Jamestown RI Community Chorus

Great Choral Singing Since 1949

How to Start a Community Chorus


How To Start A Community Chorus: A Sociological Study in Singing and Fun


Why?Why start a chorus?
This is the most important question to ask and answer. It will provide guidance in the future.
-Write a general mission statement, e.g., “to provide an opportunity for making music in the community and to encourage singing in general.”

Inviolable Community Group Rule #1 – Spread out the work. Once you’ve got the group going, people who do all the work will start to resent doing all the work in about 2-3 years. Even the most selfless people will resent doing all the work. Develop a broad base (after the core group has established the chorus) as soon as you can.

Delegate, delegate – spread around the fun and work.*

*Did I mention that you have to delegate?

Nuts and BoltsHOW?Will you have auditions? –What are the criteria?
-We do not have auditions and we do just fine.

How will you pay for music and other costs?
-It costs us approximately $4500.00 to produce a concert. That’s mostly professional musician fees. But then there’s piano tuning, PR, tickets, posters, office supplies, receptions, etc.

– Start with small fund-raisers – our biggest fund-raiser is a community talent show. This could be a great way to get the word about your nascent choral group. It takes a couple of people to work real hard in getting ready for the show, but, if you include talent from all age groups, encourage audience participation, such as singalongs and provide a written program with information about your upcoming rehearsals.

-The standard cant is: look for grants. It’s true, they are out there. Solicit patrons of the arts. Advertisers in the community are often tapped out. What can you offer them?

How often do you want to perform?
-Start with a single target date and take it from there. Depending on finances, rehearsal facilities, etc., you’ll need anywhere from two weeks (crash concert) to ten-thirteen weeks. You probably want to start with a relatively painless and sure-fire program with a short rehearsal period. We do two major programs per year, May and December.

What type of music do you want to sing?
Make a list of titles that you have already sung or would like to sing to develop a musical direction. This will set you apart from other choruses and help your professional musicians plan for the future.

Can you pay the director and accompanist?
-If you want quality music you’ll need to hire professionals. Local colleges often have music and musicians that can help. Otherwise, plan on paying for folks who have vision as well as strong musicianship.

Who Knows Where or When?

Will you rehearse? For how long?
-We rehearse Monday evenings from 7-9. You will need to tailor this to your groups’ needs. Check with local community centers, churches (are usually happy to for a little extra income,) senior centers and granges.

When will you rehearse?
-Call the local churches and try to avoid church choir rehearsal nights. Then, pick a time and stick to it for as long as its feasible.

Rehearsal space questions:
– Is the lighting OK? Can you see the music?
– Is there an in-tune piano? (offer to pay for tuning now and again.)
– Is it relatively comfortable?
– Are there chairs or pews?
– Are there rental fees? Liability insurance?

Where will you perform?
Again, are there fees or insurance costs?

Your DirectorGet a good director. One who has a sense of humor. (….part of the audition should be; can he/she tell a joke?)

If your director yells a lot she/he is not a good director. Amateurs who have worked all day don’t need to be yelled at during a volunteer time.

Good directors insist on quality without having to browbeat or yell. Cajoling and cheerleading are good.

High expectations are good.

Letting singers come in late or allowing sloppy singing habits is not good.

Directors who can admit (occasional) mistakes are probably good directors.

Directors who make lots of mistakes or are unprepared are bad directors.

Allowing singers to opine during rehearsal is not good. Good directors will understand their singer’s comfort level and react accordingly. Good directors will push your chorus some by choosing a little music just out of the chorus’ reach.

Listening to singers opine before or after rehearsal, one on one, is good. Directors who realize that somebody might be offended while another person has just had the most positive experience in their life understands the incredible diversity of personalities. This is good.

Good directors know that they can’t please everyone all the time. This is called respect.

Of course, these good/bad concepts sometimes balance each other out.

Get a good director.

General Notes:

  • Prepared rehearsal tapes/CDs for each vocal part are very helpful to singers who do not read music.
  • I have always maintained that “community comes before chorus in our name.” People come first, singing second. It’s sometimes a tricky balance to ensure quality music, but, I’ve always erred on the side of people.
  • Have pot luck dinners – get to know each other.
  • Start rehearsals with a group shoulder rub. Some people love it. Some people don’t. It feels good. Just make sure you know who you’re rubbing!
  • Provide a time during rehearsals for people to get to know each other. We take ten minutes halfway through the rehearsal to share refreshments. People sign a list and bring in drinks and fruit or cookies.
  • This is an incomplete list but it may be a place to start.

Say THANK YOU a LOT to people who give of their time. It doesn’t cost a dime and is always appreciated.

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P.O. Box 602
Jamestown, RI 02835

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The Jamestown Community Chorus is a non-profit organization that exists to promote choral singing in our community. Please send along a tax-deductible donation to: JCC, PO Box 602, Jamestown, RI 02835 and thank you!

Check out some vocal warm-up exercises - https://jamestownchorus.com/warm-up-exercises/

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