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Terry Barham, editor tbarham@sunﬂower.com
Welcome to ACDA’s online magazine for choral director/music educators who are searching for answers and need fresh ideas or techniques to meet practical needs. The articles below have been gleaned from state ACDA newsletters around the United States and submissions from seasoned choral directors with topics germane to the profession. ChorTeach, our name, is derived from the German word for chorus, chor. It is pronounced, as most of you know, like the word, core. I hope ChorTeach’s articles will be a breath of fresh air for you, provide you with a few ideas or techniques that give you a lift and help your singers reach the goals you and they have set. ChorTeach is designed for those of you who work with amateur singers at all levels. What’s in this issue? 1) Recruiting Singers With No Feeder Program? Yes You Can! by Dana Alexander Santa Rosa, California
2) Extraordinary Elementary Singing on a Shoestring Budget by Christy Elsner Bonner Springs, Kansas 3) Working With Honor/Festival Choirs: One Conductor's Perspective by Terry J. Barham Kansas City, Kansas 4) Community Choirs—Mission Impossible? by Rick Bjella Appleton, Wisconsin 5) Transformative Collaborations with other Choirs by Thomas Lloyd Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Vol. At the time I wondered how things would play out this year. as well as a large number of our veteran women. choir. I still send counselors the same detailed information every year about my program. the counselors at my school will be meeting with students to help them choose their classes for next year. you will have started the second semester of your school year. all but three singers in the men’s section graduated.Yes. California (Reprinted with permission from California's Cantate. It's important to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts. through various activities I have had a larger men’s section than last year and more students in my program overall than I’ve had for some time. Great ideas about recruiting can be found in other places. The best part is that the drama teacher encourages her students to sing! I take my choirs to sing for her classes every year. I www. I never assume they remember enrollment details from year to year. there is a drama program. but it usually pays off in the long run. No one is a better promoter of your program than the students who love singing with you. I always plan a one-day visit to her classes where I talk about how to ﬁt two electives into a student's ﬁrst year of high school (drama and choir). • Get older siblings to recruit their brothers and/or sisters. • Have your current students recruit for you. I also talk about how well drama and singing go hand in hand. Most boys love it when girls walk up and bug them about joining choir. Montgomery High School. I am amazed and grateful that I have a program at all. As I reﬂect back on last year and think about what developed this school year. Winter 2011) By the time you are reading this article.acda. • Even though there is no choir of any type at our middle school. Every year. While I love my school and community. Santa Rosa. No. There has not been a feeder program at our middle school for many years. The girls may have to persist. In another month. and she invites other students to come to these informal concerts.org/publications ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 . a choir tour to Disneyland is a great incentive for incoming freshmen to join a choral ensemble! • Communicate often with counselors and the vice principal or whoever handles the master schedule at your school. To make a long story short. the kids are inexperienced. most of whom have never sung or read music before. 2. but I want to share what worked for me this year at my high school. each year it is progressively more difﬁcult for me (as with many of us choir directors) to keep my program alive. • For schools in Northern California. and the friends they bring with them are glad to be in on something new with their pals. Younger siblings are excited because their brother or sister enjoyed choir. let alone one which is thriving. Elementary music and choral music programs are practically nonexistent in our district. We’re having a great time working together. Even though I’ve taught at my school for 12 years.Recriuting Singers With No Feeder Porgram? Yes you Can ! by Dana Alexander. 23. This encourages kids to continue their involvement in drama while pursuing another exciting activity.This has worked well. Have younger siblings bring their friends. but they are enthusiastic. I must come up with new and creative ways to recruit students. This school year was no exception. Last school year.
