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ChorTeach Vol. 3, No. 2 Winter 2011 Practical Teaching Ideas for Todays Music Educator Dr.

Terry Barham, editor tbarham@emporia.edu

Welcome to ACDAs 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 ChorTeachs 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. Whats in this issue? 1) Helping Corey Match Pitch, Catharine Melhorn, South Hadley, MA 2) Church Musicians and Inclusive Language: A Beginning Andy Call, Cleveland, OH 3) First Things First in Early Choir Rehearsals: Classroom Procedures that Get Results Jason Sickel, Louisburg, KS 4) What Do You Teach?. . . I Teach Kids! Kathrine Kouns, Phoenix, AZ 5) A Broader View of Today's Choral Curriculum in Today's World Alan J. Gumm, Mount Pleasant, MI

our chorus songs and experiment with different kinds of vocal productionwhispering, shouting, singing, etc.

Helping Corey Match Pitch


by

Catharine Melhorn, South Hadley Children's Chorus South Hadley, Massachusetts


(Reprinted with permission of Eastern Division's Troubadour, Vol XVI, No. III, April 2008)

4) With our singing voice we can create pitches, sounds that belong to a spectrum from low to high. We look closely at the piano keyboard. Corey seems to already know about middle C and which end of the keyboard is low and which is high.We take turns singing a pitch, any pitch, but a different one each time. This is difcult for Corey, who sometimes gets stuck repeating the same pitch. We nd each pitch on the keyboard. We talk about pitches in our range and out of our range. 5) Using two hand puppets, a king and a woodsman, I ask Corey to tell me when the king sings a pitch higher than the woodsman, or lower than the woodsman, or just the same. Corey is 100% accurate! 6) I sing so-mi to Corey and ask him to be my echo. I rst sing the pattern on yoo-hoo then change to the words, so-mi." Changing the so pitch, I use the falling minor 3rd to sing questions and ask Corey to echo an answer. Examples: Do you like snow? Do you like to stay up late? Do you like dinosaurs? Name a dinosaur. Do you like to clean your room at home? Does your baby brother cry? Whats your favorite food? Corey is thinking more about his answers than matching pitch. The matching is instinctive and mostly accurate. 7) We try matching sustained single pitches. First Corey sings a pitch and I match himor I dont, on purpose. Does he hear when were matching? If so, I touch index ngers, or when Im off the target, my ngers dont touch. Yes, he knows when were in synch and when we're not. Then I sing a pitch and he tries to match me. Hes only about 60% accurate. I have him cup his hand around one of his ears; I sing directly into his ear and his matching greatly improves. 8) We sing Jingle Bells togetherIts the season! He stays on pitch with me pretty well in a low register and is less successful in a higher register, but hes not just droning
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Corey (not his real name) is one of four boys among thirty girls in my unauditioned community childrens chorus. Even after a year in the chorus, Corey cannot reliably match pitch or carry a tune. I often hear his voice droning far below his appropriate part. Handsome and tall for his age (seven), hes just beginning to read words. Hes well-behaved, maybe a little too serious, and speaks with a slight lisp. His mom says he was very slow to begin talkingmaybe this is relevant. In our regular (and weekly) one-hour rehearsal, I cant give Corey the individual attention I believe would make a difference. So I invite him to visit me at home for some informal pitch practice. We sit together at the piano, and, with mom observing, I try several approaches which have proved effective with kids over the years.These techniques are mostly borrowed, though Im sorry I cant recall my exact sources. 1) The light is blinking on the humidity system attached to my piano, so we begin by watering the piano to restore the proper humidity level! Corey is fascinated, and his initial shyness and apprehension disappear. 2 )The human voice is amazing, I say. We can use our voices to imitate sounds in nature: a dog, a cat, a rooster, coyote, train whistle We take turns doing this. I want to get Coreys voice moving. Hes amused and shows a somewhat surprising spark for the dramatic. 3) Using the same words, we can tell our voice to talk, whisper, shout, and sing." We choose a sentence from one of
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on one pitch! I ask Corey to place his hands on my skull while I speak Jingle Bells. Then I sing it. Does he feel any difference? Truthfully, Im not sure he does. Perhaps my own singing voice needs more resonance? 9) I ask Corey to tell me some of things hes learned in our chorus rehearsals about singing well. He amazes me with correct information about posture, quiet shoulders, low breathing, relaxed jaw, and mouth shape. I praise him for knowing so much. 10) I tell Corey that, for many people, learning to match pitch is a process, just like learning to recognize and read words. I encourage him to sing quietly and listen loudly to his Chorus neighbors. Ive deliberately placed Corey between two tolerant, reliable pitch matchers in our ensemble. I tell him he needs to hear, think, then sing." He repeats this mantra several times and promises to remind himself of this advice before each chorus rehearsal. Corey leaves our session a little weary but happy and eager to continue learning to sing well. I notice considerable progress in the next rehearsal with the chorus. Soon after that, we break for the holidays, and when the chorus resumes six weeks later, its clear that Corey needs more pitch practice. I hope we can nd the time for another session because Corey, like all kids, is denitely worth the effort!

