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Advice on Delegating Concert Productions

I teach at a small, rural community College. I am one of two full-time music professors. We are under the auspices of "the Arts and Sciences Department" (which include math, English, etc.) It is , in many ways, set up like  a high school. I have a beginning choir and a Community chorus.  I also teach two voices classes- one beginning and one everything else. I also have a Music History class and two Musicianship classes.  Both choirs have multiple activities throughout the year and one of the voice classes performs about four times a semester out in the community.  In addition there are some things that we do as a Music Department (recitals, end-of-semester concerts, etc) that involve various other musicians in the program.  
I believe that the beginning choir should have many opportunities to grow musically and experientially so they do alot- fund raise, tour, community performances, Festival, retreats, a fund raising concert, exchanges, etc.  The Chorus performs throughout the year including two Festivals (one new this year) that we sponsor, a Christmas concert with Orchestra, a Spring concert, plus run out performances to rest homes, etc. and now we are adding a February Mid-Winter Concert.
My dilemma is this:  I need a secretary and/or  assistant to administrate much of this stuff.  I need someone to make/receive calls, fill out paperwork, write checks, make sure rooms are reserved for performances off campuse proof of insurance is provided, general school-related press releases are written, etc. There is not enough "brain" for me to keep track of everything. The details are too much for me to handle in addition to the "big picture things"such as rehearsing and performing.  I have a good board in the chorus, who handles alot of the production issues (publicity, fundraiser, program, etc.) related to their productions. But I can't ask them to handle the other administrative aspects of the music program that are not related to their chorus.  
My question is :  What have some of you done if you have similar situations? (If there even IS a similar situation). I have no aid/secretary that is dedicated to the music program. Our Arts and Sciences secretary handles some of our stuff but is limited in what she can do because she, like me, wears lots of hats and "spins lots of plates".  There is not any chance that the college will spring right now for additional funds to hire a part time secretary because of the budget/economy. I am planning to delegate some more tasks this semester, but I am will still be the "administraive assistant/manager"of the department.  I would love to have some kind of permanent structure in place so when I am no longer here, everything won't collapse.  I am interested in any real-life practical things that can /have been done to establish some kind of permanent administrative help in a small setting with limited resources. I am interested no only in what the is person/position would look like but ways you have found to support such a person.  Thanks in advance.   
Replies (2): Threaded | Chronological
on January 9, 2012 1:12pm
Hi, John.  Boy, you DO seem to have a situation without any immediately obvious solutions, but perhaps it can be broken down.  And for many years our Music Department was part of our College of Arts & Sciences and I served on the College Curriculum Committee for a number of years, so I have some appreciation for your situation. 
First and perhaps most important, your school probably has fairly strict rules about who can and who cannot handle funds, including writing checks but also receiving checks and other payments and depositing them properly.  In our case students are simply not permitted to do so, so it has to be done by a fulltime employee with specific authorization to do so.  I'd say that this should probably be handled by your A&S Secretary, but if not it will devolve on you and can't be delegated.
For the rest, I would recommend something like the approach I took with my university show ensemble.  I was lucky enough to have a university-funded secretary (who also handled all the deposits and payments and was invaluable because we were out on tour so much) and a university-funded Technical Director, but for almost all the other functions I counted on both elected and appointed student leadership.  And I don't see any reason that can't be done at a 2-year college just as well as at a 4-year university.  But the positions my students held were NOT what you'll find in Roberts Rules of Order; they were the positions that handled the jobs that WE needed done.  I'll review them briefly, just in case any of them sound doable for you.
MANAGER:  A student appointed by me.  Served as our representative on campus and ran our weekly business meetings, but his or her most important job was handling the million details of our frequent road trips, organizing the student membership into functioning committees to make sure everything was done in advance or on time so that tours went smoothly for everyone, and maintained the housing lists and contact lists when we would stay overnight on trips.  Primarily a responsible organizer.
