chit chat in youth choir
  • One of my choirs is 4 teenage girls. One of them is kind of odd, she sometimes doesn't even open her mouth during a song (plays with her hair), and only when she sings, it is very softly. She says that's the best she can do, which means in her language (she ain't giving any more). I've talked to her mother, who says, this choir means the world to her. I used to just ignore her, because the first year with her, she never talked. Now that she's quit homeschool, she's become a nonstop chit chatter, which was cool for a minute but now she talks throughout the warmup, almost during the song, and in between every song we sing (with other members of course) Any suggestions?? I try and be a nice, person, and I don't consider myself old, but I'm not a teeny (37) and I feel uncomfortable with all youth and then with this issue, worse.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 360
    I'm anything but a psychologist, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night I've dealt with a similar experience insomuch as incorporating a homeschooled child/teen into a choir whose members are made up from those who go to "conventional" schools, so here's my $.02 and if you or someone more qualified on the matter has a better insight, all the better.

    You mentioned she had quit homeschool. In my case I have found that the homeschooled student is very awkward socially because (s)he probably doesn't have the social constructs that come with "conventional" schooling, i.e. being in a classroom with peers. Being in a group setting like choir while being homeschooled is often difficult because of that. Now that your person has quit being homeschooled (I presume now attending some sort of public/private/parochial school) she's probably become more accustomed to socializing on a regular basis and obviously likes it, but she hasn't learned yet the appropriate times to socialize and when to stop.

    By the way, this is not meant to be pro-/anti-homeschooling discussion, just my observations on this particular matter.

    As far as vocal output - we seem to have opposite issues. You're chorister is barely doing anything at all - perhaps no longer being in homeschool has had the knock-on effect of her interests changing...or the simple fact that she's a teenage girl. In my case, the girl in question often over-sings, I think in part because without being around peers all the time is trying to prove herself to them. Perhaps it's opposite ways of manifesting the same issue?

    The more striking part to me was you saying the mother "says this choir means the world to her." It begs the question: does it mean the world to this girl or to this girl's mother?
  • JonLaird
    Posts: 219
    I would take her aside with her parent(s) and say to the parent(s), "[Name] has been talking nonstop during rehearsals, and that disrupts the choir. It's great for us to be able to enjoy ourselves, but that comes along with the discipline required for everyone to do her part. [turn to the girl] I know choir is important to you, but you need to respect my instructions, sing when it is time to sing, and not talk out of turn, or else we can't learn the music, which means we'll embarrass ourselves during Mass and become a distraction from the liturgy. If you can make a commitment to be respectful and disciplined during rehearsals, you can continue with the choir. Are you willing to make that commitment?"

    If it continues to be a problem, you write/talk to the parent(s) and say, "I'm afraid [name] continues to be disruptive during rehearsals and it would be best if she did not continue participating in it for now. I would be happy to give her another chance in three months or so if she is willing to give it another shot, as long as she understands the expectations."

    Some other thoughts:
    Children -- especially teenage girls with all of the diabolical cultural influences vying for their attention -- need to see adults who are clearly leaders, adults who know who the grownup is and are not afraid to give clear direction, adults who have a high degree of confidence in them (the girls) and have the expectations to match that confidence. Realistically you might not have much confidence in them at the moment, but I have often been surprised when I raised the bar beyond what I thought was possible and the children cleared it almost effortlessly. They are capable of accomplishing amazing things, and if you believe that and expect it, they'll believe it too.

    Make sure to eradicate any semblance of buddy-buddy friendship with them -- that is a surefire way to lose their respect for you as a leader. Don't make it a goal for them to like you. Be disciplined with your rehearsal habits, and try to have a consistent structure with your rehearsals and just change it up now and then. Let them have their moments now and then of descending into their chatter -- let it go for a moment (join it, even) and then transition back into music mode. That will balance the discipline you need at other times.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    Seating. Charts.

    Anyone incorrigibly chatty should be moved to where they don't do that.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Move her, as Kathy says, then immediately make a practice of raising your hands to start a piece and waiting until the entire room is silent to begin has a wonderful effect.

    Eventually the others around here will shush her themselves as the entire group is waiting on her to shut up.

    Peer pressure is strong. If she is only there to socialize, this will work to help her eliminate herself.
  • Kathy,

    With only 4 people in the choir, a seating chart is... impractical.

