(A plaintive phone call from a dear friend who is under attack by a chorister prompted this commentary. We said the following to her, and hope it might be of use to someone else.)
It’s that special time of the year!
No, we are not referring to Christmas, Hanukah, Chalica, Kwanza, or the Winter Solstice. For choral directors, this is the time of year when the drama-queens in our choirs seem to shift into full-auto, take-no-prisoners crazy mode.
Whether it’s caused by end-of-the-semester pressure, the gloom of early darkness, or holiday stress, the results are much the same. Someone in the choir starts spewing vitriol at you, the conductor. They may insult you face-to-face, melt-down in rehearsal, scream at you via e-mail, or slip a nasty anonymous note under your office door. Whatever the method, their intent appears nothing more than to dump their issues (and deep-rooted those issues are) on your shoulders.
For most choral conductors psychoanalysis is not part of our training, so don’t even try. What you must do, however, is to protect yourself and the educational progress of the choir. Here, then are a couple brief thoughts:
 LISTEN. Sometimes people just want to vent, they want to be heard. Your ears might be the key to diffusing the situation.
 REPORT. Document the situation and share that information with your supervisor. Administrators are supposed to have our backs.
 BE OBJECTIVE. Do not take the matter personally. Why should your day (and night, and the next day) be poisoned?
 MAINTAIN CONTROL. Fight the urge to be defensive, or to take their complaints line by line.
 SET BOUNDARIES. We are dedicated professionals, but that does not mean you are on-call 24 hours a day. Do not read student e-mails or texts after hours, and never read anonymous notes.
 PROTECT THE CHOIR. Never – no, never – allow a student’s meltdown or prima-donna personal problem to hijack the rehearsal. The other students in the choir deserve a solid educational experience.
 KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE. While one student may be having a little fit, telling you that you are the worst choir director who ever lifted a baton, there are scores of other singers in the ensemble who are eager for your musical tutelage. Focus on them.
If nothing else, remember, this too shall pass.