Directing a children’s choir can bring a lot of joy to everyone involved. One of the things that makes a children’s choir unique however, is that young people and their parents must be addressed a little bit differently from an adult choir, and often family involvement is critical to the successes of this singing group.
Whether you have a budding children’s choir or a well-established chorus for young singers, there is one group of people that is critical to the success of your rehearsals, performances, and the organization as a whole: parents. Parents not only support and encourage their children who enjoy performing, but they are cheerleaders for your performing ensemble and organization, and they understand its importance for their family and the community.
One of the most important things you can do as the director of a children’s choir (or even as someone who sits on the executive committee) is communicate effectively with parents so that they are ready to assist and support you and all of the young performers in the ensemble. While communicating effectively with parents will look a little bit different for every director, there are a few important things you can do to build relationships and create a positive atmosphere for parents and students who participate in your choir.
First and foremost, effective communication involves quite a bit of transparency. Parents need to know what is expected of their children who are participating, and what is expected of them as parents who are supporting your organization. This might take place in the form of a choir handbook that outlines everything from rehearsal expectations to monetary requirements to time commitments. It could also simply mean being up front when communicating about any performance details so that parents feel informed and ready to participate with and support their child.
You could say that honesty is the sister to transparency when it comes to effective communication with parents. It might seem easier to tell a parent what they want to hear if something difficult has come up with their child or a specific event related to the choir, but taking an honest approach will truly serve everyone better in the long run. Honesty doesn’t necessarily mean blunt to the point of a lack of tact or professionalism, but it does mean speaking up about your needs as a director and for the good of the organization and each of the singers involved.
Just like there is a unique balance when it comes to managing all of the unique personalities of the children in your choir, parents also have their own thoughts and opinions that they bring to the table. Setting boundaries as a director is an important part of communication for several reasons. Firstly, you need to maintain a professional relationship with your singers and with their parents. Secondly, it’s important to let parents know that there are parts of your job description that are uniquely yours. Thirdly, boundaries ensure that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done by whom and when and how to ask for help as needed. Sometimes setting boundaries can be difficult when it comes to addressing adults, but in the end, it will be worth it for everyone involved in the organization!
Point of View
On the flip side of setting boundaries is making sure that you put yourself in the position of the parent you are talking to. If a parent comes to you with questions, concerns, or even a willingness to help, putting yourself in their shoes for a moment might help you address a situation more diplomatically and with greater compassion. Ask yourself if the parent has a valid concern, how you would want the situation handled if you were in their position, and if you need to speak with others before you make any decisions about next steps. By looking at any situation from the perspective of the parent, you may be better able to make informed decisions and thereby create a more inclusive atmosphere.
Asking for Help
Parents can be one of the greatest assets to your children’s choir, especially when they are ready to be involved however they can. Asking parents to volunteer can make some of your director to-do list items easier to accomplish and sometimes you can even delegate activities, events, promotions, and a variety of other tasks to parents who are willing to help. Volunteering also makes parents feel that they are involved in the success of their child, which is part of why they joined the choir in the first place!
Did you know that the reputation of your children’s choir can often come down to parent advocacy? If you take the time to communicate effectively with parents, your children’s choir will reap the rewards! Just by word of mouth, parents can tell others in the community about how well your choir is managed, how they and their child feel included, and how they want others to join to experience the same positive results for their child. Especially if your children’s choir is new, parent advocacy can be everything you need to truly kick-start your choir for success. Ask your parents what they hope to achieve for their child and what interests they might have in helping to create an ideal choir environment for both children and adults.
Ultimately, the best thing to do is build relationships with the parents who bring their children to choir just like you want to build relationships with the children themselves. When parents feel seen, heard, and understood it will create an environment where you as the director feel that you have many advocates and people you can rely on to ensure the success of your choir. These positive relationships with adults will trickle into positive relationships with your young singers, which is a win-win for everyone!
What are some of your tips for communication effectively with parents in a children’s choir setting? What are some of your success stories when it comes to parent communication and advocacy? Let us know in the comments!
Amanda Carroll is a former middle school chorus and general music teacher in North Carolina. She is a member of Carolina Style Chorus and Sweet Adelines International and is a non-performing member of Womansong of Asheville. She has Master of Music and Master of Public Administration degrees from Appalachian State University. Her background includes singing with large and small ensembles, as well as solo work and teaching private lessons. Amanda is passionate about creating meaningful concerts and connecting with the community through performance.