    Catch her off guard -- that is, give a simple instruction which you are absolutely sure she would have heard, had she been paying attention, and ask all the choirmembers to implement [whatever it is]. When she can't, she'll either drop out or pipe down.

  • thank you for all the good info. I know,k the mother doesn't see, . . . she goes to mass and doesn't seem to "see" that this girl is playing with her hair, not singing at all during mass. And I get called upon if I put her in back, because everyone wants to feel sorry for her. Very frustrating. Hopefully God will inspire me tonight at practice.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,911
    Kathy's advice is sound. I do this with my classes as well (I'm a professional music teacher in a Catholic school). If that doesn't work, then I give the student(s) one verbal warning, then the parents are contacted. It may be that you have to suggest, and be ready to "pull the trigger" on, removing her from the choir if her behavior does not change. Her behavior is disrupting the rest of the rehearsal, and that's not acceptable. If, as has been mentioned above, she no longer wants to be a part of the choir, then she should be doing something else. Also keep in mind that although the parent tells you "choir means the world to her" it could mean "choir means the world to me (the parent)" and the child doesn't want to be in it any longer, but doesn't have the heart to tell mommy, or mommy won't let her quit, so she's acting out of order. See if you can get the pastor's backing on removing her from the choir: it would be your last resort, but you must be willing to "pull the trigger" on that so to speak.


    1. Speak with the student about the issue and determine if she still wants to be in the choir. Inform her that her behavior is disruptive and unacceptable, and ask that she cease immediately. This conversation should be held in private, and not in front of the choir.

    2. Speak with the pastor about the issue, and tell him you are considering removing her from the group because of this behavior. If he's good with it, move on to number 3. If he's not, work out a solution with him first and then move on to number 3.

    3. Speak with the parents. Inform them of the behavior, and if the child indicated interest in remaining in the choir or not. It may be that the parents have no idea that their child does not wish to continue being in the group. Remember, sometimes children do things only because mommy wants them to (or is living vicariously through them). If the pastor gave you the green light, inform them that if the behavior does not cease, you will remove the child from the choir. If the pastor did not, inform the parents of the plan you came up with.

    Repeat 2 and 3 if the behavior does not change, even after speaking with the parents. If it really becomes that much of a disruption for you, and assuming you have a supportive pastor, he should sanction the removal fairly soon after the first round of the above process.

    Also, I realize that you are short on numbers, but if this one person is causing a disruption to your rehearsals, the other three aren't getting the best you can give them, because part of your attention is focused on disciplining the fourth, and they realize that.

    From what you're telling me, it seems quite likely that the child doesn't want to be in the group any longer, since she's not putting an effort into it, and she is exhibiting disruptive behavior. Combine that with the parents telling you she really wants to be there, and you've got a classic case of the parent(s) want her to be there, but she doesn't.

    If it continues to be a problem, you write/talk to the parent(s) and say, "I'm afraid [name] continues to be disruptive during rehearsals and it would be best if she did not continue participating in it for now. I would be happy to give her another chance in three months or so if she is willing to give it another shot, as long as she understands the expectations."

    This is more along the lines of what would work well. It also brings up another important point: make sure that you have very clear expectations about what it means to be in the choir, right down to behavioral expectations in rehearsal. If any student doesn't meet those expectations, they are subject to removal from the group. You should make sure you get that approved by the pastor, and submitted to the parents as soon as possible. Be very detailed in your expectations, and make sure everyone understands. Notice I didn't say agrees to because it doesn't matter if they agree or not: if they don't agree with the expectations, they don't join the choir.

    Eventually the others around here will shush her themselves as the entire group is waiting on her to shut up.

    Don't count on it. It may work, and you're right that peer pressure is strong, but the others might just not care, or even think it's funny watching you deal with the problem. This works sometimes, but not all the time, so don't necessarily put your eggs in this basket. You can try it, but be prepared to try something else. You really want the pastor and the parents on your side in order to deal with anything concerning children. You've done the right thing by getting the parents involved, but I think you need to go a step further and consider removal.

    Catch her off guard -- that is, give a simple instruction which you are absolutely sure she would have heard, had she been paying attention, and ask all the choirmembers to implement [whatever it is]. When she can't, she'll either drop out or pipe down.

