Actually, the tittle says it all so I won’t need to extend myself too much this time. What I want to mean is that we all, as musicians, as choir leaders or directors, want to do our best, to know more, to get better ideas, to produce more engaging rehearsals. Great.
What perhaps is not necessary (and not even effective) is to change our personality.
Talking here is a person who is not exactly the image of the “fear of God” martinet. Not the most assertive look you can find. If you identify with this, you can probably empathize easily with the many times I felt I “had to” look more strict, more “in control” and things of that kind, specially when in front of unruly students.
Eighteen years after I had to conduct my first choir ever…I have been totally unable to change my demeanor. I felt I looked like nobody could ever be in awe of me in the slightest. Like students would speak during my lessons and a look of mine would never be enough for them to stop chatting, whereas I could see others had the ability of generating silence around them just by entering the room. I always admired that quality that I never had.
In my first years of teaching I experimented with advice from others, observing other teachers, and tried to become a person that I was not… for a few minutes every time, but I proved to be unsuccessful. And one does not really know how it happens, but you get into developing the students songs, talking with them, collaborating and listening…and time passes… and one day I was told I looked confident.
I was shocked. I had never been told that before.
And I have still the same unchallenging demeanor, same easy-going personality.
What changed was perhaps that I decided which was going to be my kind of ‘audience’ and where I shouldn’t go because I would find it too hard. It was to sometimes let people talk because they need it, and find that actually they had something special to say. It was to feel at ease with people. It was shared joy, and laughs when something doesn’t work. It was a long talk in the pub with the unruly one, and finding out what an interesting person he could be, and the reasons for the many interruptions of my lessons.
I invited the ‘unruly’ student to help me in one of my sessions for people with learning difficulties. It was a discovery, and since then he got involved in helping other singers with more difficulties for learning the music than himself.
I still don’t have an imposing presence.
The difference is that now I don’t try to have it.
(What a relief).
I feel trusted.