A choir director recently called me and said, “Help! I’m Leading By Example & I’m Not a Good One!”
We all do it. Lead by example, that is. It’s just the way things work. Our children learn how to speak by imitating those who raise them. That can be good, or that can be bad. Our moral judgments, values, eating habits, attitudes and more are also passed on to those under our care.
When it comes to any kind of vocal group the same is true. The leadership who takes their voices, and how they use them seriously will be constantly sharing good foundations as they speak sing and lead. Those who don’t may be creating confusion as they ask for one thing and demonstrate another. Now, I’m not suggesting that choir directors need to be great singers. But certain, non-negotiable foundations can be maintained by almost anyone at any age.
I strongly believe that one of the most influential vocal leaders in today’s society is the high school choir director. During this time in a singer’s life he or she is in the “learning mode” and very vulnerable to what is being taught. In college only the music or voice majors pay much attention to voice technique and as we get older the percentages get even smaller. Yet we all continue to use our voices for a lifetime.
Why this power at the High School level? Perhaps it’s because choir is a contrast to English, French, algebra or biology. It’s a place where the audio senses can engage along with a different kind of social interaction. And, like sports, it has an element of team interdependency and that is an important skill to learn.
Second only to the High School setting is the church youth choir. Here, with the addition of the spiritual is a place where a supernatural unity can develop in sound and spirit, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
What’s the point of all this?
If you are in a place of influence over singers, whether as a choir director, worship leader, voice teacher or public school music teacher at any level, YOU ARE LEADING BY EXAMPLE WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT. Those under your care are not just listening to your instruction. They are observing your posture, breathing, facial expression and more. They are listening to the tone and pitch accuracy in your voice.
Your desire should be to continue to evolve as a singer and leader, and that takes commitment and time. It is, I believe, necessary if you are to continue to be the best possible influents you can be. And, here’s a bonus: You will be experiencing personal satisfaction every step of the way.