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Responsibilities of Section leaders

*** 0 *** From the Original Post:

I would like to put this question to all choral directors:

Just exactly what are the duties of a "section leader" in your choir, in
rehearsal and between rehearsals?

*** 1 ***


Section leaders in the groups I conduct take especially thorough, careful
notes throughout rehearsals. They are asked to arrive 15 minutes early.
If someone misses a rehearsal, they must arrive early and get any notes
they have missed from their section leader.

I'll be interested in seeing your compilation!

Ruth McKendree Treen
Chatham, Massachusetts

*** 2 ***

From: "Helen Phare"

My choir's repertoire is entirely a cappella, and few of our members read
fluently. The section leaders' responsibilities are therefore quite
demanding. They include:

- getting together with the musical director to learn their respective
parts in new material and then to perform it as a quartet for the choir
to give the choir an idea of what we are aiming for

- teaching their section their parts

- being the person to whom section members report if they are unable to
attend a rehearsal

- keeping an eye on lateness or excessive absences in their section

- participating in the audition process

Helen Phare

*** 3 ***

From: Frank Albinder

I call mine "section coordinators," and they're mostly responsible for
taking attendance at rehearsals, finding out where missing singers are,
transmitting messages when e-mail won't do, etc. I shy away from calling
them "section leaders" since it implies a musical role that they don't
have in my chorus.


Frank Albinder
Music Director
Washington Men's Camerata
Woodley Ensemble
(202) 986-5867

*** 4 ***

From: Simon Loveless

I'm an accompanist, not a director, can I attempt to answer the question

I work with two choirs that have section leaders, and this question had
me scratching my head and wondering just exactly why the position exists
in each choir. I don't think either group has really worked out the
formal responsibilities of section leaders. The role seems to be largely
what the individuals make of it, or what the choir administration might
momentarily request of them. For that reason I will look forward to
reading your compilation.

In both choirs the section leaders have been appointed primarily because
of their musical skills, so I think the hope is that they would provide
musical leadership for their section. That might involve bringing the
director's attention to problems within the section that s/he may have
missed (whether problems in a particular musical passage, or problems
involving individuals), helping new members or members who are struggling
(one group is completely non-auditioned, in the other the expected
standard is not terribly high), running sectional rehearsals, etc. Some
of our section leaders do all of those things, others don't do any of

Sometimes we have asked section leaders to take more of a human resources
role, taking care of things like keeping attendance records, contacting
members who have been absent for long periods, etc. Some section leaders
are very good at identifying and managing the group dynamics of their

In the Australian Welsh Male Choir, section leaders form the music
sub-committee which assists the Musical Director in decisions regarding
repertoire (this group currently meets maybe once a year for this
purpose. In previous times the group met more regularly and served as a
conduit to the musical director of issues arising in particular
sections). The section leaders are also involved in the audition process,
which consists of the auditionee singing their part of a song against the
four section leaders (this doesn't happen on the first night! there is a
probationary period during which the auditionee attends rehearsal with
the rest of the choir, which can last as long as the auditionee wants).
Absent members are expected to apologise to the section leader, and the
section leaders are usually asked to determine which members will be
present for a concert. That is about the extent of their expected duties.

In Cranbourne Chorale I can't think of any formal expectations that we
place on our section leaders. Some leaders are very active doing things
like organising sectional rehearsals etc. Others don't really do anything.

Hope this is of interest.

Simon Loveless
Australian Welsh Male Choir
Cranbourne Chorale
Yarra Ranges Childrens Choir

*** 5 ***

From: MickiMG(a)

Brian -
Section leaders in church choirs are probably not that different from
section leaders in any choral ensemble, however I usually include things
on the "job description" for SL's such as keeping up with the members of
the section and their families, and letting me know who's sick, who has
any sort of problem that a sympathetic phone call from me might be
indicated, etc.

But first, of course, are the musical duties. In the best of all
possible worlds a SL would be sure to call absentees, make sure that all
markings are given to absentees before Sunday, arrange sectionals when
necessary for difficult scores, be available for individiual help if
necessary. Most of all, in the actual singing itself, I encourage the
model of gathering and leading from behind. I personally have no use for
a trumpet-like voice which sticks out loudly so that everyone else in the
section (and the rest of the world) can hear it. So "shepherding" to me
is a better image than "leading the charge."

Other things like being sure that absent members' folders are cleaned of
just-used music after church on Sunday, and receiving phone calls from
members who are going to be out also tend to really help the director.
In sum, it is a small model of the pastoral/administative/musical type of
work that the director does. And in that way, SLs are immensely helpful.

Micki Gonzalez

*** 6 ***

From: "Don Barrows"

We are a community choir of 80 members and have 13 weeks to prepare our
programs. Since our membership is made up of varied musical abilities, we
split almost weekly into sections for the first 45 minutes of a 2.5 hour

I contact section leaders weekly to provide them with ideas for the
following week's section rehearsal and they provide me with any problems
(real or potential) that might arise. Section leaders bond very quickly
with their section and get to know individual abilities rapidly. The
full rehearsal consequently flows well.

Don Barrows
Conductor & Artistic Director
Federal Way Chorale
Federal Way, Washington
P.O. Box 54125
Redondo, WA 98054

*** 7 ***

From: John Howell

I haven't used section leaders with my school choirs, but did with the
Sweet Adelines barbershop chorus I directed for 2 years. They were
(hopefully) the best musicians in each section, capable of taking their
section and a small keyboard and rehearsing the parts when we broke apart
for sectionals during an evening rehearsal. They also prepared learning
tapes for their sections. In a super-organized barbershop chorus those
tapes are prepared ahead of time, sometimes by professionals. In our
more easygoing chorus they were done once we started rehearsing a song.


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034

*** 8 ***

From: Sean Mills

someone posted a very complete discription of what a section leader does
last year (might have been officers as well). i lost it, so if you come
across it please let me know.


[Compiler's Note: I tried looking up the Resources page on the ACDA
website, but it seems no longer to exist. What happened to it?]

*** 9 ***

From: "Terry Barham"


This paragraph is from my three-page syllabus for the Emporia State
University A Cappella Choir (40-voice select choir). I conduct the
group--superb students who work hard towards artistry with solid
technique and great devotion.


15. Each section of the choir will have section leaders chosen by the
director. Excellent musicianship, leadership skills, and a willingness
to work as a motivator within the section and the choir as a whole are
the desired qualifications for section leaders. Section leaders must
take responsibility for the following actions:
(a) Speak quietly to their sections during rehearsals if they have a
helpful suggestion.
(b) Maintain a quiet and professional attitude in their section during
the rehearsal in the unlikely event that unnecessary talking has begun.
(c) Rehearse the section on days devoted to sectionals.
(d) Arrange outside sectionals if needed.
Section leaders will meet with the director as needed.

Dr. Terry Barham.
Director of Choral Activities
Emporia State University
Emporia, KS 66801
620-341-5436 (ph)
620-341-5601 (fax)

*** 10 ***

From: Singer83(a)

Brian - Since I was a section leader I hope you don't mind my sharing
this with you. My responsibilities were to conduct sectional rehearsals
as needed. Because it was a large group, others took attendance etc. I
would also warm up the choir before rehearsal started and sometimes run
the entire rehearsal when the artistic director was absent.

I hope this is helpful. I'm anxious to see your compliation.
Karen DeBack
Heartland Voices

*** 11 ***

From: "David & Margot"

Hi Brian,
Our choir's approach to Section Leaders is fairly casual and ad hoc. We
don't appoint official section leaders for the year, as some choirs do.
Rather we ask for volunteers at times when there is a particular need,
e.g., when we sing in the Sydney Opera House, we sometimes need leaders
to help marshall large numbers of choristers on and off stage; at the
beginning of the year, when we have a lot of new members, we may have
temporary section leaders to help orient the new people - talking to them
during breaks, making sure they've got the right music, etc.

Margot Mcalughlin
Macquarie University Singers
NSW Australia

*** 12 ***

This is what I hand out to my students at the beginning of the year. Hope
it is what you were looking for.

Choir Section leaders, music librarians and student directors

The director appoints section leaders and student directors at the
beginning of each semester.

Section leaders will:
Take attendance in their section daily
Hand out and collect music
Be familiar with the section's required music
Lead sectional rehearsals
Make phone calls to section if necessary
Attend sectional meetings once a month during FIT(Focused
Instructional Time)
Help with fund raisers

Student director will:
Direct in class if the teacher is playing accompaniment
or if there is a substitute for the class.
Be familiar with all music to be performed by the choir.
Make phone calls to choir members if necessary
Attend choir meetings once a month during FIT
Meet with the director and rehearse music to be presented to choir

Librarians will:
Count, date and file music after each concert.
Keep files neat and up to date.
Help prepare files for computer disk
Attend choir meetings once a month during FIT

Other jobs associated with choir, not necessarily performed by choir
Set up and take down crew for risers and shell
Light crew
Sound crew
Video crew
Set crew/decorations for stage and lobby
Stage manager
Reception organizer and set up team

Linda Campbell

*** That's All, Folks! ***
Thanks to all who responded.

All the best,

Brian Taylor,
Toronto, ON Canada

Many of you emailed and asked for a compilation of responses. I apologize
for the late compilation, but after all--it's Christmas musical time.

I wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas.

Russ Donaho
Russ Donaho
Associate Pastor of Worship
Iron City Baptist Church
41 Mandy Lane
Anniston, AL 36207
(256) 238-1293

Original Email:

Choral Directors and Church Choral Directors:

What are your standards for section leaders? I am beginning the process of
installing section leaders into a choir which has had none before, and I
need some guidelines to lay before them. I already have a sense of what I
wish for them to do, but I would like to have your input in the matter.

Thanks so much for your time,
Russ Donaho



I've copied a section from the Whitworth Choir handbook. This is how I have
separated the duties for student leaders. This process may work in your
church as well. Good luck.

Bryan Priddy
Director of Choral Activities
Whitworth College
Spokane, WA


Student leadership roles are divided into two categories: elected
(officers) and appointed (music leaders). Both categorical roles are
crucial to the health and success of the choir.

Elected officers include president, president-elect, social coordinators,
and chaplain. The president is responsible for the overall operations of
the choir, and works closely with the director in matters of policy,
touring, and logistics. The president-elect "shadows" the president,
assisting where possible, and is called upon to work in conjunction with the
president in carrying out choir agendas. The following academic year, the
president-elect assumes the role of president, and student members elect
another president-elect. Social coordinators are responsible for providing
"extra-musical" activities in choir, and are charged with "building the
community." Social coordinators also assist the director and other officers
in planning tour activities. The Chaplain is responsible for coordinating
choir devotional times. Two chaplains are sometimes elected, with each
serving as a bus leader on tours. Elected positions as well as music leader
positions are not set in stone. As the choir's needs change so too do
position titles and responsibilities. Yearly evaluations are conducted to
determine changes, if any, needed to best meet student and choir needs.

The director selects appointed music leaders. These students are selected
based on directing and musical ability, as well as degree major and career
goals. Typically, music education majors fill these roles, although
exceptions are made from time to time. These students are responsible for
running sectionals. They also lead full choir rehearsals in the absence of
the director. This year's music leaders include section leaders, section
assistants, and sectional accompanists. In addition, a choral librarian is
selected and charged with the distribution and maintenance of choir music
and folders, as well as documenting the two-year choral library catalogue


In my time with section leaders I feel they can be very valuable but must be
watched over some what, but not to much. I feel you should simply look for
someone who will get the job done, and that is not always your favorite
student. That is sometimes the quietest ones or the ones that do not seem
receptive all the time might be your choice. They should have a bit of
knowledge when it comes to piano and listening to vowels. Be a good brave
singer themselves. They must have the trust of you and the other members. I
remember being in a choir where the director put someone over me, who was my
friend and who could sing better than me but they did not lead the group as
well as I would have hoped. You need a strong person who knows how to teach.
Just because someone sings well does not make them a good teacher, some
people were born to teach others God blessed them with other talents. I wish
you all the best of luck but remember to watch over those sectional leaders,
because leadership is the glue to a choir if that leadership fails the choir
begins to fail. You could also have student conductors every once in awhile
and as they are teaching in class you can give them pointers, even if
student conducting only consisted of warming up the choir. That would give
you a chance to help them improve their teaching style and then later on
when you are not there they can lead a rehearsal. I hope these words were
valuable to you in some areas.

In His Service,

Jason A. Mincy

Dear Russ:

One aspect of your ministry is to help develop the character of the people
with whom you work. To do that requires taking risks.

If you first lay out the parameters, i.e., tell them what the job entails
and ask them to pick a person who can actually do that job, and then say
something to indicate your confidence in their ability to decide--you will
help them to grow personally and as a group.

Your charisma and leadership skills will trickle down to them if you
approach them with that type of positive energy--just as Christ did with his

Best wishes.


Thomas Sheets


I. I teach middle school chorus and have an after school chorus that is
more advanced. The sections leaders in the after school chorus are required
to have all of the markings that I have in my music for their section. That
was if a student misses a rehearsal they can get all of the markings before
the next rehearsal and it doesn't interrupt rehearsal time. This system
generally works well. It is more difficult to get the students who missed
rehearsal to get the notes from the section leader than it is to get the
section leaders to get the notes from me.
The students are also expected to be at all rehearsals, know their
parts (Obviously) and be willing to help other people with their music if
This is probably information that you already knew but I figured I'd
pass it along anyways.
Jen Bowler

In my church choir I have 4 paid section leaders. There are several
qualities I look for in a section leader:

-easygoing, likeable personality--the volunteers MUST like them
-must have an affinity for the church and understand worship. My section
leaders are not asked their personal beliefs--
-they MUST have good sight-reading ability. I have made the mistake of
hiring a beautiful voice when the sight-reading wasn't so hot, and I
regretted it
-they must be good role models for the choir members--punctual, attentive.
-my own preference is to have singers who are good choristers. if they
also have the ability to sing solos well, that's a bonus. so I don't look
for big developed voices--but clear accurate blending ones

Hope this helps

I have my section leaders run sectionals, do other logistical items as
attendance, phone calling, setting the standard for the group, they are a
quartet, too, and are able to take care of business when I am not there.
Hope this helps somewhat. Well wishes on your new endeavor.

Ardis Faber
Associate Professor of Music
Grace College - Winona Lake, IN
219/372-5100 x6352; faberar(a)


Dear Russ,

Here's the quickest way to answer you---with a letter I send at the
of the year:

"I thought it would be helpful to review the coming year and what the
soloist/section leader position entails:

The soloist/section leader is employed by the church to lead his/her section
in the Christ Church Choir. S/he is asked to be a supportive presence in the
section, guiding volunteers in the learning of notes and rhythm, vocal
production, diction and blend. Not only a section leader, s/he is a kind of
cheerleader, by positively encouraging folks to do their best.

Your presence at both rehearsals and services is more-than-critical for the
performance of the music here. In the event of your absence at either the
rehearsal or service, you are asked to find a substitute. (I am working on a
list presently, which I will give you to assist you in securing a sub).
Whomever you get, they need to be able to sight read. If they want/need to
have music ahead of time, I'd appreciate your taking care of that, but I'll
help if necessary. It's your responsibility to pay your sub, and what you
is between you and them.

Since there are no official sick days or vacation days, I have tried to
compensate for this by offering a paid holiday on the Sunday after Christmas

Your fee for the Sunday service & rehearsal is $---, which is paid monthly.
No taxes are deducted, and you receive a 1099 from the church.

Beyond Sunday mornings, there are a few extra services in the church year
are asked to sing for:

Good Friday at 8 p.m. with rehearsal immediately preceding at 7 pm
Christmas Eve at 10:30 p.m. with rehearsal immediately preceding at 9:15

Extra service on Easter morning at 9:00 am with rehearsal at 8:30 am.

Your attendance at the Christmas and Easter services is paramount. Unless an
unavoidable emergency occurs, you are asked to be available for these

Additional rehearsals which may occasionally crop up will be paid at a rate
of $----
per hour."

So that's what we have done. It might be a good idea to ask that they sign
anything indicating that they understand the commitment,---it's always a
idea to have things in writing.

Hope it helps,
Cynthia Powell


Here is a copy of the document I use as the contract (or "memorandum of
agreement") with my professionals. I use it currently and have use this same
or a very similar format for the past many years in both the northeast,
Midwest and now here in the southeast. Hope this helps.

Scott Foppiano
Plaza Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC

Memorandum of Agreement for 2001-02

2304 The Plaza, Charlotte, North Carolina 28205
(704) 376-8594

Scott F. Foppiano, Organist-Choirmaster
(704) 708-8828, scottfop(a)

The Quartet shall be comprised of professional, auditioned vocalists serving
as section leader/soloists in the
Chancel Choir of The Plaza Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At present the Quartet
consists of one soprano, one alto, one tenor and one baritone/bass.
Positions in the Quartet are granted
through audition and continuing positions are maintained by the grandfather
clause in the case of a new

The Annual Choral Season

I. The annual choral season follows the same calendar year as the local
school system. The Quartet
will sing with the Chancel Choir during the regular choral season which
begins the Sunday after
Labor Day (September 9) and ends the last Sunday of June (June 30).

II. Additional annual services that require the full Chancel Choir and
Quartet are as follows:
-the annual Thanksgiving Eve Service (Wednesday, November 21 at 6:00 pm)
-Christmas Eve (Monday, December 24 at 7:00 pm)
-Maundy Thursday (Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 pm)

III. Additional Advent and/or Lenten performances requiring the Chancel
Choir and Quartet are as
-Advent Concert (Friday evening, December 21, 8:00 pm)
-Lenten Performance (T.B.A.)

Remuneration for Services

The stipend for each member of the professional quartet shall be $100 per
week and shall include the
following professional services:
-Thursday evening choral rehearsal
-Sunday morning warm-up at 10:30 am and Worship Service at 11:00
The stipend is divided up as follows: $50.00 per rehearsal and $50.00 per
Worship Service. Bi-monthly
time sheets outlining services performed will be turned in to the
Organist-Choirmaster prior to each pay
period. Checks are issued bi-monthly through the church treasurer.