• Develop a great relationship with your band director! We continually encourage students to get involved in the choral and band areas in our department. for example. Through working with the human voice. Have a great year teaching! Extraordinary Elementary Singing on a Shoestring Budget by Christy Elsner Allegro Children's Chorus Bonner Springs. No. Sometimes we get in each other’s way with scheduling. etc. All you need is ﬁve-six minutes for one activity in each of the following categories: Body and Brain. Spring 2011) It is doom and gloom for music budgets and programs across the state of Kansas and beyond.acda.ChorTeach page 2 know some counselors can be more difﬁcult than others. all elements of music—theory. can be taught while reinforcing fundamentals of pitch. My colleague teaches two guitar classes and encourages those students who like to sing to join choir. developing listening skills. music does not and should not suffer. We share many students between band and choir. Center each lesson on the voice. using it to teach note values. to enroll in your program. however. We teachers can transform and rejuvenate the elementary music classroom into a mecca for singing at little or no cost. breath. but the more positive and supportive you are of them. To make the extraordinary happen. and rhythmic sequences. In fact. Instruments and folk dances are secondary to the voice. I certainly notice the fact that band students who sing have advanced reading and musicianship skills.org/publications . in my opinion. but we always work it out. good breath. —Native American Proverb ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 www. Never settle for less than the students' best effort. Why? Because we know that involving students in both band and choir is good for the students and for our programs. you will see a great chasm. Jump. Start simply and with the basics. Vol.Vowels/Tone. Elementary students will remember when the “big kids” came to sing for them. technique. My colleague has often said that his students who enroll in choir understand phrasing and musicality much better than the instrumentalists. and dynamics. and Range • Be insistent and consistent. Even the folk tune Weevily Wheat can be sung with tall vowels. the more your program will beneﬁt from their help. Diction. and that may be decisive in leading students. 32. Kansas (Reprinted with permission of Kansas' Choral Range. • Warm up the singers by plugging exercises into a simple template thus encouraging the development of vocal fundamentals and technique. Breath. steady beat. several years later. It is not as wide as you think. directors in the elementary music classroom should make sure each class focuses primarily on singing. As you go the way of life. I hope you will try some of these ideas if you have had problems recruiting singers. diction. artistry.. 1. and clear diction. tone. • Always take your choir to sing at feeder elementary schools each year. history. I believe it is a great time for music teachers to refocus on the most critical element of the elementary music classroom—singing! Singing costs nothing and is portable.
Search the Internet and use CPDL (Choral Public Domain Library at www. historical and current events • Insights adults overlook • Artistic polish • Facial expression and appropriate body engagement • Completion of homework • Individual responsibility www." • Know what you want and have dozens of approaches or ideas to get it. • Constantly reinforce the big picture for each song and/or performance while working on the nitty-gritty details. • Plan meticulously. . Attend reading sessions. their history and culture • Wide range of tone colors and styles • Empathy with and understanding of different cultures. • Adapt quickly. Visit the ACDA website at www. constant. textual.org) for ﬁnding hundreds of pieces of free quality choral literature. • Maintain a quick pace and discipline issues will not develop. accents. click on Repertoire and then the Children and Community Youth page to ﬁnd superb databases of quality music. Your choir is not about you but about the singers. Use old Silver Burdett books for ﬁne folk and multi-cultural songs. • Prepare your scores and know the music inside and out. .acda. • Simple and complex phrasing • Four-bar phrase structure • A full range of dynamics appropriate for the age and vocal development of your singers • Text painting • Consistent. organize. separation. and be inventive.ChorTeach page 3 • Give clear directions and provide a clear vision for where you are heading. • Give consistent. switch gears. move on.acda. Steal music ideas from colleagues. What free musical activities can you teach your singers? Answer: Anything you can envision. resonant tone • Breath support and management • Clear. • Put your ego in the closet.org. • Love the kids without reservation. slurs. Understand that singing is a collective art. positive or negative. the texts. and working with singers. • Develop strong music selection skills so that your singers present only the ﬁnest in literature. crisp diction • Sensitive and emotional understanding of texts. and relevant feedback.cpdl. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 • Demonstrate often with your full voice. etc. • Believe wholeheartedly: "I will do anything to get this choir to. and vocal elements such as: • Types of articulation: legato. and articulate. imagine.org/publications . uniform vowels • Healthy. • Work ahead of the choir. Learn and perform age-appropriate musical. If something isn’t working. energized. • Be passionate about the music. staccato.