Church Musicians and Inclusuve Language: A Beginning


by

Andy Call Westlake United Methodist Church Cleveland, Ohio


(Reprinted with permission of Central Division's Resound, Vol 34, No. I, Fall 2010)

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other is wings. Hodding Carter

That new hymnal destroyed all the great old hymns. Why did they have to take out all of the pronouns? Political correctness is getting out of control! How many of us have heard comments like these? How many of us have made comments like these? I remember worshiping with a Lutheran pastor friend about twelve years ago in her church. The senior pastor had selected He Leadeth Me as the opening hymn for the morning worship. Standing beside me, her voice strong and clear, my pastor friend changed every male pronoun to a female pronoun: She leadeth me, she leadeth me; by her own hand. I was shocked, uncertain, and a little embarrassed. Didnt she know what a spectacle she was making over something that wasnt a big deal? Yes, she did know what a spectacle she was making, and it was a big deal. It took me several years to realize that for many, male pronouns in that hymn sound just as harsh and stinging as my pastor friend's female pronouns sounded to me that day (and, I suspect, to many others as well). There are many reasons to consider gender-inclusive language in our hymns, anthems, and sermons. This column will not attempt to explore those reasons in great theological depth, as it is well beyond the scope of these few paragraphs to do so appropriately; however, I will suggest a few reasons for you to consider inclusive language whenever possible in the literature you select. For the record, Im not crazy about replacing male pronouns with female pronouns. That errs equally on the other side of the gender struggle and does not move us substantively closer to reconciliation or growth. The aforementioned hymn,
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He Leadeth Me, will always present a real problem in that regard. Gender-inclusive language is not the only issue to be explored in this vein. Age, race, sexual identity, economics, and education are additional issues which cannot be addressed adequately in this discussion; however, gender is a starting point which may help increase our alertness to other forms of discrimination in our society. What I am suggesting is not simply to avoid masculine references to God, though that is a good starting point. Most biblical scholars acknowledge that the essence of God transcends gender, and that referring to God in masculine terms is simply a matter of mirroring cultural convention, in most cases, a paternalistic culture. I suggest we seek, whenever possible, to avoid any use of language that either explicitly or implicitly negates the experience of women.Terms such as man, mankind, and brotherhood are a few common examples. Why should we do this? To begin with, hospitality.Whether or not we feel excluded by such terms, we must recognize that there are people who do. In a medium that seeks to communicate meaning through text and song, we should work to convey that meaning in the best way possible. If there are those who miss the message of Sundays anthem because they hear only male-dominated expressions, then I believe we have failed in one of our primary tasks as church musicians. Further, some of the expressions many of us assumed for generations were inclusive actually are not. How many of us were told early on that man referred to humans or that the concept of brotherhood should be understood as being gender neutral? The reality is that these terms were propagated by a society in which men were understood as dominant and powerful while women lled supportive or even subservient roles. If we continue to use terms prevalent in a male-dominated society, even if not intended as harmful, we are participating in a system where women are still relegated to second-class status. We need to be released from an oppressive system that damages the humanity of both the oppressed and the oppressor. The church, of all places, should be a place that seeks to break down oppressive structures in favor of a creation that better reects that of a loving God. As a United Methodist, I
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understand the role of music in worship to be catechetical: we sing our faith. And the faith we sing is the faith we develop and nurture. Regardless of our personal feelings about the debate over genderneutral or gender-inclusive vocabulary, that vocabulary is now a part of the fabric of our language. Once the scales have been lifted from our eyes, we cannot and should not replace them. Simply wishing for the world to be the way it was in the "old days" will not make it so. We cannot and should not ignore calls for justice because they inconvenience us. We must acknowledge and respond, either positively or negatively. Inaction is not a real option. Not to decide is to decide, said Princeton theologian, Harvey Cox. How do we cope with centuries of texts written before a time of gender sensitivity? First, try to avoid pronouns. God created humankind in his image can be replaced with God created humankind in Gods image. Grammatically, this may be a bit awkward, but it reects a more faithful translation of the text than the English language affords with our limited pronouns. Second, consider other adaptations of a text. There are a number of well-crafted adaptations of older texts in modern hymnals that avoid gender-specic pronouns while preserving literary structure and congruency of meaning. Be careful to follow copyright law. It is not permissible to change a copyrighted text without permission. Be judicious in your selection of repertoire. Avoid discriminatory language in your search criteria. It may be overly utopian to suggest that we can totally avoid discrimination in our hymnody and anthem repertoire, but raising our awareness and sensitivity to this important issue will help aid the pursuit of justice for all people, and, in turn, promote high standards.

