“There is no harm in repeating a good thing.” Plato
I have been regularly writing the Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics ChoralNet Blog since the fall of 2015. During the last two and a half years, I have received one or two emails every week. There are times which are busier than others, but the emails are steady. And periods when I believe the moon is in a certain phase since many of the emails which come to me, at approximately the same time, concern similar issues! The last few weeks, I have gotten emails about three problems I know I have addressed before. This week, I am writing about one of these re-occurring problems and next week will tackle the other two. My advice will be the same as before, but today, instead of telling their stories, I will state the problem, give the advice and perhaps elaborate a bit on each.
Those of you who direct choruses in an academic situation should have a tardiness policy in place. In grades K to 12, your particular school or district will have a policy; it should be your “go-to” response when you are confronted with any lateness. Be consistent with your response and use the perfectly good policy you have been given. Even if you direct an extracurricular chorus, stick with those policies, it will cut down on issues and headaches!
Colleges and universities should also have a policy and perhaps your choral ensemble has its own which should be in your syllabus stated very clearly. Again, you should reference it when you need to so there are no misunderstandings as to your expectations. Tardiness policies are useful when you are confronted by those students who are always late and expect special treatment. Those policies can also be part of your grading rubric.
Church choirs have their own, unique problems as to lateness and what you could allow. The wonderful baritone who is stuck in traffic one time for your Wednesday rehearsal and is 30 minutes late can be overlooked but the chatty soprano who is habitually 15 minutes late for every rehearsal and the warm-up before service, maybe not. Or should they be treated equally? When deciding what to do, it is best to take your other singers opinions in to consideration as Church Ladies are the ones who usually make things happen; try to make it fair and consult with your clergy, so all are happy. There are no right answers; just what’s best for your choir and congregation.
Community choruses, both children and adult, have constant tardiness problems because there are no grades involved. Unlike church choirs who sing many Sundays, there are usually one or two concerts each concert cycle and that’s it. If singers are always late and miss important announcements or rehearsing difficult passages, should they be allowed to sing the concert? If they pay a membership fee and are late, should they be allowed to sing anyway?
It states in my community chamber choir’s By-Laws that we allow three lates per concert cycle. If I have questions about their ability to sing the concert because of lateness, I will ask them to sing for me privately proving they can sing their part. In twelve years, I never have had to hear anyone sing privately. I also structure the beginning of my rehearsals to take into account traffic and weather (we are in Chicago, when anything can, and does, happen). We begin with warm-ups, then announcements and I consider anyone arriving after announcements, late. We do not warm-up again for latecomers and do not repeat announcements. I used to treat my church choirs the same way.
Several of my current correspondents are hesitant to address tardiness because they had never thought about it before. And now have a huge problem. It is always better to figure out how to handle something—which could potentially happen–before it happens. And then, be consistent.
Tardiness issues not only happen with singers but with directors too. Two community chorus singers contacted me recently about their habitually late director. A few years ago, I wrote about a community chorus who had had it with their always late director. Several members of their board were sitting in a mini-van in an ice storm in December, waiting for their director to show up for dress rehearsal. He had the keys to the venue. They were not pleased to be sitting in an ice storm in a mini-van and decided then and there not to renew their director’s contract in the spring. He didn’t seem to have respect for their time and they decided enough was enough; a perfectly good way of handling this situation. Something for both singers and directors to think about!