How to be the BEST Conductor

I’ve gotten some pretty enthusiastic feedback from one of my recent trips to shenanigan city: 21 Ways to Be the BEST Choir Singer. Saucy, yet harrowing…ly accurate.

You know what, though? The road goes both ways. To avoid the assumption that I loathe my choirs (which isn’t true!), I decided to spend a little time slamming myself. Because if you can’t make fun of your own eccentricities, what else is there? Here’s…

23 Ways to Be the BEST choir director

1. Commit 2/3 of rehearsal time to your own voice part or instrument. Ignore the rest until absolutely necessary.

2. Always start at the beginning of the music. Only learn the remaining 2/3 of the music 1.07 days before performance.

3. Expect the accompanist and singers to read your mind. Never tell the choir or pianist what’s going on, ever. Especially in the way of starting places.

4. Be laughably inconsistent when drawing your choir’s attention to a specific part of the music by mixing things up (page, part, system, measure, word, verse). Point it out differently every time. It’s a real time-saver this way.

5. Warmups? Pssshhh. Can’t dive right into High-C land (and I’m not talking about the fruit punch)? Get out.

6. If you do a warmup at all, make sure it’s mindlessly repetitive and totally inapplicable to the music you’re teaching.

7. Conduct using flowery, obscure, vague gestures. This keeps the choir guessing where the actual pulse is. Keeping people on their toes is my favorite pastime, isn’t it yours?

8. Only allow your accompanist 30 seconds with the music before rehearsing it (bonus points if the score splits into 16 parts and has no piano reduction). Demand nothing short of keyboard perfection.

9. Always sit when you rehearse, but request that your singers stand 90% of the time. This isn’t at all hypocritical or asinine.

10. Go over on time. Or better yet, call an unplanned rehearsal with less than a week’s notice. Because it’s usually totally their fault if they’re not prepared.

11. Buy one perusal version of your sheet music and make 300 photocopies because you’re clueless as to how to balance a music budget.

12. Mouth all the words to all the music so the choir never has to actually think about what they’re singing. It’s easier that way.

13. Unashamedly begin rehearsal 5-10 minutes late. Every time.

14. Don’t rehearse any cutoffs or entrances. If you can’t count, leave.

15. Stay strictly within the confines of your own musical comfort zone. Never choose music from other genres, time periods, or in other languages. No one cares about music outside their respective country of origin.

16. Affix your gaze down at your music for the entirety of the song. Eye contact and any form of non-verbal communication will reveal your frailty.

17. Just wing it, rehearsal-wise. Avoiding any sort of score preparation. After all, you are a sight-reading warrior (even if you can’t sing the tenor line on sight).

18. If you intend on giving a solo to someone, do not notify them. I repeat: do not give them any sort of warning. Request on-the-spot flawlessness.

19. Never pay any mind to the process. The product is what matters. Screw everything else.

20. Be one of those highly eccentric, un-pleaseable crazies. No amount of response from the choir can be what you actually want, after all.

21. It’s scientifically impossible to tune vibrato, so best to just avoid it at all costs. Demand that everyone use relentless, unyielding, straight tones that could bore through cement. Ruin their voices in the process.

22. Instill fear in your singers. This will produce the best, most obedient sound. Nevermind if your ensemble of 60 sounds like a choir of 20.

23. Alternately, attempt ridiculously to be everyone’s friend. Never challenge your singers to be better musicians. They’re there for the stories about your dogs. Or, better yet, never achieve a glowing balance between work and play. Work all the time or play all the time; it can’t be both. This really gets people coming back.

How are YOU guilty of being the best director?

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