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First Things First in Early Choir Rehearsals Classroom Procedures That Get Results
by
Jason Sickel, Louisburg High School, Louisburg, Kansas (Reprinted with permission of the author)

We are asking young adolescents and teenage students (perhaps the most social of all creatures) to create controlled sound within specic guidelines and following certain criteria. Students must then repeat this sound but then change, rene, and adapt it to meet certain goals we have set. All of the above take place in a group setting with little or no individual seat work and no down time for the teacher. Given those challenges, the task of teaching in a choral setting can be and often is intimidating, especially for young teachers. Having suffered through sleepless nights and much questioning about what I needed to do to accomplish my goals for rehearsals, I began, over time, to understand how to address the rather harsh realities facing me (and any young choral teacher). Teaching classroom procedures to your singers is a critical part of a positive choral experience. On the surface this idea may appear to be quite elementary, but the fact is that even an 18-year-old high school senior needs to have clear procedures in place. If you are proactive with these ideas from the rst minute of the rst day of classes, you will be less reactive in the coming weeks and months. And you'll nd yourself accomplishing worthy musical goals in the long run. Questions to ask yourself: 1. How do you want students to enter your choral rehearsal room? If they are out of control, talking loudly or playing with one another when they enter, you can and should demand that they go back into the hall and re-enter in a way that is acceptable. Do this on day one (and two and three) of your school year! Model this procedure. Do not start class until students have it right! Remember that your choir room is your turf, your territory. You are the captain of your ship. How students enter your room is directly linked, I believe, to how they behave the remainder of the class period.
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It was early morning on my rst day at my rst teaching job after nishing my degree. The music for my choirs had been selected. My scores were analyzed, highlighted, color-coded, and thoroughly marked. The choir room was pristine with neatly decorated bulletin boards, chairs perfectly aligned, and thoughtprovoking posters placed conspicuously on the walls. Syllabi were printed, copied, and ready to be distributed. My lesson plans were prepared. Implementation was going to be easy, even painless. I was in control of everything and the rst day of school in my choir room would be nothing but successful. The bell rang, students entered the room. . . . I was no longer in control! My rst day of teaching and many thereafter were far fromsuccessful, but since that rst day of school seven years ago, I have learned to live by the following oath: well-dened procedures and clear expectations trump everything else! For those of us who are beginning or in the early years of our careers in choral music education, we face a huge, even daunting, challenge. We received our undergraduate degrees and faithfully learned and absorbed content knowledge. In many cases, we taught quite successfully in a controlled and supervised environment during student teaching. But, the minute we stepped into our own choral rehearsals that rst year, we falteredalmost felt likes failuresin our ability to manage our students and our rehearsals. In addition to that challenge, other realities face new choir directors:

