HomeBlogsdavecharliebrown's blogOld Guy, New Guy

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As Fall begins and the leaves start changing colors, high school and college a cappella groups similarly turn over a new leaf, bringing in many new members.  During this time of transition and new beginnings, how can a director build camaraderie among this funny new mix of people?  How can you involve new people while still taking advantage of the wisdom of your returning members?

I like to practice a principle called "Old Guy, New Guy."  I didn't make it up, but I've used it a lot, and I've seen others use it successfully again and again in many groups.  It makes common managerial sense, but perhaps it might be new and useful to some of our CASA.org readers.

Here's what you do.  Any time you need to make a big decision as a director, you have a pow-wow with one of your group veterans and one of your new members.  By bringing a returning member into the discussion, you gain the perspective of someone with experience.  The returning member may have valuable insights that you wouldn't have considered.  By bringing a new member into the discussion, you get fresh perspective on things.  New singers bring an excitement and vigor to the decision that the old timers may have lost or just forgotten.

But.  The real benefit of Old Guy, New Guy is *after* you've made the decision.  When you bring the final word back to the group as a whole for ratification (whether a formal vote, or just an FYI-we-hope-that's-cool-with-y'all), you've got two key people who are already on your side!  Support from among group ranks is crucial--and Old Guy, New Guy really helps you gain that support.

Where could you use this principle?  Anywhere.  Choosing costumes/outfits, for example, can be obnoxious if you're trying to involve 11 people in the decision.  Instead, take an old guy and a new guy to the store (armed with everyone's sizes and numbers) and make some decisions as a trio.  Much easier, but still an informed decision.

Choosing a set list for a specific gig can often be done by the musical director alone.  But if you involve an old guy and a new guy, you might get some new ideas.  And when you show the set list to the group, people are more likely to smile and support it.  This is especially helpful for more important gigs, or for a competition set.

Planning a retreat.  Designing an outreach workshop.  Organizing details for a big semester concert.  Outlining a fundraising campaign.  Planning a tour.  Old Guy, New Guy can be useful in all of these situations.

Sometimes it might be smarter to use Old Guy, New Guy in reverse.  Start off by telling the group you have a big decision to make.  Discuss it among all group members; give everyone a chance to voice his or her opinion.  Then pick a seasoned member of the group and a newer member (your best bet is to choose people who have strong opinions on the issue) and sit down over coffee to make the final decision.

This reverse method works especially well for selecting a repertoire for the year.  Have everyone bring in song suggestions or arrangements they have begun creating.  Play songs for the group as a whole, discuss what holes you need to fill from last year, talk about your brand, plan what songs you'll need for specific gigs.  Choose some songs as a group.  But then when it comes down to the final selection itself,... Old Guy, New Guy.

Although the suggestions here are obviously more directly applicable to scholastic groups, the same principle can be applied to your League group or really any group.  The idea is to operate with a small committee of people who bring different ideas and perspectives on the decision.  Choose people of varying experience levels, and people with different alliances/friendships in the group, and make the most enlightened decision possible.

Not everything needs to be decided by committee, of course.  Sometimes a group vote is more appropriate.  Or very often you, as director, can just make a decision alone and move on with it.  You don't need a committee to decide where to take a breath, or where to crescendo, obviously.  But sometimes, for the bigger decisions, you may want to take a few extra minutes and make sure you get it right.

If you implement Old Guy, New Guy regularly in your decision-making processes, I promise you'll stay informed, gain added perspectives, and be a popular leader, while remaining efficient and effective.


What the WOW!

Dave Brown I'm in love with your brain.

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