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Should you have a New member orientation?


Here is the compilation of responses I received to the question

"Do you do a new member orientation for your chorus members?"
(signatures withheld).

Seems like this is a topic of interest, since I received more "please share
the information" than actual responses. Herein lies some good ideas. If you
did not respond and have some thoughts, I still would love to hear from you.

Some of the websites mentioned are very nice!

Good luck, all.

Richard Garrin

We make a point of welcoming new members to our 24-voice ensemble.
Every new member is given an orientation booklet which outlines our
expectations and procedures. We also have a group retreat within the
first month of rehearsals. In the morning, we do the Myers-Briggs test
to assess people's type and interaction patterns. After lunch, we do
some group building exercises and we end the retreat with a cookout.
In the second month of rehearsal, we have a group potluck supper.
Richard, I am a chorister with a long history, have been a trustee (though
never an officer) of the chorus I sing in (semi-professional 80-120 voices,
depending on program), and think this is a great idea. In our chorus,
singers are singing members of a nonprofit corporation (we also have
associate members who become such by virtue of making a contribution of a
specified size.) Both classes of members are entitled to elect trustees and
officers and vote on many other matters (not programming).

This very important function tends to get underplayed in the process of
orienting new members to concert dress, standard concert call times,
rehearsal rules, important phone #'s, etc., all of which are in a small
leaflet (4 pages on an 8-1/2 x 11 folded). Nevertheless, the members are
bound by the by-laws (which impose almost no obligations but contain many
privileges), and should receive them. If your singers are in a comparable
position, please give them the by-laws.

We also have a new member dinner, very informal, at which new members can
meet several (not necessarily all) of the trustees and old members. For
many years, all of the trustees (or all but one or two) have also been
active singers in the chorus. Often, there is a new member dessert party at
the rehearsal site starting an hour before rehearsal, which helps also to
introduce and blend new and old members.
The Turtle Creek Chorale has "New Member Orientation" prior to auditions.

We invite potential new members to attend two rehearsals where they sing the
music we will be singing. During our 'break' the new members are taken to a
meeting where they are given the dirty details: dues, tuxedo, attendance
policy, etc.

If after their two weeks of rehearsals, they decide to proceed, then we
audition them. After the auditions, there is usually only one or two more
meetings specifically for new members. We also assign them a "Big Buddy", an
"old" member who facilitates their Little Brother with anything they may
Yes, being an "old" organization ourselves, we work to preserve that sense
a continuum for new members. We have a video (done forthe 50th anniversary
in 1992 for WETA-TV) that we show at an early rehearsal, and a historical
booklet that I wrote is going to be made available beginning this year (our
60th) with the fall season rehearsals.

We also have a list of things they need to know that goes out to all new
singers. It is important for them to know upfront about all the commitments
of the season, concert dress, the out-of-pocket costs incurred (music,
vestments, and music folder), rehearsal procedures.
These are the province of the Chorus Administrator in consultation with the
Music Director, the Chorus Master, and the Keyboard Artist,
Ours is a university-based community choir, so we have new members at the
start of
each year. Everyone wears name tags for the first few weeks. At the first
rehearsal of the academic year, we only sing for the first half, and
introduce in a general way a variety of pieces in our repertoire, introduce
the committee, etc. In the second half of the rehearsal, we socialise -
wine, cheese, dips, etc. The "older" members having brought the food, and
the choir funds providing the drinks. We sometimes also play a CD of a
recent concert, or of another group performing something we're intending to
do later in the year, but hardly anyone listens, as they're too busy talking
to one another! (The second rehearsal, then, is the first serious,
hardworking rehearsal of the year.) We also hold social events during the
year, but these are rather ad hoc, and according to what appeals at the
time. Sometimes we've held a BBQ on campus during the hour before rehearsal,
say 6 weeks into the academic year as well. And we always have a party after
our major concerts! We don't actually have a brochure, but we do a
newsletter four times a year. The first one of the year includes
introductory information for new members, such as what to bring to rehearsal
(pencil, rubber, etc), a list of committee members and their phone numbers,
rehearsal schedule, etc, as well as more light-hearted items such as jokes
(not all are musical, but most are), articles written by choir members on
subjects of interest, etc
You are trying to introduce new members to the culture and history of an
established group -- you want them to be proud to be part of this choir's
"tradition." For the best incorporation processes I know contact the folks
at Peninsula Women's Chorus in Palo Alto. They've won major awards, grants
and understand the value of "process," time-consuming as it may be. Not
all of their techniques will work, since they are an all-women's choir, but
the basic techniques can be adjusted to appeal to both men and
women. Worth the effort.
Here's how we handle new members with the Mendocino Women's Choir:

Our season ends in June. We have a business meeting the first Wednesday of
each month, prior to our rehearsal. At the July meeting we discuss how many
are on our waiting list and whether we can accommodate inviting them all to
join us. We try to keep membership at 50 or under. We're a non-audition
choir; half the members do not read music.

We can usually invite 10-12 from the waiting list to join us. Long-time
members of the choir telephone each person, make the invitation and provide
preliminary information regarding expectations, rehearsal times, dues,
required performances.
Of those invited, 2-3 will have changed their minds, or had schedule changes
that prevent them from joining us.

The new members are invited to come early to a meeting in early/mid-August.
this meeting is also attended by our section leaders (we have 6), our tape
"fairy" (she dupes all our practice tapes), our archivist (she brings our
scrapbooks), and our librarian, along with any longer-term member who'd like
to be a music "mentor" (our version of the buddy system).

New members are encouraged to communicate with section leaders regarding
questions and concerns. At this time, we provide them with an orientation
packet containing our mission statement, our commitment statement, a choir
roster with section leaders highlighted (our roster includes what part a
member sings along with their phone, address, email and fax numbers), a list
of songs from our repertoire that they will be responsible for learning
(other than the new songs for the current season), notes on performance
dress (black bottoms, jewel-tone tops, make-up is required, no fragrances at
performance or rehearsal--including smelly shampoos), plus a list of all the
songs for which practice tapes are available, and a tentative song list for
the new season (this is finalized at the September business meeting).

At the orientation meeting, we introduce everyone, present the basic
structure of who we are and what we do, answer questions, laugh a lot, and
sing several songs in unison with different tessituras. We go over all the
little nuts and bolts: when, where and how long rehearsals are; yes, we pay
for childcare, and how to plan ahead in this regard; how to suggest new
music; how to comment on or complain about new music/lyrics; how to deal
with personality problems; how many rehearsals they can miss before they're
sent a warning postcard; what workshops/performances we encourage members to
attend (the A Cappella Summit in San Rafael, the Harmony Sweepstakes; the
Northern California Women's Choir invitational, etc.); what scholarships are
available for these events and for individual vocal coaching with local

We also introduce them to "the big red book." This book contains a complete
repertoire list, pages for comments on each rehearsal ( wealth of
information for the conductors), business meeting minutes and decisions, our
mission statement, list of available taped performances and practice tapes,
current (and past) rosters, plus a resource section where members can
advertise their business or other areas of interest and expertise
(everything from plumbing to nursing to ad sales, fine art, and the world's
best piecrust recipes....).

For new folks who are new to singing in a choir, or who don't know what part
they should sing because they haven't sung in 20 years (!), we move into
smaller groups at the piano, divided by section, and then into solo singing
by the new members. (Oftentimes, this is a preliminary placement.)
I have always used a 6-panel 8" x 11" brochure. Now we are using our
For a look,
Our handbook is on our web site. Take a
look. Lots of information.