CHORAL ASSISTANT:  A good musician with keyboard skills, appointed by me.  Assisted me at times in rehearsals, worked with students in our Alternates Class to help them learn some of the show music, worked with Rookies who were added to the Cast in mid-season to get them ready to go on stage, and worked directly with the audio techs during soundchecks.  Primarily a musician.
DANCE CAPTAIN:  Appointed by my choreographer (a professional who came in for specific workshops), and represented her in her absense.  Not necessarily the best dancer, but the best eye and a good organizer and teacher.  Represented our choreographer in rehearsals, made decisions in her name (and subject to her confirmation) when necessary, worked with the Alternates Class and with Rookie mid-year replacements.  Also ran dance auditions at non-scheduled times as needed.  BUT, most importantly, was first off the bus at show sites, got the lay of the land from our Technical Director, determined the crossovers and any adjustments that had to be made (sometimes exits had to be reversed to set up for the next entrance if there were no crossover), double-checked that our dance mats were properly installed and noted any spacing problems, and briefed the Cast before they left the bus.  Primarily a dancer.
SHOWBAND MANAGER:  Appointed by me after our longtime faculty accompanist, Showband Director and arranger died, basically to be a gobetween between me and the Showband to make sure that everyone was on the same page.  Needed in part because I then had to assume all the arranging duties instead of just half of them.
We also had a PUBLIC RELATIONS STAFF who handled our publicity and ran liaison with our local sponsors, and a couple of them traveled on each trip to talk with sponsors and man our record table, and they had their own elected or appointed leadership.  These are jobs that can be delegated to students who have particular interest and skills in marketing, graphics, and public relations, and you COULD recruit specifically for these qualities and not ask them to sing if you wanted to.
One thing we did do was to hire a grad student in marketing to handle sponsor development and negotiate with sponsors.  Originally that was paid on commission, but the obvious problem with that is the incentive to overbook an ensemble to get more commissions.  We eventually settled on a mutually-agreed regular payment, but since we charged for our shows we had sufficient income to cover it.  If you do NOT charge for your performances, or are not allowed to, that closes off one very good potential source of fund raising.  But we were not only allowed to, but the group was originally set up with no funding but with the promise that any generated funds could be kept and used to improve the group.  And both my predecessor and I were good stewards of that responsibility.  (We also had a show that had definite commercial value and audience appeal, and often shared expenses and profits with our sponsors.)
And we had a very active and proud TECHNICAL STAFF under a professional director, with their own elected and appointed leadership, with specializations in audio, lighting, or stage set, and you could also recruit for non-singing students with THOSE interests and skills.
We had a student leadership honorary that I don't necessarily recommend (I inherited it from my predecessor, who had based it on the leadership in the Purdue Glee Club, and I made it work).  These were elected students, but not in popular elections.  The existing honorary members elected their own replacements, and their most important job was to stand between me and the other students, anticipate and head off any potential problems, and represent me to the students and the students to me.  They took their responsibility seriously, and knew that if they didn't I was free to ignore them!  And the one thing I tried hardest to impress on them was that leadership does not come with the office, but needs to be demonstrated BEFORE someone is considered for a leadership position.
You've already got a functioning delegation of responsibilities in your community chorus, handling production, publicity, fundraising, program preparation, etc.  Now it's just a matter of deciding to trust your students to be able to handle the same things or the specific school-related things, probably with a little more direct supervision but without trying to micromanage them.  Communication is the key to success.
All the best,
P.S.  I suspect that a majority of the students in your "beginning" choir are not beginners at all, since it's students who were in choirs in high school who tend to continue singing in college, so don't underestimate what they can do or what you can ask of them.
on January 9, 2012 10:17pm
John.  I have so appreciated your perspective online for all these years.  Your repsonse is just another example of practical experience and the wisdom that comes from that.  Thanks for your input, encouragement and suggestons. I think they will be really helpful.  
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