During our retreat, I break my choir into “families” and we use these families throughout the choir year.  I explain to the singers that they will join a choir family and how much fun it will be having choir brothers and sisters.  Before we break into families we discuss the following:

  • What does the word “family” mean to the singers;
    • We make a list of words or thoughts family does for each other to show support and how can they transfer that to their choir family;
    • We also make a list of words or thoughts that are said or demonstrated that family members should not have to hear or see- negative behaviors.

As choir director, I place each person in a family.  I mix up gender and grades, shy and outgoing, deliberately separating “gangs” and best buddies.  I give each family their responsibilities for the year.  Each family is responsible for one month of activities on the calendar, which will include recognizing fellow singers birthdays and planning one gathering/party for the entire choir.  As a full group we talk about what kinds of gatherings everyone likes and whether their preference is to have these gathering after a rehearsal or at a separate day and time. I usually take the months of September and May.  We usually don’t schedule December because everyone’s calendars are so busy, including mine. That leaves 6 months to divide up.  We usually have each family draw their month out of a hat.  After our initial talk, I put the families together to brainstorm what their gathering might look like.  I challenge each family to create a gathering that is imaginative and to set a budget.  These parties/gathering need to be monetarily limited and the singers in each family will have to decide on their budget.  I give them a time limit of 30 minutes and I have them turn in a sheet with their brainstorming on it, what they came up with as a final plan and their budget.  I find if they write everything down, the singers come up with their plan faster and stick to it better.  Most importantly during this brainstorming, each family needs to pick a date for their party.  It’s important that the singers also check their school calendars if they are choosing to have a party on a separate day from the rehearsal.  (It’s so easy to check calendars these days with smart phones, etc.).  We put the gathering/party dates for the year on the singer’s calendars.   As you walk around the room to check on each family, you will already get a sense of how well each family will work together.  You might have to encourage a leader to step up or encourage the group to pass the leadership role around.  One of the most fun family activities I like to organize with my singers is a Photo Scavenger Hunt.  I will sometimes use this as my September activity or as the retreat activity to follow the declaration of families.  When I use this activity 2 or more years in a row, I completely change the list of pictures.  My singers love this activity!  What they don’t realize is that they are not only having fun but are learning more about each other and working together to achieve a goal.  Please see the attached sheet.  I usually go through the guidelines on the top half of the sheet with the singers because we all know teenagers don’t ever read anything, right?  (Love them anyway…).  Happy Foraging!