Reimagining the Rubric For “Success” In Choral Careers

Who is in the Choral Cool Kids Club?

Our current rubric is based almost entirely on two factors. What degree do you have? And what level of choir do you direct? That’s not enough.

One of the hot items of choral discussion recently has been “Choral Elitism.” I have done episodes on the show about it, Chris Maunu has written some great blogs, and countless comments in Facebook groups deriding it as a problem. This post is intended to approach the topic from a different angle. I think one of the most dysfunctional aspects of Choral Culture is HOW we decide who the “stars” are in our profession. Who gets asked to present, who gets asked to direct the honor choir, and recently, who can muster large movements of the culture via social media buzz. Having a hierarchy in this way is normal and natural, but the rubric with which we choose our “cool kids club” matters. So let’s play a little game and see if we can’t reimagine the rubric.
  1. Consistent excellence in the final musical product. An important caveat here is that we CANNOT reserve ourselves to basing this on the concert. To understand who is doing GREAT work in this area, we need “before and after” recordings or eye witness. This matters because we don’t all have the same singers, feeders, admins etc. So, to me success in “musical excellence” should be available to elementary to professional choirs. Show me how far your singers can come under your leadership!
  2. Consistent management of choral programs that flourish. Do people want to sing for this person consistently and over years? To me, this says volumes about what is going on in that rehearsal space. I know something’s being done masterfully.
  3. Does the director have a track record of better and better music making? The beauty of this one is that it requires a synthesis of #1 and 2. You can’t make steady improvement in the music unless you have a steady stream of excited and eager singers coming into the program.
  4. Is the director an innovator in one or more areas of their teaching practice? Are they dreaming up, implementing and perfecting NEW ways to deliver the choral art form and all of its nuts and bolts to new generations of singers?
  5. Is the director contributing to the body of scholarship? This could take the form of research within academia, the creation of definitive recordings, or even by curating new discussions on various aspects of scholarship for conventions etc.
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