As I begin my 5th Baylor Season as Recruiter and Program Coordinator for SAYC, I am feeling relaxed and excited about the coming weeks of rehearsals with the students and of course the XV Annual YouthCUE Baylor Festival of Youth Choirs. However, I remember how terrified I was that first registration and rehearsal in January 2016. Had I recruited enough? Had I set up for enough? What if NOBODY came? What are the key elements that make the difference between the terror of 2016 and the ease of today? Much of it is experience and familiarity with the process. However, there are things that can give you the confidence you need to produce a great season:
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Start with the end in mind – what are your goals for the season musically, growth-wise, group dynamics, projects to be accomplished?
Find out what your “clientele” wants; for example when I was planning my first season, I asked my then 16 year old son, “what will get the boys to come to choir rehearsal?” I was surprised by the simplicity of his answer…“feed us.” You know what? It works!
COORDINATE WITH YOUR PARTNERS
• Host church – I send my calendar to the youth pastor at the church which hosts us to make sure there are no conflicts with youth activities and to the church administrator to make sure the space is available and reserved early.
• Choir teachers in public, private and home school settings regarding recruiting.
• Parents and singers regarding recruiting.
ORGANIZE, PLAN AND EXECUTE
I keep a calendar/timeline of things that get done every year at the same time: budget, print posters and brochures for recruiting, order the t-shirts, plan for Baylor, etc. For each event, I have a checklist and an event notes page, so I don’t reinvent the wheel every year; this is also crucial if you are out sick or have an emergency. Start early (again the calendar) to market, get volunteers and order supplies; you want to be on auto pilot when the season begins. On game day, follow the blueprint you have set out for yourself.
ENLIST HELP … DO NOT TRY TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF
Give others the joy of serving and relieve yourself of trying to be five places at once. Give the task to a volunteer with general instructions and let them run with it … you will be pleasantly surprised; for example, I asked two friends, Edith and Melissa, to help at the registration table last year. This freed me up to visit and answer questions. When I returned, all paperwork was in the singers’ files, the money was counted and my boxes were packed up ready to be loaded in the car! Give the students responsibilities; they need to feel important and it develops leadership, service, and self-worth. Lean on your team especially if you are new! Tina McCartney has kept me from making many a mistake by sharing her past experience!
LISTEN, LEARN AND ADAPT
Listen throughout the season to parent, student, and audience feedback, take notes, reflect on and filter this advice to make your program better. Learn from your successes and especially your mistakes. Some of my hard and fast rules of today came out of my disasters of yesterday. Adapt – each season is different and requires flexibility. Good luck!