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I'm asking a question about music school management and choir, important to me and more people. I'm in the way to - probably - become president of an institution who have both an amateur choir and a musical school. The institution have little more than 60 years of existence. It begins as a group of catholic people, who sing as a choir, and the institution grown up, begins to exist as an official institution, and from about the 60's to the 90's of the 20'th century, it was conducted by a maestro who was the main assessor of one of the most important composers of the last half of the XX century in my country (in mediterranean Europe). Because of that, the choir made some performances and collaborations with that composer and, until today, the music of that composer is still a "major" in the reportoire of the choir, defined, in part, our musical "pedigree" and is responsible, in part, for our image in the country, as an amateur choir. In the 90's, the institution created a musical school, who ministrates formal musical education (instruments and singing) to students from 10 to 18 years (and to anyone who pay, as myself), integrated with the formal curricula of our national education system.

About 14 years ago, the previous conductor leaves the institution and a new conductor have been contracted. Since then, the new conductor made some exchanges, mainly a shift from the previous kind of music to the classical and contemporary music, and a concert of orchestral music, at least 1 time a year. An important thing, the choir is and always was an amateur choir. The school and the choir are separated entities into the institution, with independent management, despite both belonging to the same institution. To become a choralist, you don't need to have musical skills, but the young people who join the choir are almost, if not all, from the musical school. I've joined 4 years ago, without musical skills (i'm 40 now), but now i have the 3.rd degree to give me basic skills in music reading and into the musical universe. The educational field is managed by a pedagogic director - a teacher - and the conductor manages the artistic issues of the choir. The president has powers both in the school and choir.

Now, i'm in a position to become a president because of the following issues: The new conductor thinks that the choir needs to increase the level of the performances and the institution needs to create a paralell choir that offers the technical level that avoid the young people, with musical skills, to disband. We are not in the "urban" area and the institution, even in a small city with a reasonable economy, urban life and not so "rural", is not immune to the actual trend: young people go to college at about 18, normally to the capital or another big city, and leave the choir after college. Also, in big cities, there are high level choirs that are more seductive to young people.

The choir is aging. It's a fact, and one of the arguments of the conductor, who says "in 4 or 5 years this will be a real problem and we will need to deal with it, either we want or not". The choir is composed by about 50 persons. Almost 20 are from 14 years to about 26, all with musical skills, all students or alumni from the musical school of the institution. 4 or 5 in the 40's (me included), and the rest is from 50 to 74 years. The maestro has 40. The tenors and the sopranos are the youngest sections, in average. The altos and baritones/bass are the ones with the oldest average age. Our conductor accuses the actual president to manage the choir as a "tea club".

My real worry is that such transition will surely creates a feeling, in the older elements - the ones that have performed in the era of the old maestro - that the choir will no longer be for them. Such sensation already exists in some older elements, even before i've joined the choir, because the complexity and level of demand of, at least, the rehearsals for orchestral music. The older elements think - with a huge degree of rightness, i believe - that we must focus in the music that best fit in the reality of an amateur choir, specifically the old reportoire of the composer i've mentioned above, polyphonic music, etc.

The composer i've mentioned in the beginnning of this text made a compilation of traditional music of our country. I truly believe that most older elements (and myself) see as a duty to spread our national musical heritage and, as an institution who get public grants, i think that's an extra incentive to do it. But i also believe that, as the choir will age, the newer elements will want to do more "gratificant" performances. The new conductor seems to manage that to some extent, by getting reportoire that "tastes better" to the younger elements, but probably are most stressful to execute to the older elements.

One of the new ideas into this group (the conductor, the younger elements an myself) are to create an official "professional school", that already exists in our country. In resume, it is a "high school" to educate students to become professional musicians, instead of only provide basic musical education with the actual school. Other musical schools near our institution have already such courses, and i think it's important to keep students in our institution and provide for thei survival. The director of the school, a teacher, already have made some projects with our town high school, because the law now allows high schools to made musical education, who may turn our institution useless, that can consequently make an impact to the choir, because it may stop the influx of new members.

In resume, i believe that, considering all the above, we need to adapt to the new paradigm of education and manage the aims of both the older and newer elements of the choir. but i don't want to become the killer of the spirit of the choir, by allowing a kind of management of the choir that will surely create the feeling in the older elements that they are obsolete, creating a disband of them, and in a short time, creates a "professionally focused" choir, with talented young people that will use the choir as, eventually, a leverage to a career or as place to train to bigger choirs, but without the fraternal spirit that existed until now. This fraternal spirit is what made me to join to the choir. My mother and aunt sang there, and even the younger elements have some kind of connection with the older elements. It's a family, and killing that spirit is, for me, simply unacceptable.

I have worried to become somehow a "puppet" in this complex conflict of interests, specifically in the hands of the conductor, who wants to create some kind of "pro choir" (he directs some other choirs, but our is probably the one with the best quality), but also in the hands of people with their own agendas.

There is little collaboration between the choir and the elements of the music school, each with their own agenda.

How can one manage the increase of the level of a musical institution, the demand for a higher level of education AND, simultaneously, keep the fraternal spirit and keep young and older elements, with somehow different goals, work together, to keep the choir alive? I know i'm not asking a single question, that is a complex issue and that there's not a single "right" answer. Please give me some clues, insights, experiences or anything that can "broad my eyesight". I have experience in managing teams but not in the musical field. If there are some information you want to ask me, please ask. I'll make an edit in the question.

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    Who is the composer? – Michael Curtis Mar 9 at 20:54
  • If you're not willing to name the composers snd conductors, can you give them placeholder names or something? – user45266 Mar 10 at 18:17
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It is for every conductor a difficult heritage to be the successor of a beloved maestro who has been the pope or father figure for a whole generation.

The new conductor needs your whole support and the acceptance of all choir members. The older generation must see that the young folks are their future. Otherwise the choir will be buried with their own dying.

All parts have to show tolerance and acceptance for each other. The choir leader should be an identification figure for everyone.

To give everyone a chance I‘d plan different concerts with different levels and priorities: and specific themes: concerts with folksongs, classical concerts, pop songs, musicals, movie sound tracks, original compositions ... all stiles, something for every one and also projects: the members are engaged for a certain period of practice with the goal of a recorded concert (video and cd).

Cooperation with other choirs and ensembles, building smaller groups like a youth choir, choir for adults and seniors with one goal: a united choir of all. E.g a Christmas concert, a spring or summer concert.

  • There are good songs that show this idea,like e.g.
  • we are family,
  • we are the world,
  • all for one
  • gospel songs
  • a queen concert (songs of F.Mercury at the world aids day)

  • magnificat, or Irish blessing by John Rutter

  • Masses by Beethoven, Mozart, Dvorak

  • traditional Xmas songs of all the world

What you all need is an identification with your school. Maybe this needs a caesura with the era and the repertoire of the antecedent leader. A memorial concert in honor of him could be a good start and say „good bye“. You can decide this only together with some luminaries of the older members and with their conviction and persuasion of what is at stake. If you and the leader once have them and the young ones on your side everything will be possible.

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