Fostering Mutual Respect with Your Choir Members


By Ailisa Newhall, Commercial Music R&R Coordinator

Our choir members bring a rich culture of music with them from the first day they step into our rehearsal.  To encourage singers to share their own music, we need to foster a safe and supportive rehearsal environment.  All music, from classical to commercial, must be held equally important.  We aren’t obligated to program it, we just need to make sure its worth is acknowledged.

Not only do we need to speak the importance of all genres of music, we need to model our dedication to supporting that music, and take deliberate steps to communicate that importance to the singers.  Look for opportunities to experience their music outside of choir.  I recently attended an Arangetram for two of my ninth grade choir students.  Following years of training, an Arangetram is the debut on-stage performance of a student of Indian classical dance and music. Even one small connection like this deepens the culture of respect throughout my choir exponentially.

Always take the time to craft a meaningful reflection.  Talk about your experience, write a letter, or have a discussion that validates their worth, their art, and strengthens respect.  As directors, we know that we learn from our singers on a daily basis, but our singers always need to be reminded of this. I would like to share my thank-you letter as an example of one way to reflect and connect.

Words cannot express the life-changing, emotional, and deeply touching experience you both presented on Saturday.  I am forever grateful to you for inviting me to be a part of your momentous occasion.  I had so many things I wanted to express about you, but when the orchestra began and you both walked out, I was totally lost.  I was in tears, I was overwhelmed, I had no idea the caliber, dedication and expression that was going to be presented.  The fact that you both have been studying this music and dance for almost your entire lives, making it a priority while having impeccable attendance at school, keeping exceptional grades and having the most positive, hard-working attitude in every aspect of your day is absolutely incredible.  It’s unimaginable to be fifteen years old and already have this perseverance.  You both know how to make each activity feel like the most important activity at that moment.  You never complain, make excuses, or talk about your amazing dance ability.  That humble quality makes everything you do that much more important.

From the world renowned orchestra to the costumes, sets and decoration, amazing food, and incredibly supportive family and friends, the evening was absolutely magical.  The stories that you told through your dance were rooted in such wisdom.  The connection you have with your culture is something that I truly wish everyone had.  Great teachings from your ancestors for generations and generations who were deeply connected with the earth and with the people around them were beautifully portrayed with intricate perfection.  I long to be that connected with the earth, with history, and with other people in this world.  I am encouraged that your dedication to this ancient art will keep these teachings alive through your own children, and the people around you who are so lucky to experience the wise, artistic and meaningful demonstration of these stories.  

I can’t thank you enough for including me in this magnificent accomplishment.  I am am forever changed.  

With Complete Admiration,

Mrs. Newhall

Although I am only in the beginning stages of learning about this style of music and dance, I am well on the way to cultivating mutual respect within my choir this year.  This small action and reflection opens them up to appreciate my musical choices and it allows them to feel empowered as a musician and again, respected within the choir.  It can be as small as taking the time to listen to their favorite song on their music player or as big as volunteering to accompany them for their upcoming audition on “America’s Got Talent”.  Respect their music and they will respect yours!

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