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Magic Choral Trick #165 The Director’s Coterie

Directors – this one’s mostly for you, and yes, it’s not really a magic trick. It is worth thinking about though.

Leadership is an interesting game filled with many wonderful experiences, but with a few pitfalls that are worth knowing about. One of these is the Director’s Coterie.

The Director’s Coterie could be described as either a small sub-section of the choir that for some reason thinks that you, the director, can do no wrong; or else it’s a group of people to whom you pay attention, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Both of these types of groupings come with the potential to cause nasty schisms within the choir – and to distract you from your main purpose, which is to serve the entire ensemble. And the really weird thing about the first type of group is that just as you have no idea why they think you’re so special, you also won’t see it coming when they suddenly completely change their minds. I’ve seen this happen too many times not to mention it.

As a leader, it’s important to be accessible – but if there are no boundaries, it’s possible to get embroiled in many different choir members’ personal situations. If this happens you can become emotionally exhausted trying to help everyone solve their life problems.

Over the 35 or more years I’ve been directing, I’ve occasionally fallen into this trap.

Once you realize that you’ve allowed yourself to be led astray, it’ll take every bit of ingenuity and tact to extricate yourself without causing hurt feelings and uncomfortable group dynamics.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t have conversations with individual choir members – of course we will. But I find that it’s useful to remind myself that I’m the director for the entire group, not just a sub-section. I’ve also found that this role has the potential to be much more than my personality. I don’t need adoration. In order to work magic, I need a gentle respect.

And I find respect easier to attain with just a little bit of distance.

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