" music.
 
I also agree with the suggestion of getting a basic 2 month commitment. You could start a campaign: "Just 2 months" and advertise that  campaign throughout the church, asking people to commit 2 months to choir. At the end of those 2 months hand out a simple (5 questions or less) survey to the participants, gearing the questions toward figuring out what is working and what needs improvement.
 
Julie Ford
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 14, 2016 2:27pm
Thank you for this. I alredy have some music from the previous choir I directed, but I will definitely be sure to remember your suggestion when I get ready to purchase more music. I love the idea of a 2 month commitemet, then a survey; however, since I am in the starting process of forming a new choir, I put a sign-up sheet out in the church lobby to see how many are interested, but so far there are only 2 names on the sheet (I'm wanting at least 11 before I start scheduling rehearsals).
 
So now, I am trying to figure out a way other than personally asking people if they would like to be a part of a choir to get people to sign-up.
on January 28, 2016 2:18pm
In most of the churches in which I have served, sign-up sheets have proved pretty useless. First of all, in our culture today people don't like to sign up for things - I think it is an issue of not wanting to commit. I think sometimes a sign up sheet can be discouraging. If there are few names on the list, other people might feel discouraged and not sign up even if they are interested.
 
You're much better just talking to people in person. Go to coffee hour after church, or visit the various group meetings. Get names and email addresses of interested people, set a date for the first rehearsal, and send out an email inviting all of those interested people. Ask them to respond to your email if they plan to attend. Give them a month notice. Then send another email 2 weeks out. Then another email the week before. Nowadays it seems to me that it takes a lot of effort to get people to commit to something. Put in 200% effort if you want 100% effort back :) Also ask your pastor if you can make an announcement in church. Or if your church has video projection, make a video commercial.
Also are there a handful of people already interested in choir singing whom you have already identified? Ask them if they would be the choir council, and have them help you recruit.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 28, 2016 3:42pm
Yes, I put the sign-up sheet out on Jan. 6 and I took it back on the 24. In that time, 3 services a week, only 2 names were on the sheet. So, it sure didn't help. The pastor did announce it once before service. Yes there are a handful already interested, these are the youth from the previous youth choir that I directed about a year-and-a-half ago.
 
I'm glad that you posted this. I had pretty given up on trying to start a choir since I only had 2 names, but since you posted this I might try some more.
on January 15, 2016 6:01am
One of the best peices of advice I ever got was actually given to me by several different people over the years. It stillholds true. Simply love them. Remember that they are voluntarily giving of their time. Make the environment family  like, and make sure they know that you are just a part of the family. True, it is a ministry, I'm not ever going to downplay that. However, many times when they are actively involved in ministering to the congregation and serving God, they also need ministering to. I always looked at the church choir as my congregation within the congregation and, as withany congregation, it was my job to minister to them. I have found that using those principles you can ask much of them and they will respond with much. You can stretch them in many ways and they will allow you to stretch them if they know you love them first and formost as individuals, not just choir members.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 15, 2016 2:05pm
I agree with you completely. I believe that this helps memebers to stay in the choir.
on January 15, 2016 9:50am
You could try rounds and canons.  Easy to teach, sound great, will impress parents, clergy and choir members..
Wonderful resource for the church year is the three volume set Canons for the Church Year by Michael Burkhardt published by Morningstar Music
I think they're worth looking at.  You can preview them on the Morningstar Music website.
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 15, 2016 2:11pm
I looked at the PDF preview for set 1, and I think it will be great for a short piece for performance, but also fun to learn. I will definitely keep this in mind. Thank you for this.
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