World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Why I don’t use name badges at my singing workshops

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    I’m just back from leading a singing weekend and one of the feedback comments was “It would be good to have name badges.”

     

     

    I don’t use name badges at my singing weekends, nor in the choirs that I run. Here’s my reasoning.

    learning singers’ names

    I’ve written before about my belief that you don’t  have to know somebody – or even like them – to be able to sing harmony together (see The singers shall remain nameless and Singing in the company of strangers).

    But on a singing weekend or even a singing day, there is always a lot of socialising going on. In fact, how well the group gets on is often a sign of how well the workshop is going.

    It’s embarrassing if you’ve asked somebody their name and then by the time tea break comes you’ve forgotten it and have to ask again.

    Name badges seem like an excellent way of overcoming this, but for me there are several problems:

    • you don’t need to remember people’s names because you can always look at their badge
    • badges get lost and people forget to put them back on when they change clothes
    • some handwriting is so bad you have to ask the person’s name any way!
    • some people just don’t like wearing name badges and end up being excluded

     

    alternatives to name badges

    Most of the singers on my singing days and weekends don’t know each other. If it’s just a day event and there are, say, 70 singers then I don’t bother even attempting to help people remember names.

    If it’s a whole weekend and there are 20 – 30 singers, then it is possible to remember most names during the weekend.

    What I usually do is to get the singers to arrange themselves in a circle in different configurations several times during warm ups and ask them to introduce themselves to the people on either side. I order people alphabetically or numerically in terms of first name, last name, house number, date of birth (not year!), first school attended, town of birth, etc. etc.

    If the group is small enough, say 20 or less, then we may later on just go round the circle and everyone says their name. Or even sing a simple call and response song which involves names, like Jambo. It’s enough to reinforce what they already know and helps to fill in any gaps.

    For my regular choir I have a ‘rogues’ gallery’ on our website. It’s a private website so nobody else gets to see so it doesn’t really matter how good the photos are. It’s great when you’ve been in the choir with someone for several years but they sing in a different section and you keep forgetting their name. Just look on the website when you get home and you’re all set for the next rehearsal.

    You can use this method at longer workshops - a weekend or week, say. Get all the participants to bring along a photo and put them on a board together with their name. Then when you forget someone at tea break, just pop along to remind yourself.

    introductions in a circle

    Many workshop leaders go round the circle at the start and get singers say their name and a little bit about themselves.

    If there are lots of singers, say more than 20, then this can take ages and nobody will remember the first few names. The other problem with this is that by the time it gets round to you, you might have discovered that the room is full of far more experienced singers than you!

    If I do use introductions, it’s only with small groups of less than 16, say, and never at the start of a workshop. I always get people to sing together for some time before they get to reveal their backgrounds.

    name games

    Another way to help singers learn names is name games.

    These aren’t necessarily singing-related, but are simple, fun games to help participants learn names. Like introductions in a circle, if there are too many singers it can take forever and defeats the purpose.

    If I use name games at all it’s with regular choirs. We have plenty of time over the weeks to play lots of different games and so let the names really bed in.

    At a one-off workshop, my feeling is that it ends up taking the place of the singing, which is why people come in the first place.

    other ideas

    Do you use name badges? Is it important to you that everyone in the group knows every singer’s name? Have you got other simple and effective ways of introducing names at workshops which don’t take up too much time? I’d love to hear from you.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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