I have been a member for about 11 years. I started out as a chorus member and became more and more involved in the management and music teams over the years, and now I am the frontline director of a mid-size chorus in Calgary, Alberta. I have written several posts about the director role on this blog – it’s a subject that I love, a job that I love, and I am very proud of all the things I have learned because of the opportunities given to me by my chorus, and by Sweet Adelines.
I love what I do.
But lately, we have been having these discussions. Discussions about diversity, inclusiveness and how to grow our organization again, as membership is declining.
Important discussions, that seem to be going nowhere.
The other day, a question was posted in one of our Facebook groups. “Crowns or no crowns? Discuss!”. And people did. The post currently has over 800 replies – people feel very strongly about this.
An aside for the un-initiated: Crowns are given to the winners of the international quartet competition every year. Saying “I want a crown one day” means that you want to become an international quartet champion. It is a long standing tradition and people love it, it’s a big part of the annual competition – but although almost everybody wants to become really, really good…not everyone would feel comfortable wearing a sparkly crown or tiara. Just like not everyone is comfortable wearing glitzy stage outfits, sequins, and dancing shoes with heels.
When we discuss diversity, we talk about the inclusion and representation of women of colour, but also the inclusion and representation of LGBTQIA people.
While we focus our time and talent on making beautiful sounds, a big part of our performances has been the visual – sparkly costumes, ball gowns, heels, big hair, lots of makeup. Stuff that I personally think is fun, like playing dress-up. For a person who presents gender-neutral though…feeling pressure to do the dress-up part of it when all they want is to become a really good singer in a really good quartet, I imagine it must be a bit uncomfortable. Maybe even painful.
In this Facebook post, the discussion got very heated. Everyone had something to say about the crown tradition. Most want to keep it, because, well, tradition. Some tried to explain why some of these old traditions may actually be harming us. Some attempted to make others understand why the expectation of wearing a crown if they won actually deterred them from competing.
A day or so later, someone else made a post. It read “Bacon as dessert? Discuss!”
This, I’m sure, was only meant as lighthearted fun to break up the discussion. I know the original poster had no malicious intent – it was just a little joke.
But people got the metaphor, and the posts – although still talking about bacon – became quite pointed.
“Really?”, I thought to myself. “Bacon? We have to wrap these questions in damn bacon to make people actually talk about them? And even then, they don’t quite seem to grasp the concept – not everyone eats bacon!”
But OK. If bacon is the way we have to go, then let’s go there, people. Our beloved organization is shrinking and here we are, for some reason, unsure as to how to move forward.
Let’s say you own a restaurant. It’s been in your family for years, and what makes it different from other restaurants is that literally everything on the menu has bacon in it. Everything from cocktails and appetizers to main courses and desserts. You love bacon. Your friends love bacon. Everybody loves bacon!
You have become really good at cooking bacon and finding new ways of incorporating bacon into your dishes. But lately, not as many new customers are coming to your restaurant. Many of your old regulars still come every week, but even some of their visits are less frequent. Some of them even ask for no bacon on their food, which upsets you a bit because bacon is your thing!
You even fry the potatoes in bacon grease!
It turns out that new information has come to light. People are finding out that eating meat all the time actually isn’t good for you. Especially processed meats, like bacon. Many are also very upset about how the pigs are treated on factory farms, and there has been video released of pigs being kicked, dragged and beaten, all in order to produce bacon. People have decided that they want to eat less bacon, and add more fresh vegetables and meat alternatives to their diet.
You’re losing money. You’re still wondering why – your food is so good, bacon makes everything better, how can people choose other restaurants over yours?
One day, a vegan comes into your restaurant. She is hungry. She wants to sit down and have a great meal with her friends.
You don’t have a single option for her on your menu.
She explains to you that she doesn’t feel welcome here. She likes the atmosphere of your place, she likes the people who go there, she likes you, she likes the fact that all the food is home cooked, but she can’t stay because there is nothing for her on the menu. She’s going to have to go elsewhere…and her friends decide to go with her.
You could have had a table of 5 paying customers, but instead they all left. You worry about loss of income and a declining customer base.
You wonder why that woman couldn’t just have ordered a meal and removed the bacon.
You wonder why people have to be so difficult. Why can’t they just go with the flow and respect your traditions?
But your problem persists – your business is not as successful as it once was, and you now have to make a decision. You know that people want options. Some may still want your classic bacon dishes but if you want new customers, you have to come up with some alternatives. You, my bacon-loving friend, have been given a choice.
You can keep doing what you always did and not change a thing. Maybe times will change again. Maybe a new study will come out that says bacon is good for you and makes you sexy, and piglets actually really enjoy being castrated without anesthesia.
Or, you can change with the times. You can give your menu an overhaul. Why don’t you ask that vegan to come back and help you come up with some ideas for new dishes? What would she like to see in your restaurant that would make her want to come back again and again?
You could incorporate some veggies into a few of your old bacon dishes to satisfy the meat lovers while still getting them to enjoy something new.
Maybe you decide to renovate the kitchen and give the dining room a facelift, kind of like if Gordon Ramsay came to your place with his TV show – just with less yelling.
We have a choice. We are being told what the problem is, and we can choose to try to do something about it. Change isn’t always easy, but it is almost always worth it if you believe that the end result will bring more success.
Listen to that vegan. She just may have the answer.