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Introducing: The NEW Choir Election Ballot

Introducing: The NEW Officer Election Ballot

The typical choir officer election is usually a waste of many rehearsals and usually results in an ineffective, dysfunctional board of officers. A balloted officer election is far more effective but it is still significantly flawed.

If we choose officers by election, the most popular students are usually chosen; most popular has no correlation with character, motivation, talent, or follow-through. It also doesn’t correlate one’s ability to equally reflect and communicate both the need of the choir and the needs of the director.

If we choose officers on our own, we miss an important key component: the voice of the ensemble. Our choir members not only have opinions and personal backstories regarding their peers, these views impact how they will respond to those potential officers, should they be selected.

If our goal is to have the both deserving and effective officers who are respected by the choir, I suggest using a Qualitative Election Ballot.

Here are the two main foundational principals to creating/using a Qualitative Election Ballot:

  1. The ballot needs to be constructed in a way that allows students to give important input
  2. We must use this qualitative student input to determine the best choices for officers

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THE QUALITATIVE ELECTION BALLOT

First, let’s understand that requiring students to put down their “vote” on a paper ballot means they can’t visually be swayed by other students in the room. While a paper vote is a good first step, it isn’t enough to ensure the right candidates are chosen.

Remember that WE are the ones that will be working directly with these officers. They represent us just as much as they represent the choir. We dictate what they have the power to do, what decisions they can make, and how they can handle specific situations.


Why Choir Elections Are A Bad Idea


How a Qualitative Election Ballot is different than a regular ballot?

A qualitative ballot offers the insight of our members, not just a numeric voting tally.  A ballot when created and utilized effectively will offer:

1. The ability to sort/separate the completed ballots up by section/grade (or any other important way) in order to understand the support for a particular candidate

If we are choosing section leaders, it’s important to know how the specific section feels about a particular candidate. A great singer who appears to step up may not be respected by their peers because they put others down; we may not inherently recognize this behavior, but these students can end up hurting their section more than they help. In addition, it’s important to differentiate how a candidate’s contemporaries feel versus the younger, more impressionable students.


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2. The ability for members to support ALL candidates that they believe are capable and deserving of leadership

When students have to choose between candidates, they may resort to a the most popular students. When we allow them to think through each student and whether they independently have what it takes to fulfill a type of leadership role, they will be able to give support to all deserving members. I don’t believe in limiting votes; a choir member can theoretically check-off every candidate for every category on their ballot.


10 Steps to Choosing the Right Choir Officers


3. The ability to recognize each candidate’s general strengths

Section leaders have a completely different role in a choir than the Robes Leader, the President/Manager or the Treasurer.  By offering separate categories to differentiate these types of skills, we can truly grasp where a candidate would be best suited. The choral clarity ballot separates musical skills, leadership skills, and dedication.


Choir Officer Application – train your students to become leaders BEFORE they become leaders


4. The option for members to say more

Even a qualitative ballot in some way becomes quantitative because we can still tally up the number of “votes” each candidate has received in each category. By allowing a column for students to add their own words, we have a little more detail about how they feel. They might write comments next to a candidate such as “a true role model”, “super talented”, “always talks behind people’s backs” or “doesn’t have the respect of their section”. If your wish is to only hear positive comments, you can add that additional specification.


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5. The option for members to remain anonymous or to pen their name

Some students don’t want their decisions to be known while others want us to know exactly what they think and feel about future officers. Students who pen their name have stepped up and also provided us with additional qualitative input to use in our decision-making process.  For example, if the potential President/Manager of our choir, who penned their name on their ballot, feels strongly about another potential leader, they will likely work well together. Additionally, should they pen their name, we could choose to follow-up with that student and ask them to explain their viewpoint further.


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Yes, it is more work for us to read through these ballots than it is to have an in-class election. But this process will allow for consistently deserving, well-chosen, and effective leaders year after year. Choral programs with true role models as leaders will continuously thrive as the current leaders will always set the example for the next group of aspiring leaders.

 

I have modified my ballot many times over the years, especially as my program has evolved and my needs for leadership has changed.  Here is a link to my fully editable officer ballot that you can download for free (for a limited time).


Qualitative Officer Election Ballot


Lastly, I believe strongly in an application process, which also requires the candidates to submit a resume, cover letter, have an interview, and give a speech in front of the choir. The ballot is the final step to the entire decision-making process, but even on it’s own, it will significantly improve the effectiveness of our officer selections!

By | 2018-06-20T02:44:57+00:00 April 28th, 2018|Choir Officers, Cultivating Choir Culture|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 20-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla.

2 Comments

  1. Lisa Fusco April 30, 2018 at 7:19 am - Reply

    The website requires an account password before I can download. I do not have an account password. Am I required to “join” Choral Clarity to get the download? I already subscribe to your emails, and don’t really want to have to join more websites.

    • Admin May 5, 2018 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Lisa,

      You already have subscribed. All you need to do is type in your email address and since it is free, it will be sent to you immediately. Please email me at choralclarity@gmail.com and I can send it to you if you wish!

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