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Try to meet students at the door. Greet them by name. 2. Where and how will they sit? Consider using three different "positions" you should practice with your students on the rst day of school: Position 1 Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands to sides, chest lifted, etc. (basic singing posture). Position 1 means absolutely no talking. Being ready to sing is a must. If students talk, have everyone sit down immediately. Start over until you have complete silence. Position 2 Sit on the front edge of your chair, feet at on the oor, chest lifted, etc. Position 2 is also non-talking, singing-ready. Position 3 is the students favorite.They can recline, slouch, lean, or slump in their seats and talk quietly. Rarely should you use this position. 3. How will students get their music/folders? I practice this task with my middle school students because if I dont, they toss, throw, or nd some other way to get their folders into their seats from several feet away. 4. When will they know it is time to start? The less down time, the better. Get into the habit of starting warm-ups as the bell rings. 5. What should students' bodies look like when singing.What is the posture you want to see? You can certainly correct a position that doesnt meet your standard: Maryyour position 1 is only half complete. I want you to stand with a lifted ribcage and your arms at your side. Model exactly what you want to see in your students. When Mary makes the posture correction, be sure to say "thank you."
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6. Will you have different standing/sitting formations for different works in your folder? How will students get from one formation to the other? Have a plan. Practice it. 7. How will students exit your room? Running, pushing, shouting, etc. are student responses that will test you and your authority. None of these actions is acceptable. Demand that students sit down and try again until they exit your room in a quiet and civilized manner. Having clearly dened and specic procedures for students will work, but you also must constantly demonstrate, rehearse, and review these actions over and over again until students get them right. Does this mean you may have to sacrice rehearsal time in the beginning to master these procedures? Yes! What is accomplished by rehearsing and reviewing classroom management procedures sets the tone for a productive and meaningful rehearsal environment. Bypassing this fundamental step will create discipline problems as the semester or year progresses. What about the instances when a student chooses to blatantly ignore the rules or challenges your authority or puts the class or another student in danger? You must have a consequence for this type of behavior. It directly impacts your ability to teach and/or the safety of others.You must know your school's discipline plan and be able to administer a consequence swiftly without showing any emotion. My rst year of teaching was disastrous, in part, because I did not know the school's discipline policy. It was as if I had been "thrown to the wolves. I had no clue what recourse I had if a student misbehaved. Naively, I assumed there would be no serious issues in my choral room! Oh how wrong I was. Do not allow yourself to be thrown to the wolves. Before the school year begins, request a meeting with a vice principal or the administrator in charge of school discipline

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Ask questions about how your school deals with discipline problems: o Do students serve detentions for infractions? o Are there detention slips you need to have in your room? o Are detentions served with you or with another teacher? Where does detention happen? o What is the appropriate consequence for seeing or hearing a cell phone in class? o What is proper protocol for a student who skips your class or is perpetually tardy? o Since choir is an elective, do you, the teacher, have any say in whether a student should be allowed to join your choir or be dropped from your choir? o Is there paper work you should be aware of for serious discipline infractions? Ask other teachers, even those in other subject areas, how they handle various types of misbehavior. Within the rst two weeks of school, contact the parents of students who appear to be vocally talented. Let them know how excited you are to be working with their child. Contact the parents of students who may be "testing" you Let the parents know you are anxious to get to know their son or daughter and to help them become a better singer. This simple, and important, action can lay the groundwork for a change in attitude by the boy or girl and become a strong pillar in your teaching and working with others. As I continue to rene my teaching and learn from my mistakes, I am amazed at how students of all ages both desire and respect a teacher who sets high expectations, has a procedureoriented classroom, and who follows through with appropriate consequences when necessary.
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Students intuitively understand that there is vulnerability involved in singing. Our primary duty and obligation as choral music educators must be to create a structured environment where students can sing both individually and in an ensemble and feel safe and successful. Using specic classroom procedures to your advantage will allow you the opportunity to do what you originally intended teach choral music in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support.

Shoulda, coulda, and woulda, won't get it done. In attacking adversity, only a positive attitude, alertness, and regrouping to basics can launch a comeback. Pat Riley

What Do You Teach? ... I Teach Kids! (Character Education in the Classroom)
by Katherine Kouns Horizon High School, Phoenix, Arizona (Reprinted with permission of Western Division's Tactus, Vol. 31 No. 2, Winter 2006)

