If you have ever looked at a job advertisement, the chances are somewhere in the person description there will be note about the level of experience required.   Generally speaking the implication is that for a person to be suitably experienced they must have already done that exact job before. The problem then comes that if you have done too good a job before you will then be declared as over qualified.

What this actually means is that the company either want to pay you less or, more likely, senior management are worried that if they get someone in who is actually competent at the job then it makes them look incapable!

Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for experience or at least some basic grounding and understanding in the job you are applying to do.  If you were seeking employment as a gardener for example,  one would assume you can identify the difference between a plant and a weed and at some point have probably operated a lawn mower. 

The same can be said for running choirs.  This however, is a slightly more challenging environment.  There are basically two ways to get a ‘job’ as a choir leader.   The most common nowadays seems to be self appointment.  Pretty much everyone  thinks they can run a choir, which probably explains why there are now so many!  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there are some excellent self appointed choir leaders out there.  There are also some utterly incompetent dancing monkeys but that’s another matter!

If you didn’t set up on your own to run a choir, the chances are you were appointed by a choir committee. On the face of it you might think this is a better option.  And in some cases it possibly is.  However, one of the biggest problems with the appointment by committee option is that the majorly of choir committees are made up of people who, whilst they sing in a choir, have absolutely no idea how to run it. Otherwise let’s face it, they wouldn’t be looking for a choir leader.

A lot of choir committees are swayed by impressive websites, bold statements about musical integrity and long lists of musicians the applicant might once have seen on tv along with venues they probably stopped at for a cup of coffee.

And so we come back to experience.  But it’s not quite the chicken and egg situation you might think.  If you want someone to run a choir, then ideally you need to find someone who has either directed  a choir before, or at the very least sung in one or accompanied one.  The things to keep in mind are:

  • Anyone can embark on musical training
  • Anyone can join a choir

Consequently, the majority of experienced choir leaders out there will have been involved in a variety of choirs since their school days and will have some level of musical training. By singing in a selection of different choirs, you are opening yourself up to seeing how other choir leaders operate and can then see what works well and perhaps what doesn’t.  Everyone has to start somewhere and for choir leaders, aside of formal training,  the most important grounding you can have is to have been a choral singer for a number of years.


Jules Addison joined his first choir at the age of 6, was a choral scholar at university and has sung on stage with a choir at the Royal Albert Hall.  After leaving university he  continued to sing in a number of choirs for around 15 years before taking on his first appointment as a Choir Director.  Since then he has directed a range of choirs from A Capella Groups to SATB choruses and just about everything in between.  Despite this, he is technically an organist – but that presents a whole other set of issues!

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