Section Leaders
  • I need some advice...

    I have been given the "OK" to hire 4-6 paid section leaders for my choir... but I can't find any singers!

    I've emailed several area schools of music... I've emailed voice teachers... I've also put up flyers on bulletin boards at the music schools...

    can anyone offer some advice? I live in a metropolis of about 3million.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    My second-hand experience is that paid section leaders belong to a very self-protective, tight-knit group.

    If there are any professional (or semi-professional) vocal ensembles in the area, check with them. These groups often have the best paid singers, and the members are usually the ones that hire out and also know who they can get as subs when they can't keep an obligation themselves.

    Also, check with local AGO members to find out what other churches in the area employ paid section leaders. They can get you on the "inside track".
  • I have had drastically different results in different cities.
    David Andrew's advice is excellent.
    Instrumentalists can often make good section leaders.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I would suggest it's "whom you know". Being in a metropolis and music school (well, department...), our profs do send out those e-mails, but we mostly ignore them. However, with the prospects of a job that may hire section leaders, I have approached other students and asked if they'd possibly be interested. Usually the response is good. If you or someone in your choir knows people in the universities, get the word out. We want to know we'll enjoy it too - be open about what you do. Very few students (they do exist) want to go sing a Haas ditty, but many will jump at the opportunity to do polyphony and anthems. Also consider the lesser schools. Having been at a community college, I can tell you those students will do anything for money, and they're usually very talented. Contact anywhere that has a music degree.
  • Thank you, Gavin, excellent advice. We only do chant, polyphony, and orchestral masses, and only TLM. The choir now is really quite good, but so many of the members travel long distances to come that one snow storm nearly ruins the long-term rehearsal schedule...

    I'm new to the area (about 1 year now), but I'm meeting new people all the time, hopefully something will work out.
  • I second David's advice on professional and semi-prof groups. Two more thoughts-

    1)You may want to contact music professors (including community college instructors) directly, and I'd go straight to the ones who have any kind of early music ensemble.
    2) If there is an early music society in your city (likely with 3 mil population) I would contact those folks, and even see about getting an announcement in whatever they send to members. (Having your church in such a bulletin would be good for evangelization, too!)

    Instrumentalists can work ok, especially as regards sight-reading, but beware of vocal quality and language issues, etc. A skilled singer will almost always serve you much better in terms of beautiful tone and sensitive phrasing. Your choir will be absorbing the way the section leaders sing overall, not just how they learn notes.

    Congrats on being able to do this, and make sure (if you haven't already) your pastor knows that such an investment could take some time, and is worth being choosy.
  • DBP wrote:
    Instrumentalists can often make good section leaders.
    That may be, but few instrumentalists are trained professional singers.

    It’s not just about reading the notes. It’s about sounding good while doing so and knowing how to use the voice, which untrained singers, even if they read perfectly, don’t do as well as someone with, say, a voice degree or equivalent training.

    And, as capa20 points out, it’s not even just about having better singing. It’s about having people there whose job it is to be there and to sing. You may have “section leaders” already among the volunteers (I would think most church choirs do), but the money for pros buys reliability that is sometimes lacking in good volunteer singers.
  • When you interview them, test them rigourously in reading and sight-singing. There are many singers, be they professional, voice majors, or what, who cannot read well and often require as much tutoring as less credentialed singers. Singers are, notoriously, among the worst readers. And, of couse, you want to determine that they have good 'choral' voices and understand that they are not engaged to be soloists.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I have found that there are many instrumentalists who are good at singing. Particularly string players.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    In addition to your section leaders' vocal ability (don't forget having voices that blend), you need to pay close attention on their suitability to this particular singing environment. They're not just there to be your reliable Sunday voices. You want them to support and encourage your volunteer singers - modeling good tone and diction, leading mini-sectionals, etc. A quartet of divas (male and female) can breed a lot of unhappiness.
  • Can anyone offer a sense of the pay scale here? I have no idea. How much per rehearsal? How much per Mass?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    Diocese of Oakland CA ...

    (left column)
    Online Publications & Forms
    Chancery/Parish Personnel Policies
    Appendix E
  • Stipends for professional singers vary *enormously* according to:
    1) Cantoring vs choral responsibilities
    2) Musical ambitions of the parish/choir
    3) Overall level of the volunteer singers
    4) Number of weekly calls
    5) Prevailing wage in the area