It was the nal night of our annual choir retreat. I stared into Peters eyes and couldnt stop the tears which were streaming down my face. He had entered my choir program three years earlier as a gawky freshman who was far too tall for his age. As I stared into his eyes, I thought of that rst concert years before when he couldnt get his cummerbund to stay on his waist. He had no waist. It kept riding up to his rib cage. I thought of Peter starting out in the show choir his sophomore year and never knowing what to do with his nearly
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seven foot wing span. I remember the rst time he was placed somewhere other than the back row and how proud he was. Then my mind ashed to his junior year when his voice really developed and he got accustomed to his body. I thought of how he had made All-State Show Choir that year, attended Show Choir Camps of America in Ohio, and had learned that his height made him the person every girl wanted to be partnered with because she knew she wouldnt be dropped on the lifts. Later he lead sectionals and was Adam in our schools production of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. All of these thoughts made me smile, but when I ashed back to the moment Peter came to me to say he had decided to major in music education and to attend Florida State because there was nothing he would rather do with his life than teach young people to sing and dance, thats when the water-works really began. Each of us teaches at a unique school. Not all of us are blessed with incredible feeder programs or a fresh crop of naturally-talented students each fall. Our idea of success sometimes depends upon how talented our students are or how well they succeed in competition. We can even unknowingly measure our success by our choirs vocal production or its music reading skills. This is being unfair to ourselves since there are far too many variables. If we begin to look at things in a different way, we may nd that no matter how large or small, naturally gifted, or raw our choirs may be, all of us teachers can all feel successful at the end of each school year. Paul Gulsvig, a thirty-year veteran in the profession and former director at Onalaska High School (Wisconsin), is often asked what he does for a living. He usually responds I am a teacher. Of course the follow-up question is What do you teach? Most of us would answer I teach music or Im a choir director, but that is not Pauls answer. He always has the same response: I teach kids! Shouldnt that be the answer for all of us? How easy it is to lose sight of our real purpose. It can be so easy to teach the subject matter, rather than the students. Of course, music is our medium, the conduit for reaching the souls of our students. Isn't that is the goalto reach their souls and help them develop moral character?
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When I began teaching, I felt overwhelmed by the subject matter. I wanted to make just the right conducting gesture, know the correct historical information about each piece, efciently use the rehearsal time each day, and improve my students' sight-reading ability. But that was about it. Dont misunderstand me. Those are honorable goals. I still hope to achieve them. I strive to be better at them daily. When I began teaching, the problem was that I concentrated only on those items. I was too preoccupied and couldn't see the forest, the bigger picture, for the trees. I have learned over the years that I am more satised as a teacher and less resentful of the long hours and low pay when I focus more on developing my students moral character and helping mold them into decent, quality human beings than on how many of them understand and use solfege well. Our school has a fairly large choir programthree hundred students each day, seventy-ve of whom are members of one of the show choirs. The top show choir, in particular, requires great teamwork skills. Its like an athletic team. Students must trust one another and know that they can go to any member of the group and have their backs covered. Each student must take individual responsibility for his/her progress. If even one person drops his or her arm the wrong way or doesnt do a lift properly, not only can there be a poor performance, but such an accident can be a major safety concern for individuals. In the process of encouraging my students to accept one another and work together, I began jotting down goals for each person. I wanted all the singers to be humble performers and to nd a balance between realizing their potential and being condent. Yet they also needed to accept the fact that they might not be the best at everything. For everyone, there is always more to learn. In addition, I wanted to put an end to, or at least reduce, the talking behind backs and rumor mills in my classroom. I wanted it to be a safe place for all kids, not just the choir clique. I wanted to empower my students with leadership skills that would sustain them far beyond high school. Most of all, I wanted the students to leave my program having learned life skills they could use under all conditions, in any college degree program. Much research was undertaken
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on this topic. I read books, surfed web-sites, spoke to youth counselors, and went to workshops. I began implementing a series of activities into my classes throughout the year and have noticed drastic changes in my students over the past few years. The director who preceded me at Horizon High School had already begun taking students on an overnight retreat during the rst quarter. This was a great activity, but it wasnt enough. I moved the retreat to the weekend before school starts each year and made it a threeday excursion. My top concert choir and top show choir, about 100 students, are the only classes who participate in this retreat. We take school busses to a camp in Prescott, Arizona to escape the misery of Phoenix in August. Each year the retreat has a theme that dictates team names, costumes, dance routines, our concert, and even decorations. Weve done everything from Survivor to Out of this World Alien Retreat.Themes, and the activities surrounding them, are established by choir ofcers at a series of summer meetings prior to the big weekend. This past year, the theme was Choir Boot Camp. Camouage t-shirts were made for everyone. Local Army recruiters were contacted for some assistance. When the busses pulled up to the camp, several recruiters climbed aboard, led the kids off in boot camp fashion, had students unload the equipment, and held a push-up contest! They worked with my show choir on uniformity and formations. What an awesome start to the weekend. We continued the retreat with a schedule that balanced rehearsal time, get-to-know-each-other games, choreography for the show choir, solo groups where kids would sing for each other, outdoor activities, silly group games, section team building, and much more. Each year, I hire a clinician to come for the weekend. Its almost always an outstanding music director who is also a motivational speaker and leader. In the show choir, we practice trust exercises so that students begin to accept touching each other in partner dancing and doing tricks and lifts. The retreat's nal activity is one I stole from my predecessor. Its a powerful and emotional activity called Eye To Eye. Students line up in two single les facing one
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another. They hold hands with the person across from them. Atmosphere is everything. Dim the lights; play music that sets the mood; have Kleenex ready; make sure singers are clear about the rules before beginning the music. Each person must look directly into the eyes of his/her partner in the other line for fteen seconds without any talking. After fteen seconds, all rotate to the left and take the hands and look into the eyes of the next person. By the end of the activity, each member of the choir, including the director, has looked into the eyes of every other member of the choir. It sounds simple, but I promise you, it is by far the most emotional, most effective activity we do all year. We did "Eye to Eye" once at our retreat and then again just before graduation. For many of the students, it is the rst real connection they feel with another teenager. See the recommended music list at the end of this article. In addition to this wonderful retreat that kicks off our year and sets the tone, I continue with at least one activity a month in class to maintain all of the new attitudes and thoughts that have been "planted" throughout the year. One of the best resources for ideas was given to me by Paul Gulsvig. Look into a series of books by Tom Jackson called Activities That Teach at www.activelearning.org. I have also visited various youth group and scouting web sites where one can nd other superb ideas for in-class activities. For fun/silly games, go to a site called egadideas.com. As I have continued to use various activities and develop clear standards in my classroom, I have noticed a signicant difference over the years, especially in my show choirs. Students are much better at accepting others who may be "different." They work together much more easily. Singers take ownership of their choir classes and work hard, not because of dedication to me or to the program, but to the art form itself and to each other. Students feel that music is the glue that holds them together, and the most important part is just thatbeing together. Students still make mistakes on stage, but they have a stronger desire to get everything right, not because they want to give a perfect performance, but because the closer the performance is to perfection, the more their audiences are moved.They perform for the right reasona love of music. They sing from the
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heart and have learned and embodied a love for music which will be with them into old age. Some choral teachers may look at the ideas I've presented as things that take away from rehearsal time. All I can say is Youll never know until you try. It has been my experience that for every moment of rehearsal time lost in order to focus on student goals, singers have improved ten-fold in performances and rehearsal discipline. What do we, as teachers, want from this wonderful and demanding profession? We know no one enters teaching, especially choral music education, thinking that she is going to be rich and famous. We enter this profession because we want to make a difference and change lives for the better. We want singers to be passionate about music and art. We want them to be good, caring citizens in this world. I challenge you to look beyond the notes on the page. Analyze your program at the end of the year, and instead of measuring how many awards your choirs have received or how many students from your school made Regional Choir, look carefully at your students. Have they grown into mature, responsible, loving human beings? Do they sing with joy and passion? Do they connect with their audiences because they feel so much emotion while performing? Do your singers treat each other with respect and dignity? Do they accept others without regard for skin color or socioeconomic status? Can they stand on their own two feet and walk across the graduation platform feeling proud of who they are and condent in what they will become? If your answers are yes, you have been successful! Paul Gulsvig, the music educator I referred to above, is retiring this year. His choirs have been outstanding, making beautiful music for three decades. Ill bet he has heard other high school choirs sing better than his and other show choirs who won rst-place trophies when his choir came in second or third. He can recount many stories of performance disasters, missed choreography, and wrong notes. But, I believe very few directors will talk about how in tune his choirs sang or how many choreographed moves his show choirs got just right. I think choir directors, and parents, will talk about the hunChorTeach Volume 3 Issue 2

