The 2 Choir Guidelines Every Director Should Have


Every choir director should have guidelines in their rehearsals. The two most important reasons why guidelines are important are: 1) They keep everyone safe and 2) They give every singer an equal opportunity to participate and learn.


While guidelines do differ based on circumstances, I believe these two choir guidelines work regardless of age or size of ensemble. This includes adult choirs.


Here are the two choir guidelines that I recommend every director use:

  1. Follow directions the first time they are given
  2. Please raise you hand and wait to be acknowledged when you wish to speak



CHOIR GUIDELINE #1: Follow directions the first time they are given

This is the golden guideline. We should expect our students to follow directions. It is up to us to choose directions that allow students to feel safe. Our singers, regardless of age, do not get to choose how they participate in our class. If there are activities in which they have a choice, that should be part of the directions we give. Here are some typical directions that we may give:

  • please stand
  • please take out your music
  • please mark that in your music
  • please hold up your music

CHOIR GUIDELINES #2: Please raise you hand and wait to be acknowledged before you speak

The most disruptive behaviors that typically occur in rehearsals involve talking without permission. Whether it’s calling out or having side conversations,  this guideline addresses all of these issues. Any speaking without a hand raised and our acknowledgement is addressed in this choir guideline.

These choir guidelines are NOT for you!

These guidelines are there to provide your singers with a safe and productive learning environment. You, the director, are the administer of these guidelines for the benefit of your singers. If another person gets up in front of the group, whether it’s a student or guest director, these guidelines should still be administered. When singers learn to embrace that these guidelines will allow the rehearsal to flow more effectively, they will see the long-term benefits.


Choosing the other guidelines

There are 5 guidelines to choosing the right guidelines. I know that sounds funny, but following these 5 guidelines will make all the difference in their effectiveness. Many directors choose rules instead of guidelines. Rules require punishments and in many cases are difficult to enforce. Choosing the right guidelines comes from understanding the needs of your ensemble as well as what parameters make a guideline effective.

But what if they don’t follow these choir guidelines?

As mentioned above, 75% of the success comes from knowing how to construct effective choir guidelines and then choosing the ones the best foster a safe and successful learning environment for your students.

The remaining 25% of the success has to do with how the choir guidelines are:

  1. presented to the class
  2. taught to the class
  3. positively reinforced
  4. redirected when they don’t follow the choir guidelines
  5. ingrained into the culture of the choir


Those 5 things take time to develop. In many cases, I find that directors who have effective guidelines know how to effectively manage their classroom; the thought that goes into creating the right choir guidelines usually is accompanied by the 5 things listed above. Effective planning usually results in a effective plan. In many cases, a person who creates an effective plan also prepares a way to effectively implement that plan.


The truth is that many choral directors don’t think too much about their guidelines. They may throw together a few rules that they think will allow them to teach without disruptions. They may also apply the generically ineffective “be respectful” rule, thinking it will solve everything in one shot.


In reality, most teachers aren’t using choir guidelines as an effective means for safety and instilling a positive learning environment for all students.

I was one of those teachers, 20+ years ago. I had just entered the classroom eager to teach music and ready to inspire my singers; it wasn’t long before the 16 students in my freshman ensemble were controlling every aspect of the classroom, including MY temper. It took 1 full year before I realized I needed to stop blaming my students: I was the problem.


The First Days of Choir (and beyond) Prep

Fast forward more than two decades, and I am teaching choral directors around the country how to take control of their rehearsal environment. When we create the rehearsal environment, we can empower and inspire our singers to accomplish goals beyond our expectations.

This is why I created The First Days of Choir (and beyond) Prep Course. It is an online, on demand class that will get choral directors ready for their first day, first week, and beyond. In the course you will learn the WHY to everything we do. When we have a WHY, we then must teach our students that same WHY.


Right now, for the first two days of this blog release, I will be offering a $20 coupon with code: newyearsuccess at checkout!


It’s important to note that just about all of the information I teach in this course is available for free in my many blog posts. What makes this course different is:

  1. You will watch videos where I discuss many individual topics and follow up with a personalized assignment and supporting materials in order to help you succeed in your classroom.
  2. You will be given specific assignments that lead to a completed handbook (I provide an editable handbook where you fill in the course-completed information)
  3. You will receive related handouts, charts, and forms that I sell on this website as part of the course (behavioral redirection form, self-assessment, aural training sheet, editable handbook, list of effective guidelines, etc)
  4. You will have guidance every step of the way – I will be there to answer your questions via text or email. I will check your work, whenever needed!