Co-Directors for Choir
  • RBG
    Posts: 3
    Does anyone have any experience with/opinions on a choir with two directors and whether that can work? I am currently the director, a position to which I was elected. We are an area choir, with members from several congregations in the metro region. We have two concert seasons each year, fall and spring, so our function is rather different from that of a church choir. At my request, the Board allowed another member to assist me by accompanying and doing some of the directing. We have always listed him as the Associate Director in our concert programs. I have worked hard not to treat him as an underling--we split a 12-song concert 6:6 in terms of the directing; we select music together; etc. He is enormously talented, but often unrealistic in terms of suitable repertoire (e.g., wanting to perform dissonant, 12-voice Eric Whitacre music with an unauditioned choir of 17 people, almost all of whom would fall into the musical "follower" category). Because I am the director, I have at times simply said "no" to such pieces; at others, I have OK'd them because he is also rather hot-headed, and has often stormed out mid-season because he didn't get his way on something. It's been kind of constant walking on eggshells just to keep him from bailing. Now he is petitioning the current Board (none of whom were with the choir at the time I was elected and all of this was put into place) to have a reassignment of duties so that he and I are truly Co-Directors. I'm not trying to be egotistical about this--the title doesn't bother me--but I just don't see this working. When we disagree as to whether to include a particular piece of music, who's going to be the tie-breaker? The president of the choir, who wouldn't have any idea what factors to consider for such a decision? I envision constantly dragging the choir president in to make judgments in areas about which he really wouldn't know anything. It seems to me that the buck has to stop with someone, for the sake of decency and order. I would greatly appreciate any input anyone might have.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    I have seen music ministries with a leadership team, but this person appears to be precisely the kind of person who cannot effectively be on such a team.

    The Roman Republic had two consuls as chief magistrates, and they had veto over the other (there was also a tribunician power to veto acts of the Senate). So, one way to tie-break in the scenario you describe is that one "consul" can veto; that is, only music that is jointly approved by both consuls (or at least is not vetoed by the other consul) is approved. The potential for tit-for-tat is designed to dampen the appetite to exercise the veto too much. It worked for centuries, until it didn't.
  • This man needs his own choir somewhere else and should not be sharing in your directorship in any way. A formal co-directorate with him (or anyone else) would be a two-headed monster. If you are less than happy now, you would be miserable dealing with him as co-director.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    has often stormed out mid-season because he didn't get his way on something


    When people are willing to do this, just let them go. If that's going to be his attitude, he doesn't need to be your assistant anymore.

    It's been kind of constant walking on eggshells just to keep him from bailing.


    If that's true, then he needs to go. That is not a productive work environment.

    Now he is petitioning the current Board (none of whom were with the choir at the time I was elected and all of this was put into place) to have a reassignment of duties so that he and I are truly Co-Directors.


    You could press the idea that he has frequently tried to select repertoire that is not appropriate for the size and ability level of the choir, and therefore would not be able to satisfactorily execute the duties of the director position; he needs your guidance because of this.

    I have seen music ministries with a leadership team, but this person appears to be precisely the kind of person who cannot effectively be on such a team.


    Precisely, Liam. I think he is petitioning for Co-Directorship just so he can have more power. It's likely a stepping stone in a larger power grab: he wants it all to himself, and because of that, he really has no interest in working together with you.

    I have not seen any effective model of ensemble directorship with shared duties between equal co-directors: there has always been one head director who has authority and responsibility for the whole thing. I have seen others conduct, with the permission and guidance of the head director, various musical selections, and this practice is common. The other conductors, however, are not truly co-directors in any sense, as they have no authority over repertoire, etc.

  • If you are walking on eggshells now, you would be walking on carpet tacks and broken glass (barefooted) if this gentleman were to be your formal equal. There is no such thing as 'equal' with such persons.
    Thanked by 3RBG Liam CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    Btw, to state the obvious: "enormous talent" not infrequently travels with a personality/character that is unsuited to leadership. Not always, mind you. But not infrequently.

    Roman culture had something like dread of joining charismatic talent to formal leadership power, btw. One can see the residue of this in the Roman church's habit (not invariable, mind you) of tapping dull but trustworthy people for assuming formal leadership in preference over charismatic folks.
    Thanked by 1RBG
  • Our choir has "directors" for each part, all whom operate under one main director.
    One is a conductor, one an organist and one a head cantor/supply conductor.
    It seems to work for us, but we work together really well anyways.
    Thanked by 2CCooze RBG
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I do it all myself, plan music, run choir rehearsals, rehearse and schedule cantors, and both play and direct. The bad part is that if something goes wrong, I have no one else to blame but myself.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 873
    The good part is that you are aware of that last point. ;)
  • RBG
    Posts: 3
    Perhaps I unnecessarily colored the discussion by getting into behaviors and personality traits, so how about a hypothetical situation in which there is no untoward behavior, just honest difference of opinion between Co-Directors? I think I still see such things ending up at the feet of the choir president, and that seems like a colossal waste of three people's time. :) I suppose this might be where the "double-veto" setup might come in handy--thoughts?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    I suggest you avoid the whole co-directors thing altogether: it won't end well for one of you.
    Thanked by 1RBG
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,653
    Look on the bright side: at least you don't have three directors. Our Society Chapel does . . . and it is less than edifying.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    Is it the Chapel of the Most Unholy And Divided Trinity?
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 325
    Co-direction can work - provided all the people involved:
    1) trust each other's judgement
    2) are prepared to work as a team, and behave like adults, and
    3) there is an agreed-in-advance process for resolving disputes.

    The sticking point is often 2).

    As many of my tech-crew friends say, "never work with animals, children or musicians".
  • @PaxMelodious
    I actually can't believe now that I think about it how it is possible that I have such wonderful people to work with as co-director, and that here are never any fights...
    All of those points the other choirs/priest fail to realize or act upon.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,653
    @Liam, since the other directors are an elderly man and the juvenile organist, I guess we're the Trinity of Father, Son, and Wholly Dispirited.
    Thanked by 2Liam CharlesW
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    Or the Geezer [ or Coot], Boy, and Desirous of Spirits?
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,653
    Depending on your translation, both apply!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    I was opting for dynamic translation, to better capture the perichoresis of that unholy trinity.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen