by Lyndal Chambers
CMVic’s ‘Growing Community Music’ project is gathering momentum! A part of this project is to investigate different models of training delivery for community music leaders that currently exist in other parts of the world.
Of particular interest to us is the possibility of using online courses to build skills and connect with other like-minded practitioners.
Our international research volunteer found ‘Community Choir Professionals’ (CCP) https://communitychoirpro.com
There is a lot to learn here and an interesting website for CMVic members and singing leaders to peruse (or indeed, subscribe to*).
Course providers Victoria Hopkins and Christine Mulgrew from the UK believe singing is for everyone and that you don’t need degrees or diplomas before you can conduct a choir. They are teaching from their own experience and are developing an online community to share that experience.
Aspiring Community Choir leaders are able to access the course by paying monthly, 6-monthly or annually.
I was given a short period of free access to explore the website on behalf of CMVic.
The following topics (and more) are available to paying participants:
- Stepwise course for learning to lead a choir
- Support and extension for existing leaders
- Use of short videos for learning about a range of topics from basic conducting to performance planning
- Live training Q&A sessions with troubleshooting
- Some repertoire available, including warm-up plans
- Online Peer exchange
It was an interesting process for me because it threw into focus the unique perspective of Community Music Victoria. I became aware of the areas of overlap and commonality but also the points of difference in approach and philosophy between the sort of online course CMVic might develop and Community Choir Professional’s existing one.
Areas of commonality
There are a number of elements of the CCP that are aligned with CMVic understanding and practice. Some are already mentioned above, eg: the notion that singing is for everyone and that you don’t need a formal qualification to be a successful professional choir leader.
It was reassuring to hear addressed the issue of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ in the first session. Additionally, there is useful practical advice for conducting, warm ups, being aware of posture and a toolkit of basic music theory to support the work of the choir leader; all provided in a friendly relaxed way.
Points of difference
Of course there is no single experience or course that is going to be perfectly aligned with any individual and that will totally equip him or her to go into the world as a newly minted community music leader.
We take from all experiences and education settings the parts that resonate for us and leave the parts that do not.
My examination of the course was not in depth but I did not find any exploration of ‘Why’. What do you want to achieve by starting a community choir? What are the participants hoping to gain? What are the shared values of your group and agreed behaviours? What sort of group do we want? What range of repertoire are we interested in?
There did not seem to be an acknowledgment that every individual who attends is a resource and that the strengths of your participants will help to shape the unique identity of your group.
The course is servicing the needs of the choir leader; and that you as the choir leader, will be the provider of all, rather than a collaborative approach that empowers participants to take responsibility and have ownership of the group.
Perhaps the most obvious absence in the Community Choir Professional course is the CMVic belief that singing can be a shared activity that is an end in itself with performance being an optional extra.
Approach the Community Choir Professionals course with:
- An already well established sense of purpose for yourself and your group
- An understanding of the benefits to the individual and to the community,
- An appreciation and respect for the participants of your group and the living resources that they are,
- A sharing of responsibility for your group’s success with (possibly) co-leaders and participants
- A succession plan for your group (even if it may be a long way off!)
- A range of sources for new repertoire, a commitment to culturally appropriate material and a desire to contribute to local cultural growth
If you have the values underpinning your work, firmly in place you will be well equipped to add down to earth practical strategies and techniques to your tool kit from the ‘Community Choir Professionals’.
Growing Community Music is a CMVic research project coordinated by Lyndal Chambers and Jane Coker, supported with funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust You can read more about the background of the project here. Join the Growing Community Music Facebook page and be a part of the journey! For a list of the regional consultation workshops taking place across Victoria in July and August, visit the Community Music Victoria website
*Should you decide to subscribe to the Community Choir Professionals website, please identify yourself as a member of CMVic (if appropriate) so that we can sustain and develop our new found connection.