    I do this from time to time, mainly to make the point that the person isn't listening and to show them the consequences. It rarely has the effect that you describe, especially with teenagers. It's a passive-aggressive way to address the situation, in my opinion, and I think it's disrespectful to the student.
  • Thanks, you made it very clear and I will start with number one. Part of it is my lack of leadership, so you have given me very concise steps. I'll let you know how it goes! and yes, no one else is seeing this as odd, the other youngsters enjoy her conversations as well,!
  • A seating chart also works with 4...putting her on the end of the row gives her only one person to talk to cuts down the victims by 50%.

    But even more importantly, telling them where to sit exercises control....just as does waiting until they are quiet to start them singing.
    Thanked by 2ClergetKubisz Liam
  • >> The more striking part to me was you saying the mother "says this choir means the world to her." It begs the question: does it mean the world to this girl or to this girl's mother?

    I noticed this and was wondering also.

    We have only one weekly practice, about 45-60 minutes after the Sunday sung Mass.
    After two experiences of "singing in Choir means the world to our child us parents", I made a new rule: Choir singers must have their own transportation.

    Surprising how it clarifies / simplifies things.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,668
    Maybe work on recruitment... an infusion of 3-4 new kids will shock the group a bit.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • I did put her on the end tonight, and it really helped. I will continue analyzing, trying to improve, recruitment would be awesome. But it was somewhat better. LEt's hope it continues! They are all chatty, she is just the worst.
    Thanked by 2chonak CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    How would you like to have an aging diva whose life is a soap opera? Of course, she shares with anyone near enough to hear.
  • why do so many choir members look for attention in choirs?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    why do so many choir members look for attention in choirs?

    I suspect no one pays much attention to them elsewhere.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,911
    I suspect no one pays much attention to them elsewhere.

    Or they see it as a place where there are few others and so they can make it their niche as a big fish in a little pond; someplace they can go where they and their friends are the majority.
  • and a lack of humbleness .. .
  • I'm very very sad and saying goodbye I think to this group as I think after tomorrow I wil l no longer be a DM in my parish. on this same issue of chit chat, I finally decided on a choice . I knew that If I told the daughter to stop talking, I would get attitude, and if I kicked her out of choir, I would have the mom on me. So I wrote the mother and told her that for her daughter to be able to stay in the choir she would have to sit by me at rehearsals so that I could help her keep focus and help her sing, since she doesn't sing hardly at all. The mother got totally mad, said she would take her and put her in another ministry. I told the priest all about this. . through email since it was a weekend. She sat with her mother at mass and cried, both of them through mass, so that everyone knew how bad of a person I am. She insulted me and said I was unchristian for wanting to humiliate her daughter in this way. Now she went to the priest and comes to tell me, that he agreed with her 100%, that he apologized to her and asked the daughter to come back into the choir, that I was unchristian and that he would be observing all practices from now on to make sure things run smoothly. I'm hurt that I was accused and insulted, because I never planned on humiliating her, in fact I was going to make it seem like an honor that she would sit by me. And because there are only 2 in the choir, separating her from the "friend" in any other way is impossible. What do you all think?? I'm meeting with father tomorrow. I think it will be my last day.
  • This is bunk. They really have no clue what discipline means or what it takes to be in music ministry. Talking in the choirs that I have sung in (school, university, church) do not allow for idle chatting. You are there to work. If they want the music ministry to thrive there needs to be boundaries and rules that the choristers need to submit to. You are the professional and know what is best. The priest should not have taken the parent's side because it undermines your authority. This kind of thing seems to be the rule and not the exception. I do not comprehend it, since good musicians are hard to find.
    Thanked by 2mamaherrera KARU27
  • For what it's worth, I sincerely appreciate your support, even from afar. As I'm sitting here, losing sleep over this, I just can't believe what goes on. Now in society, this lack of respect for authority is exactly why we have so many problems in the world as we do.
    Thanked by 2KARU27 CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    Shake the dust from your sandals and move on.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Elmar
  • KARU27
    Posts: 156
    So sorry you are going through this! I think that many younger people have no idea what a choir actually is, much less what it means to be in one. This could have been a learning opportunity for her (and her mom), but it just sounds like a whole lot of drama. Maybe she thought it would be more like being in a pop group. I was briefly involved with helping a "choir" of 3th and 4th graders, and I was sick of them in short order (because the director didn't know the meaning of the word discipline). For the first time I felt sympathy with the legendary mean nuns, with their hand-slapping rulers.
  • I hope, sincerely, that your pastor has something constructive to say in the meeting you have with him. Unless this exhibits a pattern of "unchristian" behavior, one transgression shouldn't be the end of your tenure.... unless of course either of two things is true: a) this is such a flagrant violation of the terms of your contract (assuming you have one); or b) forgiveness is a Christian thing only when other people are supposed to do it, but haven't, yet.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,713
    I don't understand the purpose of writing the mother. If you assigned everyone to specific places, did the girl refuse to take her assigned seat? Back in June it seems the assigned seat was helping.

