August 2016

Self-Confidence and Self-Talk

I have been thinking recently a good deal about self-belief and conquering the demon of Impostor Syndrome. It is something that many choral leaders grapple with on and off, not just when they are new and inexperienced, but throughout their lives. It is like a chronic condition that you get under control for a good long time, and then something triggers a flare-up just when you were least expecting it.

And it’s something that mostly people deal with alone. The lovely thing about working with choirs is that you always have company in your music-making. But if you’re worried that you are letting your singers down, or that they aren’t satisfied with your efforts, you are immediately isolated from what is usually one of your primary support networks.

So this post is partly to say: you’re not alone. Many people feel like this. And you’re doing fine. The fact that you feel responsible to your ensemble and care about their experience shows that you are on the case. It’s the people who never doubt their wonderfulness who should (but don’t) worry.

The Arrangement Triangle

arrangementtriangle(Or rather, an arrangement triangle; this might not be the only aspect of the process that can be thought about in this kind of structure...)

Some years ago, a friend introduced me to a project management tool he called the Golden Triangle. It framed a project in terms of three dimensions: time, scope and resource. That is, how long you had to complete the project, what you needed to do to complete it, and what resources (human and other) you had available to do it.

The point of the triangle is that you can only ever control two out of the three dimensions. Projects, by definition, are special-occasion enterprises, things you do as one-offs, so each one is new and, whilst it may have routine elements, will overall represent something you’ve not done before. So, you will likely encounter unforeseen obstacles.

(Rehearsal) Planning for the Unknown

During the abcd Initial Conducting Course I led earlier this year, I had several conversations with conductors about how to manage rehearsal planning in the particular circumstance that you don’t yet know the much about the choir you’re planning for. How do you work out what will be appropriate repertoire when you don’t yet know the skills and experience of the singers you will be working with?

This is a circumstance that can affect anyone who is lined up with a conducting job they’ve not yet started, but it is felt most strongly in early career musicians who don’t yet have a fund of previous similar experiences to draw on.

So, the first thing is to do what profiling you can. For those moving to new teaching jobs, the age of the children you will be working with gives you quite a lot of information about what to expect, and you can also glean a good deal from what kind of repertoire your predecessor was using with them. If they have any recordings of recent performances, this will also tell you a lot.

Brief hiatus...

Just to let you know not to expect new blog posts for a couple of weeks. My attention is going to be on other things for a goodly chunk of August, and I am taking the opportunity for a proper digital detox while I'm at it.

Normal service will resume later in the month. I'm reasonably confident that you won't run out of stuff to browse in my archives in the meantime...

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