talk to your local grocery or discount store manager. vowels. For cut-offs and consonants. phrasing. Try the following ideas: • Oreos Use coupons or donations to supply your class with Oreos for vowel direction and interior space. • Tai chi or yoga moves: Relaxation and focus on singing core and centering of breath. bounce and tonal lift (bouncy balls or beach balls). • Arms: Move to articulate phrase endings and beginnings. Mirrors help singers work on facial expression. or creating a picture of song interpretation/meaning. Use sharp blade cutting motion with hand for hard “G” or “K”. Cut into 18-inch lengths. vowel uniﬁcation. • Athletic Equipment Use balls of various sizes and shapes for phrasing (football). in. sumo wrestler strut. Put them on each shoulder blade as a posture reminder. • Paintbrush Collect from singers and use for dynamics. ﬂashlight (dynamics and phrasing). and dynamics. • Partner singing or singing circles for vowel uniﬁcation and listening skills. pliers (vowel shapes). • Hands. and projecting the voice (Frisbee). • Dryer Hose Convince your local hardware store to donate boxes of plastic dryer hose. ﬂip the ﬁnal "R" with ﬁngers. Belts help kids feel the abdominal movement requisite for low breathing. lift and spin in tone (basketball). • Mirror Organize a hand-held mirror collection drive. cross country skiing • Fingers: Fast. Squeeze a sponge for word emphasis or emotion. Flexible people never get all bent out of shape! —Anonymous www. text painting. mouth shape. • Lightly bounce the body for articulation • “In-tone” singing: Think under. Seuss phrases (crisp articulation). and on top of a bed. arms. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 • Magnadoodle Visually demonstrate phrasing and articulation • Books Dr. • Stickers Visit the local dollar store or ask for sticker donations. Carry a pack with you and place on singers' heads for demonstrating excellent posture or facial expression. whisk (vowel blend). light detached singing with round tone (ping pong ball). I hope you will try some of these ideas. tape measure (dynamics or breath longevity). Explore young singers' voices (The Alphabet Tree). spatulas (legato). and tongue position. knife (articulation).ChorTeach page 4 • Foreign languages • Singing conﬁdently alone in front of others Would you like to ﬁnd free (or cheap) teaching tools to motivate your singers? Dig around in your basement or garage. phrasing.org/publications . running ﬁngers for melismas. • Hand signs for vowels: Develop your own set of signals which cause kinesthetic connection for each vowel shape. They are cheap and have worked well with my singers. • Belts Host an ugly belt competition involving the entire school. and body • Legs: march. Dryer hose helps singers listen to themselves for pitch matching. Place stickers on resonators or use them above eyebrows for facial expression exercises.acda. toothpicks (separation of molars/mouth open) • Garage tools Be a ﬁx-it man or woman with a small hammer (staccato). • Breath mints or Listerine strips A cheap but effective way to feel the “cool air sip” when working on breath inhalation. open throat (softball). • Kitchen Utensils Measuring cups (dynamics).
• What's the ultimate goal for that honor choir? process or product? • Will 80% of singers arrive knowing all notes and rhythms? 60%? Start from scratch? • Send list of music performed the past two or three years. and high school singers in many states. Below are suggestions for you to ponder when you have been invited to guest conduct an honor choir of any type. have high expectations but be ﬂexible during the rehearsal process. singers’ abilities. • Include one challenge piece. brass or winds or string ensemble available? • Accompanist’s skill level and experience with pressure situations. depending on the sponsoring organization. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 www. high school.org/publications . The Invitation • Save the contact's name. • Can you bring your own accompanist? • Type of music. Barham Kansas City. many of which occurred because I didn't know what questions to ask of the person inviting me.acda. and number of guys (tenor & bass) if SATB. middle school. middle school/junior high (with 9th grade or without?). Other Important Questions • What type of choir: city? league? district? All-state? • Grade level of singers: elementary. total rehearsal time. church • Balance of voices. I have learned important lessons. go with what they can afford. on risers. • Travel expense paid? Maybe not. bleachers? Do you need a podium? Choosing Music • Review literature performed in the past several years by that honor choir. Terry J. or send a seating chart prior to the festival. level of difﬁculty.ChorTeach page 5 Working with Honor/Festival Choirs: One Conductor's Perspective by • You engage in these projects to share the joy of making music. Generating money is not the goal. For smaller districts. • What's the deadline for your reply? • Check your calendar carefully. and phone number. I would have saved myself a number of challenging situations. Had someone told me thirty years ago that I should exercise care with my choice of choral literature. • Fit music to type of choir. Kansas (Reprinted with permission of the author) Having conducted honor and festival choirs of elementary. • Have an up-to-date bio and photo if needed. college. how many in each section. • Honorarium amount? Be ﬂexible. It is no surprise that an unprepared 90-voice league choir is a completely different animal from a 250-voice select All-State choir. Sign a Contract? • Sometimes yes. languages? • How many clock hours of rehearsal? • Physical set-up: singers are in chairs. sometimes no. styles. email. • Accompaniment type: piano only? solo instruments.
linear. • Explain to singers: This choir and what we do here will not be like choir at your school. aural. This item is the norm for high-level performance groups. horizontal. • Choosing music with divisi in individual parts may create problems if not enough singers on each part and rehearsal time is limited. projector for your computer images or famous sayings. Travel Arrangements • Contractor or other ofﬁcial makes arrangements? You? • Driving? Five hours on the road can be forever the day before you rehearse hours on end. Structuring Rehearsals I • Vary your plan according to type of choir (children. JH/MS.acda. Structuring Rehearsals II • Rote song or canon to start rather than jumping into ﬁrst choral work? www. Is the level of difﬁculty and variety of styles acceptable? • Rehearsal notes with tempi. • Staying in private home? You'll have to talk lots. etc. Be reasonable given nature of choir. Draw picture of your set-up. Non-smoking room is a must. etc. extra batteries. classic vowels are not like conversational vowels!). piano (in tune). include worthy texts and quality music. markers. tone quality (tall. posture. range. kinesthetic dimensions. breath. pvc pipe. ability level.org/publications . screen. • Vocalises: mental. water bottles for you. not just notes/rhythms. • A Cappella literature may not work well if rehearsal time is limited and a number of singers arrive without knowing notes and rhythms. etc. • Employ visual. • SAB for Junior High/Middle School? The baritone part is often too low for unchanged tenors and too high for basses. Set expectations. dry erase board. Deadlines • When does the information below need to be in the hands of the person who invited you? • Literature choices. diction.ChorTeach page 6 • Vary styles. • Your seating arrangement for the sections. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 • What's your budget? Rehearsal Room • Early arrival is a must! • Seating pattern for chairs okay? • Equipment you need is in place? • Microphone working? • Projector and laptop hook-up works? • Screen in place? • Water bottles for you. HS). large rubber bands. beach ball. string. blend. extension cord. not just aural. • Teach concepts. and preparation of singers • First 4– 5 minutes all important. • Use props for certain grade levels: Granny’s teeth. breath marks. • Flying? Have phone numbers to call at destination if your ﬂight is cancelled! • Motel. physical. • Equipment needs: microphone. alertness.
Change pace. history. No need to go over an "A" section when it recurs exactly as it was ﬁrst presented. Surprise singers with unscheduled. when to walk to them. throughout rehearsals. • Find out before you arrive at your destination if the music is normally memorized for concert. • Carefully allot on-stage time for the various works. or lack some essential concepts. etc. • Stay positive when some students don’t seem to care. Not good if you are working with elementary and middle school singers. • Work backwards in the music now and then.) can change the sound and undermine conﬁdent singing. You can tell when students are tuning you out. help students memorize as a part of rehearsals. its poetry. Vary it. If it is. short breaks while you drink water. culture. • Ask speciﬁc questions of the singers. • Attention span. Many people are articulate and want to share their ideas. • Work on what truly needs drill. There is a point of no return with every age group. • Teach the structure of the music. • Find a singer doing something right. Final Rehearsal . • New standing arrangement (tall people in back. This is a visual world. • 27-second breaks. • Talking head. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 www. • Soloists must have mike time. • Maintain your cool.ChorTeach page 7 • First piece: Read through completely before working details. • When and where do you change into your concert attire? • Have a trusted colleague in the auditorium help you with balance (choir. this choir has big problems! Have a "Plan B" if students are unprepared. Hang in there. especially with vowel sounds and diction. how to use a mike. especially about text meanings. etc.org/publications . but also balance it with singing complete sections or the complete work. • Be sensitive about how long to push for the ideal performance. • Oh No. • Model what you want vocally for quicker results. can make a big difference. Piano and podium in correct place? • Recording for CD. etc. Have her demonstrate for the choir. etc. but work quickly. • Is the music set to ﬁne poetry? Have students audition to read it at the concert. • A sense of humor. especially with younger singers.Performance Hall • Arrive early. instrumentalists). Have everyone applaud her effort. especially just before the lunch break! Structuring Rehearsals III • Pacing is important. Start with the ﬁnal section ﬁrst. genuine. • Your internal clock—trust it. • Give music performance order to singers for last time. DVD? Mike placement OK? • Let chairperson organize singers' getting on and off the risers or into chairs. piano. repetition. • Soloist auditions – When and where? • Recognize the accompanist’s contribution during rehearsals. • Use P & P (picky & particular) approach. ﬁnesse.acda. unfocused. Tell singers what you want in seven or eight words or less.
