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How to have a great rehearsal next week!

As featured in The Harmonizer.

What to do Before, During, and After

Imagine this scenario: Guys roll in to rehearsal with or without music folders, at widely varying levels of preparation. They have few concrete notions of when each song must be at performance level, no idea of the plan for rehearsal, nor the requirement for individual preparation. Guys leave rehearsal and spend a week with no homework, no expectations and consequently little to no preparation. Next week’s rehearsal is a virtual repeat of the last week, with little real progress. Does the following sound all too familiar and demotivating? Here is one approach that will help your team have a more effective rehearsal. Try it next week!

Long range

Begin with the end in mind.
Every chorus member must know where you are headed. There is always a target: the show, fall contest, a certain performance level, the recording the chorus is planning. All communications should state where you are headed, and each rehearsal and individual action point to that target. Rehearsals and sometimes entire seasons and years are lost by chapters that have no clear vision for the organization and no substantive goals. This typically leads to poor growth or, more often, membership loss. The well-established principles of design thinking (called Understanding By Design in education circles), helps you see end goals even as you are beginning to plan. Create a plan that helps you achieve major benchmarks in the months leading to your end result.


Consider all of the critical steps, support elements, and expectations necessary to reach the goals and all of the objectives along the way. SMART goals help organizations structure the work necessary to achieve long-term outcomes. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. A goal with these attributes is simply more achievable than a general one. (

Each rehearsal: Establish weekly Before, During and After (BDA) actions that facilitate communication, delivery and monitoring of rehearsal, and reflection for improvement.

Before rehearsal: The team considers what must be done, anticipates any challenges that may arise (e.g. difficult passages), and plans strategies to address these challenges (sectionals, working with tracks, etc.).

During rehearsal:
The team follows these strategies and carefully monitors their effectiveness. Did we accomplish the objective? If not, why not? Immediately after the rehearsal, the music team discusses what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be fixed at the next rehearsal.

After rehearsal:
In the one or two days that follow, musical leadership communicates via phone and email regarding the rehearsal, and a plan is developed for the next rehearsal. Section leaders give their singers appropriate assignments that will prepare them for the next rehearsal. Finally, a plan that details all elements of the next rehearsal is sent out in advance. Music leaders hold each other accountable for sticking to the schedule.

Individual accountability is critical

Each member must have a clear, ongoing understanding of his strengths and challenges in the chorus. Specific feedback tells each member what areas need attention. Some choruses do this via recording feedback process, through individual vocal lessons, or through riser captains and section leaders who monitor performance. Whichever method you choose, ensure that each singer feels a sense of ownership to carry his share of the workload and better himself every week. Specific and immediate, detailed feedback should be afforded every singer, along with clear support on how to improve. This feedback, coupled with BDA strategies, will support your SMART goals. Week-to-week progress at each rehearsal will improve morale, improve the performance level of your chorus, and help you achieve your overarching goals and vision.

Jay Butterfield, a director with Parkside Harmony Chorus (BHS) and a Singing judge, has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and a Masters degree in Choral Conducting