Help! I'm Leading by Example (And I'm Not a Very Good One)

by Chris Beatty

A choir director recently called me and said, “Help! I’m leading by example and I’m not a very good one!”

We all do it.
We all lead by example. It’s just the way things work. Our children learn how to speak by imitating those who raise them. That can be good, or that can be bad. Our singers are watching and listening to our vocal and musical guidance and that, also, can be good . . . or bad, depending on what we are doing.

Are You Creating Fusion or Confusion?

Leaders, who take their voices and how they use them seriously, will constantly be sharing good foundations as they speak, sing and lead. Those who don’t may be creating confusion as they ask for one thing and demonstrate another. I’m not suggesting that choir directors need to be great singers.  But, I am suggesting that certain, non-negotiable foundations can and should be correctly demonstrated by any vocal leader at all times.

Does this make you uncomfortable?
It is meant to be a challenge to us all, but it is a challenge that can be won with a bit of work, and fun work at that.  So, here’s the plan:

  1. Admit that you are in a place of important influence over your singers, whether as a choir director, worship leader, voice teacher or public school music teacher.
  2. Admit that you are leading by example, whether you want to, or not. Those under your care are not just listening to your instruction. They are observing and often imitating your posture, breathing, tone, diction, pitch accuracy, facial expressions and more.
  3. Evaluate your own vocal usage, posture, breathing, tone, diction, etc.  Then launch a systematic campaign to become the best you can be given the resources and time available.
  4. Evolve into a more effective example and watch those under your leadership follow you there. (*See some suggested resources below.)
Remember, your goal is to be the best influence you can be.  This will flow from you naturally as you use proven concepts and exercises.  As you develop good technique and muscle memory in your own vocal use, you will find your singers taking the journey with you, and that’s a win-win for all.

Finally, I want to thank and honor you,
 if you are a choir or choral director, worship team leader, voice teacher or coach at any level.  You are in a place of great influence involving the way people use their voices . . . now, and for the rest of their lives. And, while they are under your authority they are in a learning mode.  They’re open and willing to receive.  And, because this involves not only the intellect, but also the audio senses, and the same kind of interdependency as an athletic team, a lot of valuable skills can be learned under the pretense of just singing together.

*Resources: Free articles and tips as well as training materials can be viewed at vocalcoach.com.

About the author:
Chris Beatty is the president and founder of vocalcoach.com.  He is an experienced singer, voice teacher and coach, worship leader, pastor and songwriter.  His training materials are used world-wide by singers and their leaders at all levels. Chris is the composer of the well-known worship song Holy Ground and is the nephew of classical composer Samuel Barber.  He and his wife, Carole, continue to do choir workshops as well as teach privately in their studio in Brentwood TN.  Contact: chris@vocalcoach.com.