Te Kotahitanga
Manu Reo o Aotearoa

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir

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This resource was written with young choral practitioners in mind but is applicable for anyone who wants to start a choir. 
It was written as part of the “Singing for Lifelong Wellbeing” project, funded through a grant from ManatÅ« Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir
Initial questions → Planning and research → Setting up officially → Running a choir → Administrator's Toolkit → Financial matters → Funding applications → Other resources

Now you're established - how do you run a choir?

Governance, management and committees

An effective choir needs a balance of good management and administrative efficiency, along with musical knowledge and artistry. Your governing/management body should support and work collaboratively with the music director.

If you're an incorporated society, you will have a minimum of three officers in a committee. If you're a charitable trust, you will have a trust board, with a minimum number of members as stipulated in your trust deed.

These people will have to consider overseeing the work of the choir (governance), organising the ongoing administrative work (management) and mounting your rehearsals and events (operational).

Consider the collective skill set that will help you meet your obligations, achieve your goals and make you successful. Skills in/knowledge of financials, marketing expertise and an understanding of business may be an advantage. Including at least one member of your choir on the committee will also help with communication.

Along with your music director, your committee/board should have oversight of:

  • Setting your choir’s vision, strategy and long-term planning.
  • Setting and monitoring appropriate internal financial and management controls.
  • Ensuring that an annual financial report is completed and submitted to the Societies Register and Charities NZ (as appropriate) in a timely manner.
  • The development of an annual work plan and who is responsible for all aspects – and review progress regularly.
  • Identifying major risks for the organisation and looking for ways to manage and minimise risks. You could develop a Risk Register.
  • Contractual elements, such as contracts for service (MD, accompanist, soloists etc), sponsorship and funding agreements, venue & hire agreements etc.
  • Setting appropriate fees or honoraria for music staff and other contractors.
  • Promoting the reputation of your choir.

The management team should develop job descriptions and contracts for service for your music staff (Music Director, collaborative pianist, vocal consultants), your secretary/administrator and soloists or other instrumentalists you may engage for concerts.

If you are new to preparing contracts, ask for advice from a lawyer or someone with experience.

Contracts should include:

  • Names and contact details of your choir and the other party.
  • Scope of the work – what it is you want them to do (e.g. be the collaborative pianist for….; be the soprano soloist for…).
  • Duration of the contract – the dates of the rehearsals and performances.
  • Amount of the payment and how it will be paid:
    • Is this an honorarium, a one-off fee, or regular payment?
    • Give the date or frequency of payment/s and appropriate taxation information.
  • Any other recompense if appropriate – comp tickets, covering reasonable expenses etc.
  • Any other issues that might be relevant such as recordings or photographs being taken and the related permissions for subsequent use.
  • Cancellation, termination and force majeure provisions to allow for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Space for signatures and dates.

You could also include, if appropriate, clauses on:      

  • Professional conduct expectations.
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure.

It is worth attaching a schedule that includes the rehearsal schedule and performance dates and spaces for the artist to fill in:

  • their contact details,
  • their IRD/GST number, and
  • their bank account number so you can pay them,

so that when they return the signed contract, you have all the information you need to fulfil your part of the contract and add them to your database.

The following pages can help you with running your choir: