What Does a Choir Director do?

Choir Director leading choir on stage
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A choir director is any person who leads a vocal ensemble. Choir directors may lead such ensembles at church, in school or in other performance venues. Choir directors do more than conduct and lead a choir, they also have the responsibility of making sure the members attend rehearsals and are at their best when performing. They carefully choose the pieces that the group will perform and make sure everything is in order—from the vocal harmony down to the stage formation.

Qualities of a Good Choir Director

A good choir director is one who has strong leadership skills. He must be able to motivate and inspire the group, be firm and creative. A choir director sometimes acts as an accompanist, is a good singer himself, and knows rules and techniques that make a vocal performance stand out. Choir directors usually have a background in teaching, music theory, conducting, harmony and vocal production. He is also knowledgeable of various musical styles that can be performed by the group.

Other Pointers for a Choir Director

Choir directors must perform a balancing act of sorts when interacting with the vocal ensemble. For one, they should be firm yet positive and punctual. Additionally, they should not forget to have the ensemble warm up before rehearsal or a performance. They should also consider which material to perform based on the venue and occasion. Lastly, they must schedule regular rehearsals and address problems between group members as soon as they arise.

Why Become a Choir Director?

Choir directors are very much in demand, whether it is in schools, churches or other venues. If you are a born leader, willing to work in a collaborative effort (e.g. consulting the church minister or school administrator), love to work with large groups and know how to motivate people, becoming a choir director may be the career for you.

Choir Director Salary

The salaries choir directors earn depend on where they work. Choir directors who work for churches earn anywhere from $46,991 to $74,606 annually. The average income for a church choir director, however, is $62,000 per year, according to a 2010 survey by Christianity Today International. That’s actually one of the top salaries for church personnel.

School choir directors make significantly less. According to SimplyHired.com, their average yearly salary is $43,000.

A report from National Public Radio found that the best choirs aren’t in the United States, so those serious about the field may want to consider relocating to have a lucrative career. Not one choir in the U.S. ranked in Gramophone’s “20 Greatest Choirs” list in 2010.

Many types of choirs exist. They include children's choirs, church choirs, community and school choirs. Roughly 42.6 million Americans sing in choirs, according to NPR. Watch a short clip of the Vienna Boys Choir.

ChoralNet has information on choral music and an enormous listing of choirs all over the world.

Resources and Further Reading