As section leader/soloists, each quartet member is expected to arrive for
weekly rehearsals and Worship
Services on time, fully prepared and familiar with all music (i.e.: anthems,
solos, duets, trios, quartets and
solos within a particular anthem). Solo repertoire may be scheduled with the
Organist-Choirmaster for
Sundays and/or services agreed upon on advance of the date of the solo.

Professional Quartet Memorandum of Agreement, Page 2

Attendance and Absences
I. Each quartet member is expected to be present at every rehearsal and
Worship Service outlined in
this Memorandum of Agreement. If it is necessary to be absent, the
Organist-Choirmaster must be
notified as far in advance as possible, no less than two weeks (14 days)
prior to the absence except
in the case of serious illness.

II. Each quartet member will be responsible for providing a competent
substitute in their absence.
Each quartet member will be responsible for providing all music to their
substitute prior to the
rehearsal and Worship Service in which the substitute will sing. Each
quartet member will be
responsible for paying their substitute in their absence.

III. If a substitute is not available for a Thursday evening rehearsal,
advance notice must be given to
the Organist-Choirmaster prior to that particular rehearsal. A substitute
for the following
Sunday morning is mandatory.

IV. Any quartet member that misses two consecutive calls (i.e.: Thursday
evening rehearsal and
Sunday morning Worship Service) without giving prior notification to the
will be immediately terminated.

Renewal of Position

Each quartet member will notify the Organist-Choirmaster of their desire to
return thirty (30) days prior to
the conclusion of the regular choral season. Positions do not automatically
renew annually.

Termination of Position

Except in the case of immediate termination due to negligence in attendance
(Attendance and Absences,
article IV) the position of each member of the Professional Quartet may be
terminated by either party
(Plaza Presbyterian Church or the members of the Professional Quartet) with
30 days’ prior notice in

The Summer Season

As the church budgets annually for a professional quartet for the 52 Sundays
of the year, the “off weeks”
during the summer months will not be contracted formally. If unavailable on
a given week, each quartet
member is requested to provide a competent substitute.

________________________________________ ___________________________________
Quartet Member Vocal Part

Organist-Choirmaster, Plaza Presbyterian Church



Check out ChoralNet's resources:
ChoralNet > Rehearsal > Choir Management > Section Leaders

Allen H Simon
VP for Website Development
ChoralNet Inc.

ello, Russ,

I am Founding Artistic Director of the Livingston County (MI) Chorale,
formed in 1991. Our members' handbook lists the following as
responsibilities of Section Leaders:

1. Serve on the solo audition panel with the Director as requested
2. Call and direct sectional rehearsals as deemed necessary by self, section
members or the Director.
3. Check apparel for uniformity at concerts.
4. Assist the section in concert formations.
5. Strive to unite the section in matters of music and morale.
6. Work with section members on improving tone quality, blend, vowels,
expressiveness, phrasing, diction, as well as pitches, rhythms, entrances
and memorization.

A tall order, to be sure, and each section leader brings different

The Assistant Section Leaders:

1. Assist section leader with musical responsibilities
2. Keep accurate attendance records for the section, receive absence calls,
and report excessive absences or tardiness to the Director.
3. Distribute handouts to all members of the section, including absentees.

Hope these ideas help. We revise the list occasionally, but these have
served us pretty well over the long haul. Good luck!

Marilyn S. Jones, Ph.D.


Russ -

My first requirement of section leaders is not musical. First and foremost I
want them to be spiritually mature Christians. This means that I may not
have the most musically talented people in those positions.

After that I would want the person who is someone to emulate musically. This
would include sound, musicality, work ethic, and maybe most of all, someone
with a teachable spirit. They also need to be someone who shows some traits
of leadership so that the rest of the section will follow.

Often I have had two section leaders, dependent on the size of the choir.
One is the musical leader, and the other is administrative. This is the one
that contacts absentees, sends out get well/birthday/anniversary cards from
the section.

This may not be what you are looking for, but for me they are what I look


John Elving
Director of Music Ministries
First Presbyterian Church
Rapid City, South Dakota

on April 9, 2004 10:00pm
I thought I would add what section leaders did in my high school choir. They were the most musical students as well as the best leaders. They took over in the sight-reading room at state contest, as well as leading sectional rehearsals. Sight-reading was their main job. They were the ones who let the section know when they were singing something wrong, and fixes it since the director is not allowed to sing and cannot be expected to help all sections during the entore process. This was very effective.

Renee Jerden
Student-Teacher at Norman North High School
Norman, OK