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Always an issue: If people don't show up, how can we be prepared?

Desert Voices (Tucson)

These are the results of a June 2000 discussion of attendance issues compiled by the Membership Committee of Desert Voices.


As an inclusive community chorus, it is important to ensure participation for as many singers as possible. To paraphrase one email, our main thrust should be seeing that people are connected to the chorus and educated on their responsibility to the chorus. As someone from [The Lesbian and Gay Chorus of  Washington], DC said via email, “Singing is a pretty intimate act, and it's hard for me to sing next to someone I barely know [and] who has attended rehearsal intermittently. When put on those terms, people are pretty understanding.”

Key Points

  • Attendance at all rehearsals is not a guarantee that someone knows their music. But to maintain a certain level of performance, you simply must have a steady commitment from your singers.

  • If you're absent, you are not contributing to the artistic health of the organization. It really doesn't matter why.

  • The smaller the group, the more of an issue attendance becomes (e.g. 5 people missing from a chorus of 120 has less impact than 5 people missing from a chorus of 30.)

  • An organization that depends on the artistic judgment of one person (the Artistic Director) is not intrinsically democratic or necessarily fair. But the chorus must respect the Artistic Director’s judgement as to whether or not an individual can sing.

  • The Artistic Director MUST have the final say on who can participate.

  • The Artistic Director needs to have the flexibility and be empowered to make a decision on a case-by-case basis.

  • Organizations made of volunteers need to be more flexible than those whose members are paid.

Compiled Ideas From GALA Choruses Discussions on Choruswomen


  • Section leaders must be held to the same standard as any member at large.

  • An attendance policy in which you can miss no more that 25% of  rehearsals, rather than a set number.

  • Maintain attendance policy rules and give the final say to the Artistic Director, who consults with the section leaders.

  • Weekend rehearsals, sectionals held outside regular rehearsals, and retreat count as makeups (so I could miss three regular rehearsals, but attend retreat, a Saturday rehearsal, and a sectional and effectively have missed none as far as the record-keeping is concerned).

  • If a person has a reason that they can't attend rehearsals consistently, no matter how good the reason, perhaps they (in consultation with the chorus director) should decide to become a non-singing member.  

Concert Participation

  • If the person is still having difficulty the week before the show – not a word missed here or there, but major word problems – Artistic Director should talk to the person about what help they need. BUT the member must show marked improvement by the dress rehearsal.

  • Anyone who misses more than the allowed number of rehearsals and does no makeup sessions must sit out the concerts, but that decision can be appealed to the Artistic Director, who has the final say.

  • Anyone who misses a required rehearsal during the week of performance) has to sit in the audience for the first performance (we usually do at least 2 and sometimes 3 performances).

  • Allowing the singer to participate in only half the concert but they have to really work on that half to get it memorized well.

Learning the Music

  • Provide sectional rehearsals

  • Provide rehearsal tapes

  • Individual sections take it upon themselves to schedule extra rehearsals

  • Small groups get together to note bash

  • Individuals approach more accomplished singers for assistance

  • Individuals work one-on-one with section leaders, directors, or accompanists

  • Subsidize members who want to take singing lessons.

  • Make sure those missing have the notes from rehearsals, instructions about movement, etc., and then assume that they will do the work necessary.

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