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How to leave a choir

How does one leave a choir?

You will be announcing your resignation as director soon and gone in the customary sixty days. You have made music with this choir for two years.
Replies (10): Threaded | Chronological
on May 25, 2011 8:38am
Two things NOT to say (both actual quotes from singers announcing their decision to leave a choir):
1) "I'll leave you to your mediocrity"
2) "I've had a message from God"
[we were subsequently advised that the message consisted of opening a Bible to the words 'separate yourself from the unclean']
on May 25, 2011 9:07am
With dignity and grace.  "I appreciate the time we've had together and wish you well in your future pursuits."
on May 25, 2011 11:47am
Timing is everything.  First, write your resignation letter--with grace and dignity as Heidi suggests--and give it to the "powers that be"----no sense in tipping your hand to anyone before the wheels are in motion.  Next, after you are sure the folks who need to know, know, tell your choir.  Don't make a big deal over it--you are  moving on and so will they.  Pleasant and classy is how you should behave until you leave because you never know when you may 1) run into them again or 2) need a reference.
Have a standard answer prepared in your mind, ready for those pesky questions that will be asked when you least expect them.  Be vague--not a lot of details--so they will never truly know why you are leaving and no one will have too much info on which to speculate, from you. Folks will speculate anyway--don't give them fuel for the fire!
I am not sure why you are asking this question, though.  Are you regretting you decision? Are you worried about what your singers will think or you miss them?  All of us have had to move on, change jobs for whatever reason, and it's never easy to do.  But the best way to leave is with class.  It's hard to let go of those we direct--we do and must--but it's not easy!
on May 25, 2011 5:05pm
I am asking because I will be announcing my resignation this week.
I know the 'with class' aspect of these situations and I need to hear it often.
I have a way about me of saying way to much.
The short answer I have prepared is: “I have chosen to explore some other opportunities at this time”.
Could I make it shorter, better, more vague.
Thanks for your help and kind comments so far.
on May 26, 2011 11:01am
L:  I've been on the other end of the stick, as have many of us I'm sure, coming in to replace someone who left for reasons pretty well known that left some people absolutely loving him and others absolutely hating him.  There was no mystery about the situation in anyone's mind, but there were definitely different interpretations.  The former included most of his ensemble members, and the university's upper administration.  The latter included a number of music faculty members.  It isn't an easy situation to find yourself in, but whoever does follow you will be stuck with it, so PLEASE leave things such that your choir will expect and welcome someone new.
In my case it was not anything like your typical church situation or church choir.  I was interviewing to take over a very fine university show ensemble that had represented the university with positive public relations for almost a decade--or over a decade counting its predecesor Men's Glee Club.  As part of the process I was rehearsing about 10 singers, but quickly realized that there were twice as many nonsingers sitting there watching me VERY closely.  As it turned out they were members of the showband, the technical staff, and the public relations staff, and they were JUST as concerned as the singers about who might be foisted on them as a new director, but of course for different reasons.  Once I grasped the situation I made it clear that if I got the job I would NOT be their former director, but that I would look very carefully at everything he had done and keep everything that I felt was positive about the group.  Which, in fact, I did.
In the end I did lose some excellent people simply because I was NOT my predecesor, including an incredibly talented lighting designer who went on to join Disney's staff of "Immagineers."  But it didn't hurt that I came not only from teaching at Indiana but from directing at Disneyland and from a 20-year career as a fulltime professional entertainer, which my predecessor had NOT been by any means.
I might also mention (with a smile) that the choral person at the time had set up a rehearsal with his select chamber choir, which was preparing the Bach St. John, thining to catch me up on my musicianship.  What he didn't know was that I had studied the St. John in depth with Juli Herford at Indiana, and we had a really lovely rehearsal that opened their eyes to a number of things!
So while you may not be able to make your successor's path perfectly smooth, at least do what you can to make it survivable!  You owe it to your choir.
All the best,
on May 26, 2011 3:08am
Your short answer is a good one - and one I've used myself.  And you have to stick to that answer, refusing to be drawn out by anyone.  That's the trick. You're under no obligation to explain your reasons, motivations, etc.  Deliver your line with a smile and shift the conversation.  Good luck!
on May 26, 2011 4:49am
I think if you've already accepted a position elsewhere you could say that, since they will probably find out anyhow.  "I've accepted a position at....."  Otherwise, if it were me, I wouldn't give a reason.  Just, "I will be leaving at the end of the summer."  People understand that these are part-time jobs and life circumstances change.
on May 26, 2011 8:32am
I would agree--if you've already accepted a position and it's within the community, best to tell them.  Otherwise, "I'm leaving at the end of the summer" or "I'm leaving at the end of the summer to pursue other opportunities" could both work.  Choose the statement that fits the situation and STICK TO IT--stay on message, otherwise it's food for gossip.  Don't be drawn out--remember "loose lips sink ships!" Don't be overcome with truth telling--it will turn out badly.
P.S. I had a most unpleasant experience when an organist resigned.  He was more of an advocationist than a "real" musician and hated the fact I had degrees in music (he had a PhD in NURSING!)--he had always been the "star" in every other position and, with me as the director, he wasn't.  Probably why he left.  Anyway, he had turned in his letter of resignation and would leave at the end of the month for a "better" position--we all knew this when he resigned.  One rehearsal night at the beginning of that month, he decided to "tell the truth" about why he was leaving  and ragged on me, the choir, the church--one of my sopranos actually dragged me into the church basement when he started in on me.  Long story short, after rehearsal that night, the pastor, Session (Presbyterian church) and Cerk of the Session all called me to apologize and told me he would be leaving NOW instead of later.  He was lucky he already had a position because if he ever needed a letter of recommendation, he would NOT be getting it from that church!
on May 27, 2011 5:30am
Marie - One more proof of what a good chaplain friend of mine said:  "There are many good reasons why things ever are; there is only ONE real reason why anything ever is."  Your P. S. proves that.  Sadly, it was to this individual's discredit.  I hope he was happier where he went; but more to the point, I hope THEY were.
on May 27, 2011 7:35am
"Hasta la vista, Baby!"
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