Beth Richey-Sullivan discusses strategies for surviving the most perilous of choir director jobs: taking over a program from a rockstar. When your predecessor is both beloved and skilled, the incoming director needs “the skin of an elephant and the heart of a butterfly.” This episode is full of jaw-dropping examples that Beth culls from this past year of taking over from an adored former director. Her warmth, encouragement, and wisdom is required listening for anyone stepping into a new job.

Listen:


Highlight to Tweet: “You need to have the skin of an elephant, and the heart of a butterfly.” -Beth Richey-Sullivan

Show Notes:

  • Be transparent with your administration, both in your needs and expectations.
  • You need the skin of an elephant, and the heart of a butterfly (Be tough-skinned, but tenderhearted).
  • Beth and her husband have fostered 13 children over three years, many of whom deal with their pain with outwardly aggressive behavior. “See their behavior as their pain.”
  • “I will treat you with respect, so that you know how to treat me.” It’s a long game, but worth the extra time it takes.
  • Beth has a history of dealing with kids with trauma. When a director leaves, it is a loss for them. You’re dealing with a traumatic situation.

3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Do the best you can, and realize the eye rolls aren’t about you.
  2. See their behavior as their pain.
  3. Consistently model the respect and behavior you want them to reflect back at you.

Resources/links Mentioned:

Biography:

Beth Richey-Sullivan is a native of Kansas City, Missouri where she completed her undergraduate degree in both Choral & Instrumental Music Education at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Conservatory of Music & Dance. She received her Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting at UCLA with Donald Neuen. During her eleven years in California, she was very successful. She was the conductor of the Towne Singers in La Cañada, CA for 7 successful seasons and commissioned Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby” with this 100 voice community chorus. Beth revitalizing a Choral program at Hoover High School & Toll Middle School in Glendale, CA where she conducted Choral Music, grades 6-12. In 2015, she moved home to Overland Park, KS with her husband Pat and three wonderful children. She just completed her first year as conductor at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, KS, where both Chamber Singers and Chorale received perfect ratings at State Festival.

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