New! Workshops for Music Team Training

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teamroles2I am delighted to announce a new set to add to my collection of themed workshops: in addition to those for choirs and choral directors I am now offering three designed specifically for music teams. Many choral groups have a team drawn from the membership to support their director in the musical development and leadership of the ensemble, usually involving some combination of assistant director, section leaders, vocal coach, librarian, and possibly performance coach.

The team members are generally appointed on the basis of their general musical/vocal skills, but many find, once in post, that their role also demands a variety of rehearsing and coaching skills in which they may not have much prior relevant experience. Learning on the job is a fine thing to do of course - often the director who appoints them will be doing likewise - but people feel more confident if they can receive some guidance and feedback on the way.

These workshops are thus designed both to meet the some of the training needs of the individuals within the music team and to help the team work together more effectively to support each other. Regular readers will notice that I’ve been doing sessions along these lines on an ad hoc basis for a while, and the kinds of help different groups have been asking for has directly shaped the way I have framed the new offerings.

In addition to the specific areas of under-confidence that individuals on music teams have confided to me over the years, two other observations about how I’ve seen music teams working underpin the way I’ve approached these sessions.

First, that the process of putting together a Music Team almost always prioritises the imperative to fill particular posts with people who have appropriate skills, with consideration of how the team operates as a team coming a distant second if it appears on the to-do list at all. This is often a pragmatic necessity; few groups are so awash with high-level musical skills that they have much option but pick the most obvious person for each post. But the functions the team members serve for the ensemble as a whole may not line up exactly with the roles that are needed within the team itself.

Take section leaders as an example. Each section leader will have pretty much the same job description, as they all carry the same devolved responsibilities with a different sub-set of the choir. But they carry these tasks out in parallel, not together. So, whilst in terms of function, you may be looking to appoint the same profile of skills to multiple equivalent posts, you probably don’t want to have four people with the same profile of character or preferred working style when you get together as a team to make and enact plans for the choir. A team made up entirely of picky detail types would be as counter-productive as one with nothing but blue-sky dreamers.

The second observation is that, whilst music teams collect together the most musically confident members of the ensemble, when they get together to work as a team, they mostly operate in a committee mode. They use their musical skills when they are implementing the plans they make together, but they relatively rarely interact musically while making those plans. It seems to me that this is missing an opportunity. Making music as a team can strengthen the artistic leadership they corporately offer to the ensemble as well as supporting each other in individual development needs.

Accordingly, all these workshops involve practical musicianship as part of the training process. In some cases this facilitates role play to practise the skills we are working on, but the aim is also to help teams develop musical working methods to take away with them and continue to use. Because, whilst a music team meeting where everyone goes home with two or three next actions is a useful one, a meeting where everyone goes home feeling they have also developed holistically as a musician is a pleasurable one.

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