go for artistry or the best you can get. e. • Order of recognition after last work: soloists. Do you like what you see? After the Performance and Back Home • Offer gracious verbal thank you’s. Get out of the way of the music. • Your music should be conducted from memory even if you have scores open on stand. Track all earnings/expenses for tax time the next April. One person drives 75 miles one way. conductor—not the reverse! • Comments to audience before last work on concert give you an opportunity to speak about the integral.ChorTeach page 8 • Stop 10 minutes before the scheduled time. our world. choir.g. —Richard M. Write all expenses and the honorarium into your electronic calendar.m. Wisconsin (Reprinted with permission from North Central Division's Melisma. place of music in our schools. Appleton.. ﬂying back early from meetings. not you. look at a DVD of your conducting a recent performance.acda. adjusting music teaching lessons.000 to about www. regroup. Express conﬁdence in the singers. We have increased our budget from $2.You name it and these people will try to be there. • Keep track of expenses not reimbursed. the White Heron Chorale. Others sacriﬁce plenty to be at a rehearsal. Vol 20.org/publications . Don’t push. Nixon Community Choirs—Mision Impossible? by Rick Bjella Lawrence University Conservatory of Music. until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices. 3. • It’s a new day tomorrow! We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another. accompanist. Members come from many locations. • Give genuine praise when it's been earned. No excuses. • Get your scores into your briefcase for the trip home. • Write follow-up email thank you's. our society. • Eye contact with singers just before and during concert expresses conﬁdence in them.. Once a year. etc. No. even vital. They are deductible. • Enter music conducted into your Works Conducted database with place and date ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 • Make a few mental notes about what you would do differently at your next guest gig. • Given all factors. • Singers are the focus. Let students change into performance attire. The Performance • Let it ﬂow. Summer 2002) It is 10:30 p. and moving church rehearsal schedules. and I just got home from my Sunday evening adventure with the community choir I have been conducting for 17 years.
These individuals offer insights you may have never thought of.They can beneﬁt from the choral experience. When I began years ago. I have learned a great deal about why groups such as ours exist and how powerful they can be in moving people to their highest good. similar memory deadlines with all the pressure that entails. Board members must embrace their leadership responsibility. All of these ideas/suppositions. We regularly have nearly a full house at every concert. insights which can help shape your next season or the next decade with your community choir. • Concerts and events with other arts groups and nonproﬁt organizations are of beneﬁt to all. I am continually reminded of how unique my relationship with these ﬁne people is and how working with them remains quite challenging in many areas. When was the last time you had everyone at a rehearsal. • The make-up of the board of directors of a community choir must reﬂect the many facets of the community. I am sure many of you have similar proud stories telling of your successes with the community choirs you direct. things that make a difference even if they don’t really understand them. I thought we were making progress. • Nothing is impossible if you have a clear purpose and a good work ethic. • Rehearsal schedules at best are inadequate.acda. I quickly realized I wasn’t responding to the needs and desires of our community within the chorale or the larger community in which we lived. Best wishes on the journey! www.ChorTeach page 9 $80. • People connect to individuals. • Educating the public about why choral music is important takes time and creativity.org/publications . However. So I decided to take a fresh look at the special ways we could relate to one another and to develop a mission based not only about being the best choir we could be. • People want to support good ideas and activities. In today's environment of budget cuts. We. at worst deplorable. but also by helping build the community of Appleton into something it couldn’t be without us. and many more. • Building a community that sings and appreciates good singing can change lives.000 a year since I ﬁrst arrived. The literature was challenging and interesting—at least to me. • A ﬁne business manager is worth more than the conductor in so many ways. It is worth your time to schedule extra planning with people outside of the music profession. The members of your choir have hundreds of connections that can be beneﬁcial both to the choir and to the entire community. ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 • Consensus building requires an understanding of how ownership of the choir must be shared in various ways and that every person's opinion has value. now work together based on the following assumptions: • A community choir does not necessarily want to be a great high school or college choir. educating people is vital. all healthy and singing? • There are a number of people throughout the community who have never heard nor sung in a choral group. I must confess I ran the choir just like my ensemble at school: same type of repertoire. have helped mold our choir's mission for this season. Those actions were truly important in what happened to us in terms of growth and why we have a healthy and dynamic relationship with our community now. the singers and I.