dreds of lives he has changed over the years through his unconditional love for kids and for music and his ability to see the unique gifts each person under his tutelage possesses. People will talk about how he stayed involved in the lives of his singers. He knows that many kids needs to have help nding themselves, nding something that will help make the world a better place. When I retire in twenty years, I can only hope to leave that kind of legacy. Eye To Eye Song Recommendations Friends Michael W. Smith Scientist Cold Play Good Riddance Green Day Cry On My Shoulder Overow True Colors Cyndi Lauper Youve Got a Friend James Taylor In My Life the Bette Midler version See Me Through Kaitlyn Lusk Superman Five For Fighting For Good From Wicked There Youll Be Faith Hill Ill Stand By You The Pretenders For Just A Moment David Foster Now And Forever Carole King I Will Remember You Sarah McLaughlin Have Little Faith In Me Count On Me Whitney Houston Time After Time Cyndi Lauper Recommended Web-sites www.activelearning.org www.egadideas.com www.home.c.rr.com/oja/caliwyldlife.htm www.shambles.net www.wilderdom.com

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If we look at the path before us, we do not see the sky. We are earth people on a spiritual journey to the stars. Our quest, our earth walk, is to look within, to know who we are, to see that we are connected to all things, that there is no separation, only in the mind. Native American saying

