Can training of new chorus members be done online?
Musical Directors, like me, want to help our newest members get up to speed. At the same time, we don't want to be away from our existing singers for too long. They need us as well.
In my own ensemble, the Endeavour Harmony Chorus, we have a good and capable music team who do a wonderful job. But new members still need some of my time for training, and that was the way we did it - face to face education with our new recruits separately, during rehearsal time. To reduce this workload, our solution was to take in new members just a couple of times a year, in one big batch, so if I was out in another room training new recruits instead of in front of my chorus, it was only a couple of times a year. No sweat.
However all that changed in 2022, post lockdowns. New members are coming along in dribs and drabs. So we're taking a different approach. We've decided to take in new members whenever they apply to join. And...... we have put our 6-week new member vocal training program online. Gulp.
Really? Can an online new member program work? I think it can. Several choirs are using the program and the results so far are promising!
This change was also an opportunity to completely revamp our new member training. Approaches have changed and I've learned a lot over the years. In the past I've been guilty of overwhelming newbies with too much information. My goal is to keep the training to just the most important skills someone new to my chorus need to confidently pass their audition. I use a more holistic approach than before and weekly lessons are provided online over 6 weeks, so the singer gets a chance to practice a skill before the next lesson lands in their inbox. Attending rehearsals each Tue evening is vital for putting into practice their new skills with the ensemble - supported and encouraged by other chorus members. They also get individual guidance and actual face-to-face coaching. On-line lessons will never replace that! In my chorus, each prospective member gets two PVI's (Personal Vocal Instruction) sessions during their six-week new member program, as well as group coaching at chorus rehearsals.
It occurred to me when designing this course that other choirs, ensembles and choruses might find it useful. I'm calling it the "Choirs Vocal Program". It's my own chorus's way of training new members who want to join us, but I suspect most of the content will be relevant and useful to many vocal ensembles. Modules include:
How to learn new music
Alignment and breathing
Personal and planned breaths
Onsets and scooping
It's now available to purchase. Each module contains a video lesson with explanations, demonstrations and student experiences, a quiz, and exercises for them to do in their home practice.
It can be tailored (to a certain degree) to suit just about any ensemble or choir.
In case this is something that speaks to you, here is a link to the course home page!