Toolkit: Start a Chorus


The responsibilities of the musical and administrative staff of the chorus generally fall into four functional areas:

  • Music director
  • Accompanist (pianist)
  • Program administrator and/or Administrative assistant
  • Volunteer coordinator

You might decide to divide up the responsibilities among more or fewer people, but the list of responsibilities stays the same.

A variety of less demanding roles can be filled by more casual volunteers. These include volunteer singers, providers of refreshments, concert volunteers and others.

Position Paid or Volunteer Position
Music Director Paid preferred
Accompanist Paid preferred
Program Administrator Paid or volunteer
Administrative Assistant Paid or volunteer
Volunteer Coordinator Volunteer

Music Director

Selecting the right music director is critical to the success of the chorus. Because of the importance of this position and the substantial investment of time and expertise required, we strongly recommend that the music director be paid for this work.

The music director’s responsibilities include the following:

  • Selecting the repertoire in consultation with singers and others, and planning public performances
  • Planning and conducting all weekly rehearsals, additional rehearsals as needed, and all performances
  • Obtaining all printed music and arranging and adapting it as needed
  • Working closely with the accompanist
  • Arranging for any supplemental musicians
  • Overseeing the production of master recordings of program repertoire for practice CDs (S, A, and B versions)
  • Working with the accompanist, chorus administrative personnel and host organization leadership

The music director’s experience and skills should generally include the following:

  • An undergraduate degree in music or music education
  • Knowledge of choral repertoire in a wide variety of styles and genres
  • At least five years of choral conducting experience, including experience working in community choral settings
  • Excellent choral conducting skills
  • Ability to be organized and efficient, and to attend to detail

These attributes are also extremely important:

  • Patience
  • Willingness to adapt
  • A sense of humor
  • A clear understanding of and commitment to the mission of the chorus, and a clear sense of the right balance between the artistic and wellness objectives of the chorus program
  • Experience working with older singers, and a familiarity with dementia and its varied effects on behavior and communication
  • Ability to establish a rapport with the singers, resulting in mutual respect
  • A genuine interest in the individual circumstances of the singers
  • Ability to challenge the singers to reach their full potential, but not overwhelm them
  • An effective working relationship with the accompanist
  • Willingness to adapt his or her conducting style and techniques to suit the needs of this chorus
  • Receptiveness to new or different ideas about how best to meet the needs of the chorus


Typically, the accompanist will be a pianist. The accompanist’s primary responsibilities are as follows:

  • Accompanying the chorus in all weekly rehearsals, additional rehearsals as needed, and all performances
  • Working with the music director in selecting repertoire
  • Participating in the planning and recording of practice CDs for the singers

The accompanist should have these standard skills:

  • Excellent piano and musical skills
  • Ideally, the ability to transpose music in real time
  • At least five years of piano accompaniment work with choral groups, including experience in community choral settings
  • Knowledge of choral repertoire and a wide variety of styles and genres

In addition, the accompanist should share many of the attributes required of the music director, including an understanding of and commitment to the mission of the chorus, and the patience, flexibility, and sense of humor that are required for successful rehearsals and performances.

Program Administrator and/or an Assistant

The responsibilities of the program administrator role include the following:

  • Developing chorus calendars for each multi-week session
  • Administering the chorus enrollment process and logistics
  • Securing rehearsal facilities and all necessary equipment
  • Managing all business and financial affairs of the chorus program
  • Ensuring compliance with all applicable copyright laws
  • Developing and executing all communications strategies and obtaining necessary releases from program participants
  • Maintaining a current roster of all singers and volunteers with complete contact information
  • Determining performance attire and obtaining any required materials
  • Creating and assembling participant notebooks with music, lyric sheets, name tags, calendars, etc.
  • Handling all communications with singers and volunteers
  • Maintaining current media and photography permission lists
  • Developing and distributing informational handouts for participants (e.g. performance information, maps to performance location, etc.)

Volunteer Coordinator

The responsibilities of the volunteer coordinator role include the following:

  • Recruiting and training volunteer singers and operations volunteers
  • Assigning volunteers to singers with dementia and to other roles
  • Developing and communicating job descriptions for volunteer roles
  • Maintaining volunteer contact information
  • Coordinating the work of all volunteers, including facilitating snacks and beverages for social events