A Broader View of Choral Curriculum in Today's World


by Alan J. Gumm Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
(Reprinted with permission of the Michigan's Bella Voce, 37 (3), 18-19, 2003)

that any work on easy artistic pieces saves time for lengthier rehearsals on more challenging pieces. Across the repertoire, provide a variety of unison-contrapuntal-chordal textures, triple-duple-compound meters, major-minor-modal melodies and harmonies, and historical-ethnic-folk-popular styles. Pose brief questions to solicit students immediate understanding of contrasts between pieces. Employ movement to focus mind and body on pitch, rhythm, phrasing, expression, and other concepts. In block scheduling, plan a variety of activities for your students so that singers suffer less fatigue from too much singing. Shifts and changes in daily routines must be planned. With more traditional schedules, work more efciently; plan your rehearsals carefully so that concepts are laser focused and no time is wasted. In both situations, singers will take more responsibility for what they are learning. Concerts can be showcases for higher levels of artistry. Ensemble Concepts Beyond the music concepts noted above are skills relating to singers as members of an ensemble: how students hear their voices in their personal space plus the voices of their immediate neighbors across their section, other sections, and the unied tone of the choir as a whole. These skills require systematic attention and are important parts of your curriculum. Hearing skills develop ensemble concepts such as blend, balance, intonation, and timbre. The end result should be the conductor and audience hearing no individual while at the same time hearing everyone. Other helpful ensemble concepts include the development of interpersonal relationships required of a successful ensemble: personal responsibility in meeting ensemble goals, collaborative teamwork, and shared leadership. Instead of simply choosing or electing leaders, teach leadership skills as a part of the curriculum. These might include time keeping and attendance plus ideas about encouragement, praise, information seeking, information giving, etc. Choose leaders for special roles that typically take the directors attention away from group musical decisions but within the legal limits of teacher liability, budget accountability, and
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These days, class scheduling practices by administrators often leave choral directors with problems ranging from too much clock time within block scheduling to not enough time in more traditional schedules (ve-period or seven-period days) for covering the many facets of the choral curriculum. Solutions for these issues are found in how we design and shape our curriculum. The following ideas about the structuring of a secondary choral curriculum can be adapted to t any choral director's situation, I believe. How does one productively ll long blocks of time in block schedules or squeeze more into limited rehearsals? Consider the following: Using Repertoire Choice for Teaching Basic Curriculum Concepts To organize a long rehearsal or to economize when faced with limited time, music concepts can be drawn from the repertoire you choose. This is a smart-singer approach in which choir members learn key concepts while meeting short-range performance goals. In any list of concert repertoire, vary the difculty levels so
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student record condentiality. The benet is that rehearsals become more efcient and varied. The conductor can then focus on high priority items such as musical decisions, critical listening, and artistry. Vocal Technique Directors often have as a goal the improvement of singers' vocal technique; however, not so common is the director who considers healthy vocal technique a well-developed part of his or her overall curriculum. This requires the teacher to be systematic and sequential in dividing the categories of vocal technique into their component parts such as posture, breathing, vibrant and focused tone, resonance, projection, unied vowels, consonant articulation, word pronunciation, freedom of articulators, and dynamic stress on important words and syllables. Once taught, these skills can be evaluated and nurtured over time. Students become smart singers. Musicianship A choral curriculum is not complete without a systematic approach to teaching music literacy/musicianship. Choosing a sight singing method and implementing it ve minutes a day in every rehearsalis a win-win situation for everyone. Over time, this practice avoids mindless repetition and spoon feeding by the teacher. Make choices: employ Kodaly hand signs, moveable or xed do, parallel do or relative la minor, and rhythm syllable systems (Ta ti-ti, Du-ta-de-ta,Ta-ka-de-mi). A rule of thumb: any system is better than no system at all! Long-Range Choral Development Beyond a one-concert-at-a-time approach to choral curriculum is the advantage of long-range planning. Even for those choirs whose yearlong membership is interrupted by shifting enrollment issues such as block scheduling, trimesters, or college-prep class conicts, a year-long plan can build sufcient stability to ensure growth of the overall choral program. Yes, a choir develops and grows as it works toward a single
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concert; however, that experience should build upon higher goals and expectations for each succeeding concert throughout the year. Your choir should develop solid reading skills and vocal technique in the fall concert season.This may require the scheduling of fewer pieces for each of your choirs for the rst concert. In the late fall or early winter concert, challenge the higher-level choirs with music requiring broader conceptual understanding and artistry. In late winter or early spring, try planning to peak with festival contest pieces that best suit the developed choir with even greater stylistic integrity and nesse. In late spring, many directors schedule an audienceappeal type concert or a master work; whatever your choice, work to stretch the choirs ability with music that requires exible vocal technique, authentic performance styles, and unique vocal colors. Consider staging the late-spring event with props, script, projected images, and an appropriate artistic theme, all designed in a manner that does not diminish the steady growth in conceptual learning accrued throughout the entire school year. Four-Year Rotation To strengthen a choral program over time, develop a fouryear rotation of the many genre available to you: classical, 20-21st century, avant-garde, folk, world music, vocal jazz, pop, spirituals, gospel, vocal adaptations of instrumental or popular works (a la the Swingle Singers or the Kings Singers), orchestral and other instrumental combinations. Always plan for a mixture of several of these types in any one concert. Schedule a Broadway musical either once a year, every other year, or once in each students career in high school. Involve the entire choir in the musical between your regular concerts, or program it alongside a choral concert and have only advanced students with solid vocal technique participate. Include unusual musical features in a four-year rotation of music: mixed or unusual meters, whole-tone, aleatoric music, electronic, etc. Once every four years, plan to travel and tour regionally, nationally, or internationally with the help of fundraisers. Perform locally in your area outside your school at least once a