    In any case, the priest should acknowledge that you have the right to assign the singers to specific places for the sake of the sound of the group.

    Really, it seems that the girl needs some individual teaching, to get her to where she can make a good average audible sound. It's something she should get from a voice teacher in the area.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I rather think this little to do with "singing" in the choir. It's drama.
    I also wonder if these sorts of behaviors by daughter/mom would be so pronounced if the director happened to be male; please don't imply anything to me regarding that pondering.
    I pray that mamah chooses to persevere through this, even if only to establish whether the pastor knows where his real bread is buttered. Lamentable.
  • Thanks all. Its obvious i chose the wrong person to mezs with as she is on pastoral council and volunteers for everything possible. Please pray for me at this meeting as I assume its going down. I see this new priest as very weak and they are manipulatinghim. And yes its complete drama. Yes, seating worked. But lately no one else was going,so it was just the two bullies. And knowing the mom,i knew it was best for me to inform her because she has been problematic in the past. Can u imagine if i would have done this cruel medieval act on her daughter without telling her? It is a nightmare and sad like someone said that i will lose my job due to her a girl who doesnt sing asis there just to destroy and disrupt. Evil has won again.she told me that the priest agreed that my pla was medieval, still im in shock and hurt.
  • Mediaeval is not a bad word.
    It is not in any sense a negative category.

    (Except in the minds of certain incredibly ignorant people.)
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • Well it may not be bad, but the context in which she used it, it was meant to say im really a bad person. Wish me luck, Im on my way to the mtg. Pray for me that I speak clearly and dont get emotional.
  • I resigned
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    Prayers for you, but I think you did the right thing.
    Thanked by 1mamaherrera
  • oh!

    prayers for you from here too.
  • Thank you all. It was hard. the priest yelled at me, blamed me for having small choirs, as though I can force people to join. And completely was oblivious to my side, my observations and my feelings. Sad to go, but even sadder to not be valued or appreciated. To all of you, I say goodbye, as I no longer have a need to belong to this forum. Thanks, I do appreciate your support.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Mamah, you have my deepest sympathies.
    What we have seen in this anecdotal account proves a microcosmic examen on what ails our Church, the Body of Christ. Attack sheep, emboldened by the hubris that the secular culture proffers as "self-esteem" and "rights," actively seeking to upend and destabilize a rightful hierarchical system of governance and progress by immobilizing a pastoral shepherd by shaming and coercion. In the meanwhile, good souls like you and your other choristers are left to cling to the resultant flotsam that was a functioning ministry. There is no joy in Mudville, the mighty have been whittled down. God's mercy to all.
    Thanked by 2mamaherrera Elmar
  • AMEN. . . . I was raised and taught to respect my elders and teachers. Just the fact that this mother doesn't respect me, how can we expect her child to respect me. ANd then to not have the support of your boss, at all, he didn't want to fight the fight. He was only concerned for his own well-being and image. Sad world we're in. Prayers for us all.
    Thanked by 2KARU27 Elmar
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    Stick around here and don't leave. I learn things from this forum that I might not experience in my parish job. I file it all away never knowing when it might be useful.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 156
    Yes, I am not a music director myself, but I learn an awful lot here. It's always fun to check in during the day and see what all you clever folks are up to!
    Best of luck to you mamah - - maybe you can use what you have learned somehow - - if only to "give 'em heck" when your parish ignores the teaching of the church on music. Now you can be the pain in the butt complainer! : )
  • very true. Thanks
  • Thanks to all. Take care and I will lurk around once in a while .Thanks for all your help in all my other questions as well.
    Thanked by 2chonak Elmar