Why standing still is not an option and a project can be a beautiful thing

Executive Director Barbara Eifler looks at groups’ artistic development

All you want to do every Wednesday is turn up and have a good old sing or play through some nice music, and then go home and forget about it for another week.

Occasionally, you accept, a concert is quite a nice thing to work towards, as long as you will be able to shine and therefore feel confident enough to invite family and friends to come along and pay £10.

But then your musical director or the committee dream up A Project. And you simply know it will involve playing difficult tuneless music or teaming up with a group of hyperactive schoolchildren, singing at the top of a draughty mountain or spending a fortune on a ‘bonding weekend’. Plus extra practice at home, more rehearsals, fundraising drives. Basically, the last thing you need in your life: additional hassle.

And after a year of enforced labour and endless meetings, it’ll all be over in a flash and you’ll be left with a small paragraph in the local paper (or a hangover from the hotel bar).

So why bother?

Well, maybe don’t. But how soon will it be before even those who like a nice quiet life get bored?

Members might start missing rehearsals or drifting off to other groups; and audiences will dwindle, because your programmes are a bit same-y, your playing or singing a bit non-committal, and therefore your enthusiasm for selling tickets to your nearest and dearest somewhat diminished.

And thus we have the perfect vicious circle: no new members, smaller audiences leading to ever ‘safer’ repertoire and reducing audiences and members further, finances spiralling downwards.

How to dig yourself out of this hole? Well, the dreaded Project may just be part of the answer…

Suddenly, you have a deadline – e.g. to apply for Adopt a Composer, to organise an event for Make Music Day (21 June by the way!), to get funding for an anniversary commission, to organise a Christmas concert with the local brass band/ school/ music education hub, to go on tour to Italy.

Whilst that means extra work, it also gives you something to work towards and therefore means that new website or the Twitter account you may have put off are now going to happen because they’re essential for the project.

There are also now good grounds on which to recruit new members – you have an exciting goal to offer. Your existing members suddenly rally and up their game.

And you have a perfect excuse for conversations with everyone. The local venue, printer, music shop, paper, BBC radio station, university, music library, councillor, or local authority are likely to respond – one-off events are something they can get behind more easily than a long-term commitment (though of course you’ll be clever enough to keep those relationships going once your project has completed).

Particularly once they discover you’re not asking for money, in their relief they’ll promise almost any help in kind, especially if it doesn’t cost them: e.g. promotion via their social media channels, a performance slot in their otherwise empty foyer.

By all means be realistic about the work required to make a project fly. But weigh up the pros and the cons: if you don’t do a project now and then, how much longer will the group be around to do anything?