two outcomes are essential: (1) Each person involved should come away from the collaboration with a sense of having had a glimpse of life and the world different from his/her own. they have become experts on that culture for persons who haven’t had that personal experience. they have genuinely come to know another culture. Awareness of our profound ignorance. it can also seduce us into thinking our emails. arranging these collaborations can require a much greater degree of patience. More importantly. enhance face-to-face interaction. even at times. Some suggestions are directly related to travel abroad. In many ways. But this can also lead participants to believe that through such an experience.acda. it is important to be clear about what will determine whether or not a collaborative project is successful.org/publications I’m sure most choral directors would agree that among the most satisfying music-making ventures they have experienced has been sharing concerts with other choirs and conductors. However.ChorTeach page 10 Transformative Collaborations with other Choirs by Thomas Lloyd Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges Philadelphia.2 With this in mind. worse yet. but many can be applied to local collaborations as well. (2) Each person gains a sense of the otherness of that new perspective but with a clearer sense of the common traits all people share and a deeper sense of what it means to be human. In the case of community choirs. is the beginning of genuine learning. or. (2) When sharing your experience with others after you return home—another challenge in itself. The experience of sharing music-making with people from an unfamiliar culture can be truly transformational in a relatively short period of time. planning a combined tour with ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 . Pennsylvania (Reprinted with permission of Eastern Division's Troubadour. persistence. you must understand the limits of your exposure and speak speciﬁcally of your www. Of course there are dangers lurking in these hopes and expectations. I offer two cautionary ideas which should be made known and emphasized to your singers at the beginning of your project: (1) The point of interacting with people in an unfamiliar culture is not to acquire or possess cultural experience like a souvenir or a trophy but to become fully aware of how much we don’t know about the world or a particular culture. which is actually quite hard to admit for some of us. To begin with. where it can be more difﬁcult for singers to participate for ﬁnancial reasons or because of work and family obligations. including insights that can come from seeing ourselves as others see us. but the web also allows us to self-select content that reinforces our personal perspectives and prejudices. and tweets give us the same feedback as the multi-dimensional experience of face-to-face interaction. and even humility than we normally have to summon when we work within the familiar conﬁnes of our own programs. while communication via the web can enable and. texts. dangers which need to be addressed head on before collaboration begins. the internet has made it easier to connect with others from around the world. Music provides a unique and powerful tool for enabling personal contact between groups of people who otherwise might never encounter each other in person—or know what to say to each other if they did! This article will outline brieﬂy some of the important ingredients for successful collaborations based on my personal experiences. Recent studies conﬁrm what many cultural leaders have long known. April 2011) another community choir in your area can bring many of the beneﬁts of collaboration close to home with those of encountering people in an unfamiliar culture abroad. ﬂexibility. Collaborations with other choirs can transform people’s lives. Choral collaborations enable us to cross cultural barriers that often separate us from people who see the world from perspectives other than our own.1 One of the most effective ways to overcome prejudice and misunderstanding is through personal contact between people from different cultures. For me. I believe.
