We live in a democratic country, but that doesn’t mean our officers should be chosen democratically. When students enter our choir room and/or our rehearsal, they enter our world and our culture. We’ve created a safe, comfortable, and productive environment. While our environment should be student-centered, it should not be controlled by our students.
It is my belief that any truly successful choral program, middle school or high school, needs to have officers. Unless our intention as a choir director is to have no outside hobbies, no family, and no ability to take care of our own health, we must have officers. By having great officers, we are given the ability to become more effective teachers and provide a far more enriching experience for our ensemble members.
Great officers don’t happen by accident. Well-run choral programs have effective officers year after year. This happens because the choral director is intentional and effective in choosing and cultivating great officers; when officer tasks are clearly delegated and students are properly trained, qualified students will consistently become successful officers.
If we want the most qualified and deserving students to lead, serve, and represent our choir, elections are a bad idea.
Why Elections are ridiculous
Too many choir directors create and/or allow a ridiculous election process to take place; this process is sometimes intended to waste time at the end of the year, when their students have already checked out. I’ve seen and heard versions of this election model from numerous students and directors:
Multiple students choose to run for President, or are “nominated”. The losers of the presidential election then run for Vice-President. The two-time losers run for Secretary. And the three-time losers run for Treasurer. There may be run-offs at each position where the pool is narrowed.
A choir officer election is a total cop-out because it let’s us off the hook, and allows the students to just blame popularity on the reason why certain students are chosen. An election eliminates our perspective when choosing officers, yet these elected students will be working for us.
Even if an election is well-run and well-organized, there are so many limitations to a ballot/election system. The student with the most votes doesn’t necessarily deserve to be the leader of the ensemble. The student with the most votes will frequently be the strongest soloist or the most popular student in the choir, but neither of these students will likely demonstrate the skills needed to properly manage an ensemble.
Additionally, there are so many specialized tasks that very capable, yet easily over-looked students could thrive at; we have the ability to give every deserving student an opportunity to make a difference. Lastly, regardless of the quality of the election process, there is no system that I could think of that ensures all of the best candidates will be given an opportunity to fill jobs that best suit them and fulfill both our needs and the needs of the ensemble.
Officers are not for show
Officers matter. Every officer/officer position should have a distinct purpose and add value to our ensemble. If our officers “do nothing” or get in the way of our teaching, we are better off not having them at all.
Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric – a system to prepare all singers to be able to sight-sing
Our voice matters
A successful choral program allows all of the stake-holders to be involved in the process of choosing officers. Students should have a say and current officers may even have a say as well. In the end, we must be the final decision-maker and must also be willing to accept the blame. The more transparent the process, the more accepting all students will be of the final outcome.
It is our decision who we wish to work with. We must believe each chosen officer has both the skill and desire to successfully fulfill their position. These students must not only have the respect of the ensemble, they must have our full respect; they must be a role model for all other choir members.
Before we even think about the process of choosing officers…..
Should we choose the traditional titles of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer, we must have a complete understanding of what tasks each position should accomplish. Every potential candidate must be aware of what each position entails, in depth. This must happen before students decide if they are interested in applying for positions.
There is a different approach to creating positions that I prefer to use in my program; I share this approach in 10 Steps to Choosing the Right Choir Officers, a free download.
For now, I will share that we do not have a President or Vice-President. We have a Manager and Associate Manager who oversees the entire choir. Aside from the two managerial positions, all other positions are quite specific and involve tasks that specifically give back to the group and/or make my job easier. By minimizing my personal focus on logistics, organizing, and decorating, among many other things, I have gained more ability to focus on connecting with my students and being the most effective teacher I can possibly be.
If we clearly present each position and spell out the tasks related to each job, students will understand our expectations and requirements for being an officer. This is a solid starting approach to building a strong leadership program.
Post Concert Self-Assessment/Alternative Assignment Bundle – give all students a concert assessment!
Ditch the Election
If we are prepared by creating specific tasks for each and every position, it will become clear to us which students could appropriately fulfill each of those tasks/positions. We must always remember the purpose of having officers is to make our teaching more effective, to represent the needs of the ensemble, and to help instill a sense of culture within our group. When the right students are chosen, the choir will run better; the right students will not consistently be chosen through the process of an election.