How much greatness are we willing to grant people? Because it makes all the difference at every level who it is we decide we are leading. - Benjamin Zander
What does a choir leader actually do? Giver orders, organise, gesticulate exaggeratedly? According to Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and excellent educator whom I greatly admire, a conductor’s – and thus a choir leader’s – main mission is to bring out the best in each one of its members, regardless whether they are professional musicians or not. We have to respect and encourage the different musical personalities, since differences are a plus, not a minus. The moment each member finds his or her place inside the ensemble and contributes with the best he or she has to offer, that’s when we are making music and – on top of it – enjoying ourselves and communicating with the audience!
And how do we get there? It sounds pretty simple but requires quite a commitment from leader and choir members alike. For a start, working with the voice and the body is very important. Singers need to have a basic knowledge and control of their instrument and respect it. The more they understand how their instrument works, the better they will be able to use it in all its beauty. But singing in tune is not enough – listening is also crucial. We need to learn to listen to ourselves in order to see our role as part of the whole, to discover our personal contribution and have an understanding of the arranger’s or composer’s intention. And last but not least: let’s not forget about phrasing, rhythm, groove, improvisation, creativity and fearlessness! If we remain open to what is happening inside and around us, not one single rehearsal will be boring nor will one single performance sound like the preceding one.