“I recently sang with my choir in Turkey. Many countries maintain local cultural organizations in American urban or university areas. The United States continues to be a nation of immigrants. an active college alumnus. seek out cultures with a vibrant indigenous choral tradition where choirs of your peers (students or community members) are active and available at the time of year you will be traveling. . one of our singers had grown up there. Many directors feel it is important to visit the country and all the prospective venues and hotels in advance of a tour. primarily about tropical disease and foodborn illnesses for which everyone was required to get the necessary vaccinations. These non-singing students loved being part of the tour experience. ask your company who that person will be and inquire about her/ his track record. however. any company. avoid the temptation to say. the parent of a foreign student at our school. They were superb advocates back home for what makes collaborative choir tours special. arranging for and promoting concerts. .acda. large or small. . That information plus good references from choirs who have travelled to the country with that particular local tour coordinator are the best way to make an informed judgment. in her opinion…. that is. practice Turkish pronunciation. We learned a great deal from him as he examined his cultural identity both before and after visiting his home country with his American choir friends. Knowing this student provided a reality check against our untested projections of what life in Ghana would be like. My last three college tours have involved other faculty in teaching about new cultures. In addition. a revealing turn-around of American fears that the rest of the world is a scary place. Up front. helping make local arrangements. my college students were treated to a home-cooked. is only as good as its local coordinator in the host country. or a faculty colleague on leave. The most critical personal connection for a collaborative choir tour to another country is the local point-person in that country who must be capable of managing all logistical demands—hotels.. South Africa. This can be especially fruitful in colleges small enough to enable collaborative teaching in preparation for a tour. To make sure the musical component of the collaboration can work effectively. taking time to be sure the source has the experience. In one group conversation about fears of what we might encounter in Ghana. contacts. busses. etc. pot-luck supper offered by the local chapter of the TurkishAmerican Friendship Society. Start by looking within your own choir or community for people from cultures you might want to visit. and then going on the trip as co-leaders and teachers. S. This was an opportunity to try ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 out our Turkish songs. While feeling comfortable with the U.ChorTeach page 10 experience. I have worked directly with managers in the host country. and trustworthiness to make all arrangements has resulted in tours which have been among the most satisfying in all my travel with choirs. time. In an academic setting. While these arrangements require thorough testing of the waters. these faculty have brought along non-singing students with special academic interests in the culture being visited. I www. and Asia—ripe for choral collaborations when our summer is their winter. On several tours.org/publications . Before traveling to Turkey recently.g. tour company representative is important. many countries south of the equator—South America. and so I know that the Turkish people think that. and ask questions about what to expect in modern Turkey. e. This will likely rule out summertime travel to countries in the northern hemisphere. the Ghanaian student mentioned that when he was considering coming to America to attend college. Many regions are home to people from all corners of the globe. friends in Ghana warned him to beware of all the guns on our streets. and one of the Turkish singers I met there said that. When my college choir travelled to Ghana.” Instead..” How does one go about choosing choirs with whom to seek collaboration? Any number of overlapping considerations must be taken into account. not globally. Having a perspective on both their own culture and American culture made the members of this society a wonderful resource both before and after our trip. say something like. choosing a region to visit where a faculty colleague has research interest or familial roots can make student preparation for the exchange much richer. “I recently sang with my choir in Turkey.
Of course. If the tour develops from conductors or choirs with whom you already have a connection. one side or the other takes the initiative. time will pass before your sense of urgency about moving things forward is matched by your colleague. Hearing a foreign choir. Patience You should accept the fact that as the initiator of the collaboration. you can hear many of the sounds. but the beneﬁts are so much greater if the choirs sing at least one piece from each other’s repertoire together. In any relationship.acda. the reason being that “you’ll never sing the music as well as the natives of that culture” or “people want to hear you sing American/Western music. learning music from your host choir’s repertoire has always been taken as a sign of respect.” While both of these statements are somewhat true. I was told not to bother preparing music from the country being visited. persistence. humility. all the better. we certainly will perform it more idiomatically when we return home. be sure you are in direct contact with the collaborating conductors once the initial commitments have been made. under each other’s conductor. Choral music makes that struggle much easier because. rhythms. Struggling to come to terms with the sounds. you must accept a number of responsibilities and practice the following qualities. collaborations will "encourage" you to learn that the rest of the world takes more time to get things organized and to allow for the possibility of spontaneity. and inﬂection via the internet. Flexibility Carefully listen to your colleagues so you understand their particular interest in collaboration. patience. If you are the suitor inviting a colleague to be an equal partner on a tour.ChorTeach page 11 have not done this. While our choirs might not sing the unfamiliar music with much ﬂare before the tour. When contracting with an American tour company. and inﬂections of a foreign language are an essential ingredient in engaging with another culture. Email and Skype make sharing ideas and planning with colleagues much easier even in remote parts of the world. “Dinpa Sen Ahonya” (many regions of Ghana). especially an American one. the most sensitive and important relationships are with conductor colleagues with whom you hope to collaborate. Songs like “Góralu” (Poland). On some occasions. knowing and trusting the people you are working with to make all arrangements is key. internet access is not as fast as in the West nor is it available in many parts of the world. Humility Never miss an opportunity to tell the people with whom you hope to collaborate how grateful you are for their time and consideration. as nice as it might have been if I could have afforded it! Either way. Persistence Know that until the project is completely off the ground. you are the person most responsible for making sure nothing falls through the cracks from beginning to end. Leave enough decisions open so that plans can be adapted to meet their ideal of what a collaboration could include. or “Te Quiero” (Venezuela) ChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 www. singing a host country song with a positive attitude will be received as deeply respectful and often will bring the most heartfelt response of an entire concert. In my experience. I’m glad I never followed that advice. When I ﬁrst began planning collaborative experiences. it may be possible to perform only as separate choirs on the same program. Whether touring close to home or abroad. But whether they are strangers or friends. since they should be better informed than you unless you have substantial experience living in that country.org/publications . If the project was your idea to begin with. you or someone in your organization will need to be the main contact to make sure things get done that must be done. rhythms. and ﬂexibility must be your guides. Many countries have an unofﬁcial but widely known national song which is much less stodgy than a national anthem. This situation is good but still a hard lesson to learn. If you are an academically-trained American conductor to whom many of your singers might refer to as a control freak. in today's world.
and if the singers had not been college students. Edward Said.ChorTeach page 12 invariably bring an especially warm smile to many faces. where a group of singers shows up in a public place to spontaneously break out in song. We then brieﬂy see the world and ourselves through the eyes of others and feel a renewed sense of our shared humanity. When you involve a signiﬁcant number of people coming together with highly varied backgrounds and expectations. including overnight. When I took our college chamber choir to Poland. How Religion Divides and Unites Us. 1978) www. NOTES 1 2 Robert Putnam and David Campbell. I would have been! But the excitement of sitting next to their peers and singing together after months of anticipation and preparation pushed away any fatigue which came from hours of sitting on planes and busses. Of course it is important to share our music. whether from the Western classical tradition or from America’s greatest contribution to world choral repertoire. is already common in many parts of the world. the African-American spiritual. I feared I was asking for trouble.acda. The current interest and excitement in the United States over "ﬂash mob” sings.org/publications . I knew that our ﬁrst rehearsal with the host choir would be at the end of 24 hours of travel. a group of young people or community choir singers come together to rehearse. (Simon and Schuster. take over a restaurant into the night with singing and dancing. From that moment on. Of course there are bumps along the road to meaningful collaboration with other choirs. nothing can be done without a few things not going as well as expected. What is the most valuable beneﬁt of sharing repertoire? Your choirs must rehearse together! I have been privileged to witness the "electricity" that happens when. the ingredient which allows everyone to let collective and individual guards down for a few memoChorTeach Volume 3 • Issue 4 rable moments. That idea can be a wonderful way to connect with strangers in a public place on your foreign tours. after a period of awkward hellos and eyeing each other from a distance. all kinds of spontaneous sharing occurs for the next several days. Groups sing their favorite pop songs. have discussions together or individually about perceptions of each other’s culture. It is important always to check with your local contacts to make sure the time and the place will be welcomed by those going about their daily business. 2010). Orientalism (Vintage Press. the reward. Humility does play a role here as well. But the singing is always the payoff. all capped off by shared performances for enthusiastic audiences who become instant friends because we are singing with their friends.
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