Does your church have a choir? Are you wanting to start a choir? Maybe you have a small ensemble that sings for special occasions. If so, you’ve probably thought about putting on a choir clinic, or workshop, for your group.
Choir clinics are a great way to focus on learning new songs for the year, work on sound and dynamics, fellowship with one another, reiterate your vision and expectations, and bring in a fresh face and voice to minister to your group.
If you’d like some help planning a choir clinic, then keep reading, my friend!
Invite A Clinician
When we think of choir clinicians, we often think of people like Joy Norris, Mark Condon, Dedie Cooley, and Laird Sillimon, right? These guys and gals and way up there on the list of talented, choir directing, wisdom imparting, music geniuses! While it would amazing to have one of these individuals come and get your choir into shape every year, it’s not always feasible. Not only do they have busy schedules, but the cost to fly someone in, put them in a hotel, and pay them for their time and investment might make you feel like a choir clinic is out of reach for your church.
But it’s not!
I do recommend you bring someone fresh in if possible. Your choir members will be on their best behavior and they’ll often take something to heart that you’ve been saying for a couple months because it’s from lips of someone new! It’s just how it works. We’ve all done this to our parents, right?
So, who do you invite?
Start by looking in your district or state. Is there another music director or worship leader that you respect? Looking local is a great way to cut some of the costs by eliminating flights and lodging. Be sure that the person you bring is experienced working with choirs/ensembles, capable of teaching parts, and willing to collaborate with you on selecting the songs that will be taught.
If you have someone in mind, get your pastor’s permission to reach out to them, then get in touch with the individual’s pastor as well. If permission is granted, reach out to the clinician with 2 to 3 possible event dates (be sure to talk to your choir members about this!) and see if they’re available. It’s probably smart to have 2 or 3 people in mind that you can talk to your pastor about. If one person isn’t available, then move on the next one.
If there’s no one within driving distance available, see if there are any friends or family members of the people in your church available. This may create an opportunity for your clinician to stay at someones house rather than a hotel.
If your church has an evangelists quarters, then use it!
Once you’ve confirmed a date with a clinician, then you can move on to the rest of your planning.
Hopefully you already talked to your group about open dates! You don’t want to plan an event and half your choir be gone that weekend, right? So, your group knows that this choir clinic is in the works.
Now that you have a set date and clinician, start promoting it! Remind your choir to put the dates on their calendars and get them pumped up for the event! Bring it up often and act excited about it! Promote your clinician! Thank them for taking the time to make your choir clinic a success by showing up and supporting it.
Make A Plan
You probably have some idea about what you’re wanting out of this event, but it’s important to sit down and plan it all out.
If you’re doing an all-day event on a Saturday, start with
coffee water and donuts at 9:30 or 10. Start off right by providing refreshments, a great way to show appreciation to your choir for getting out early on a Saturday!
You should also plan time for lunch. If you start at 10AM, then 12:30 to 1:15 or 1:30 would be a great time to have lunch. If you’re able to, provide lunch for your team. I know one music director that uses this time to personally prepare a lunch for her choir and let them know how much she appreciates them. You can also have it catered or have your choir members all bring something potluck style. If this isn’t feasible, then make sure you let your choir know in advance that they are on their own for lunch and how much time they’ll have.
After morning refreshments, you can open up with prayer, a devotion (maybe by the clinician, your pastor, or yourself), bring your vision for the choir back into focus, etc. It’s smart to bring everyone together and give them a focus for the remainder of the day. Choir is ministry and learning to play and sing with excellence brings honor to God and serves the people of your congregation. Give your group a reason to learn and invest themselves.
Your main goal is for the choir to learn some new songs, so how many would you like to learn? If your event goes from 10AM to 3 0r 4PM, you can easily learn 4, 5, maybe 6 songs depending on the complexity of the songs you choose. Make sure to have realistic expectations based on your time and choir.
I recommend planning on 5 for sure and have a couple extras ready in case your choir is on fire.
What kind of songs are you looking for? Fast? Slow? 3 fast and 2 slow? Are you wanting to learn any holiday themed songs? If Easter is right around the corner, this clinic would be a great time to get in 1 or 2 Easter songs.
The important thing here is to have an idea of what you want so you can clearly communicate your expectations to the clinician.
Communicate With the Clinician
Communication is key to having a successful choir clinic! Not just with your choir, but with your clinician. Be sure to explain the schedule and what you’re looking for from the start.
Be open to collaboration and input from your clinician. You may be inspired to do something a little different! You should also ask the clinicians for song suggestions. They may already have a repertoire they’re working with for the year and it’s easier for them to teach songs they’re already comfortable with rather than having to learn a brand new song.
However, you should definitely put your own suggestions out there as well. Then, together with your clinician, build your final list of songs.
Keep an open line of communication from the moment your clinician commits until your event is over.
Share the Songs
As soon as you have your final song list, share the lyrics, chord charts, .mp3s or YouTube videos with your choir and musicians right away. The more they know when your event starts, the more the clinician can work on specifics, sound, and dynamics.
– Side Note –
Musicians | You may or may not want your musicians there during the entire practice. Talk to the clinician about what they prefer and make a plan accordingly. Maybe your musicians can come from 3 to 5 to work with the clinician, or maybe they join the choir to learn the songs and then you have a separate musicians practice at a later date. There are several options available to you, just make sure you determine your plan of action in advance.
Have A Successful Choir Clinic
After all your work and planning, enjoy the choir clinic, soak up all you can from your clinician, connect with your choir, and be blessed!
If you can, plan to sing 1 or 2 songs the Sunday after your workshop. The sooner you start using the songs, the better! If you pastor’s ok with it, do a choir concert and sing ALL of the songs you learned!
You are more than capable of planning and executing a successful choir clinic, so talk to your pastor about getting one on the calendar!
What are some of the great things you’ve done at a choir clinic? Would you make any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!