If you’re a choir director, having a good relationship with your musician is essential. For the two of you to be an effective team, your musician needs to know that you value him or her, and that you consider their needs and don’t take them for granted.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that you’re treating your musician right:
- Know how much advance time they need to learn music. A typical amount of advance time would be two weeks before the first rehearsal (the rehearsal, not the final performance). But talk with your individual musician to find out if they need a different amount of time than that. If you are not a musician yourself, you might not have a sense of what music is easy or hard. It is always better to give it to them too early rather than too late.
- Know how comfortable they are with playing in different keys. Ask them about this, but ask them in a way that is not judgmental. Work with them on choosing keys if this is an issue. And after they have learned a song in one key, they might not be able to change at the drop of a hat. Don’t suddenly decide during rehearsal that the song is too high and you want to change. When you first choose a song to teach, think about whether the key on the recording is right for your choir. If it’s not, plan in advance and talk with your musician about choosing another key.
- Know how to signal them when you’re conducting. Sometimes if you’re going to a different part of the song, the musicians have to make a shift before the choir does. When you’re planning your conducting, listen to the places where chords change as the song goes from one section to another. Make sure you signal your transitions early enough for the musicians to be able to make their moves. Ask your musician to let you know if there are any places where your signals are too late or are not clear.
- Also, make sure that your signals are consistent, that you always use the same ones to mean the same things. This is important for both the musicians and the singers.
- If you want the musician to help you figure out the choir parts, tell them in advance. You know that bad dream that people have sometimes where they find out that they’re enrolled in a class they never signed up for, and today is the final exam? That’s the situation you’re putting your musician in if you ask them during rehearsal, “What’s the alto part on this line?” when you never told them that they needed to study the vocal parts.
- Just like you select music that works with the skill level of your choir members, keep in mind the skill level of your musicians as well. There may be some songs that they’re not ready to tackle at this stage in their development. If you’re unsure about whether they would be ready for a particular kind of song, check with them (in a friendly, open-minded way, of course!).
As you can see, a lot of these tips talk about communication. Having good communication is a vital part of working successfully with your musician. Appreciation is also important. Be thankful for everything your musician offers, and let that attitude of thankfulness and appreciation be evident in when you talk with them. Encourage and pray for them, and let them know how much you value them as a part of the ministry.