I asked 100 women – all Queens of Harmony and/or current int’l top-ten quartet members – to participate in a survey designed to offer advice to quartets still climbing the regional rankings ladder. The questions address song choice, time management, and coaching strategies as well as interpersonal relationships among quartet members and advice on how to deal with disappointment.
Here are some of their responses.
Today’s Question is:
Q. What is your strategy on coaching? Why do you choose the coaches you use? Are there coaches you avoid? Do you coach with certain people at specific times leading up to contest?
A. I really believe in finding the one main coach that suits the style and goals of the group. The more demanding the better! I don’t personally subscribe to more coaching leading up to contest. I feel like the members need to be responsible for internalizing the coaching we receive from 2 or 3 retreat-like sessions throughout the year.
A. We chose coaches that brought a different perspective and more specific techniques. We also chose two coaches that stretched us personally. We had coaches during the week of International who kept us focused and feeling great about ourselves. What a blessing they were!! Choose coaches that speak to you in a way that you understand. Always follow up with coaches so they can determine if you are applying the concepts that they have worked on with you.
A. We are kind of poor so we can’t afford to bring in coaches from out of town unless one of the local choruses has brought in someone we want to work with. That being said we are lucky to have quite a few Queen-level coaches locally so we rely on them a lot. We pick the coaches that work with our personality as well as ones that specialize in the areas where we are weakest.
A. When we first got together, we would ‘piggyback’ on whoever was coming in to coach choruses or other quartets. That was good at first because we were able to discover which coaches clicked with us. We also looked at our lowest scoring category and picked some judges from that category to coach us. Now we have a small number of coaches who represent what we need and often coach us together or at the very least compliment each other in what they coach us on. There are coaches we avoid….some we know we wouldn’t mesh well with, and we stay clear of any coach who tries to change our sound into something they want to hear .
A. Coaching is subjective. We only used the coaches who we trusted would give us what we needed and not blow smoke. Being “nice” wasn’t what we needed to win. We needed honesty. Closer to contest we chose a coach that would put us in the right frame of mind and clean up the infinitessimal details. There were coaches that we found weren’t a good fit for us. In the early years we learned that EVERYONE is a coach!! You can’t listen to everyone. You can’t use all of the advice and need to use what works for the unit!
A. Don’t OVERCOACH! Don’t use every coach you can find, just to say you’ve worked with “her”. Let your own quartet self-coach or duet coach. Become good listeners and receptive to comments from each other. There are many quartets who coach so often that they really don’t ever get a chance to let things sink in before the next coach comes in. And if the coaches aren’t using similar verbiage, sometimes, it just makes things worse!
A. In the beginning we would try to coach with anyone that local choruses brought in…. we found quickly that that strategy was not successful for us. Too many different approaches and too many different opinions. Now we have three main coaches that we use. We don’t avoid anyone, but we stick to these three because they have brought us much success. We all work very well together. They are our dream team!
A. Assess the weaknesses or areas of needed growth and work with coaches who can address those things; yes, there are coaches I avoid; timing can be part of the planning (sound work is usually a good skill to begin with, visual a bit later in the prep).
A. We coach with a visual person, a sound person, a music person, and we get input from key people that we trust throughout the year. Since we are a long-distance quartet, time is at a premium for us, so we have to really be smart about how and when we are able to fit in coaching sessions. We coach with our sound person 3 times a year, spring, summer, and fall…and Skype as needed. We work with our visual person three times a year-twice via Skype (once in late spring, once in late summer) and twice during International. We get input from our music coach throughout the year. We also have many, many, many email, mp3, and video exchanges with our coaches, as needed, during the course of the year.
A. We coach with our director, a showmanship judge, an expression judge, and a sound judge. As we’ve developed over time, we know which coaches work better for our brains just before contest, and we know which ones to include in the early stages of getting a new interp off the ground.
A. Because of our distance issues, we typically coach with people who live in one of our areas to avoid further travel costs, so fortunately, we live in three cities with access to some great coaches. We try to get as much as we can especially leading up to a contest because we can only hear so much while singing and recordings are rather unreliable when it comes to details, so we rely on coaches for that fifth ear when putting our sets together, etc.
A. We mainly focused on sound being key, our performance levels were similar but we also coached in that area too along with expression. We collaborated on coaching staff from our previous experience to make a decision on who to coach with in the beginning and then changed one coach after our first international contest. We also listened to each other and what our ears were hearing. Don’t think I have avoided a coach, but sometimes too many opinions will mess you up more than sticking with one school of thought. Too many cooks spoil the soup.
A. We use one steady coach for a couple categories and sprinkle in one timers when they come available in our area.
A. I feel there needs to be a close relationship between you and your coach, especially as you work toward winning. It helps to have a close relationship which leads to a mutual respect for each other and the tools that your coach is giving you to improve. It’s the quartet’s responsibility to do the homework you are given. It’s the only way you will improve and get better.
A. We found three coaches that we liked that worked for us. They all had pretty much the same coaching styles. We always try coaches suggestions but ultimately, it’s up to us and if something isn’t working, we won’t use it. We coached at least three times with each coach in the year between contests. It’s always nice when your coach is your chorus coach and comes in town to coach the chorus. It’s easier to set something up!
A. Our coaching choices flow readily from our goals and actions meetings. We talk about what areas we want to improve, and who we think can help us accomplish those goals. Once we establish a coaching relationship we maintain it until the next planning cycle (yearly), though we also will pick up time with international level coaches who happen to be in the area who might not be in our particular strategic plan.
A. We’ve worked with many people in our time as a quartet, and we get to know who helps us with what, and plan accordingly. Usually, we try to get those that will help us with “the plan” earlier on, and those that will help us solidify and polish next. We pick our 2-3 “main” coaches in a year, and try to touch base with them at the convention for last minute tips and reminders. coaching style is everything. You may come across a “big name” coach that doesn’t connect with you and help you reach new levels, and that’s okay. Work with the coaches who teach you new things and help you achieve new levels.
A. Coaching for some can be great and for others very stressful. You all need to work with coaches that you feel give you valuable advice. You need to compromise at times on who you go to and how often. Sometimes it’s hard to get the coaching you’d like because of time and money, you always have those that you try out, maybe they’re brought in for a chorus or a music school, you learn something from everyone. We have coaches for visual, for vocal production, for interp, for artistry, and finesse. The most important thing with the coaching though is what you do afterwards! I always say “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”
A. We use coaches based on where we are in our growth curve. Early on, we used local/regional coaches as primary coaches. As we grew, we outgrew the coaches too. We began to work with SAI judges in our region. When we landed in the Top 10, we found that we’d outgrown those coaches as well, and so now we are coaching pretty much exclusively with international level coaches. We tend to avoid coaches who are primarily BHS oriented, as they have significant style differences with SAI. We learned early on that we have to coach all year long, not just after New Year’s. In fact, in my opinion, it’s more important to coach in the first three months AFTER contest, than in the three months before. Set yourself up all year long with better skills!
A. Your contest score sheet will tell you which category you should be coached on first. Take your lowest scoring category and start there. Choose a coach that everyone can work with. Good coaching is a very vulnerable experience. But, if you want to benefit, you have to be open to that experience. I think it is important to stick with a few great coaches, not lots of coaches. That can get too confusing. The year we won we had a sound\expression coach and 2 showmanship coaches. Two of them were with us during the week of International – and the other one was in the pit. They were incredible and we could not have been our best without them.