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year, regionally or nationally every other year, and internationally once in every singers time in high school. These activities nurture in singers a broader view of people and cultures, a reason to stay in choir over time, and motivation to build on conceptual learning across many semesters of choir. General Music Curriculum in the Choral Rehearsal Listen & Analyze Listening is a critical skill for singers, and yet this activity is often neglected in a teacher's curriculum. As with sight reading skills, implement listening in small doses. Keep it germane to your performance goals by rotating examples of good and poor intonation, solo vocal tone, choral tone, uniform vowels, unied consonant articulation, authentic styles, and pronunciation of languages, etc. Support choral, vocal, and other listening concepts throughimmediate application in the music you are rehearsing and performing. Music History and Theory Use packets, worksheets, or units that present the history and theory of the repertoire, styles, and composers performed. To save time, evaluate students' work through questioning. Take the time to administer, grade, and return quizzes or worksheets. Have students visit free websites such as www. teoria.com (in English and Spanish) to learn about the fundamentals of music, the basics of notation, and interactively work with scales, intervals, key signatures, and triads. Evaluate student understanding through the impact these lessons have on performances.Your goal is to have singers perform with understanding. Creativity Creativity is often missing in our choral performances, I believe. What choral director wants 50 singers creatively doing their own thing in a concert? Aren't choirs about unity not creativity? At least one aspect of creativity can explored with a choir. Try systematically exploring vocal improvisation as a separate
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curricular unit or to prepare for a vocal jazz selection. Also, have small groups apply concepts found in the repertoire by constructing their own compositions on rhythm or barred instruments. Ask singers to turn to another singer and sing their interpretation of a phrase in the repertoire, and then share it with the class. Everyone can then compare these examples to broaden the ensembles attention to expressive possibilities. At the end of this process, the director should be open to choosing one student's interpretation for an upcoming performance or take the best ideas offered by several students. This approach helps students develop condence in their skills and ownership in the choir. Movement Movement is traditionally associated with dance. Whereas square, circle, line, and other cultural dances are sometimes studied in general music classes, movement in choral music is too often thought of as choreography; however, it does not have to be limited to that approach. Because movement is multisensory by nature--providing a link between sound, sight, and touch, it is a helpful tool for learning proper vocal techniques, basic music concepts, emotional response to music, and expressive musical interpretation. Movement methods or approaches you could consider for implementation in a broad-based choral curriculum would include the following: (a) Alexander Technique and its offshoot Body Mapping (Conable 2000, Conable & Conable 2000) for proper functioning during singing, (b) Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (Nelson & Blades-Zeller 2002) for tension release while singing, (c) Dalcroze Eurythmics to help singers be more musically expressive (Caldwell 1995), (d) Laban Movement Analysis to help singers document types of movement (Hibbard 1994, Holt 1992), (e) Lessac Body Wisdom (Lessac, 1997) to guide the kinesthetic senses of relaxation and energy in learning to use the voice, and (f) Cookseys kinesthetic approach to warm-ups and choral rehearsal (Cooksey 1999).

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Health Issues In today's society, helping students understand good and bad health practices is essential. Teachers should provide handouts and focus lessons for dealing with vocal fatigue, hydration needs, performance anxiety, and music practice strategies. Talk with coaches and health professionals. Music classes can and should provide invaluable lessons for students wishing to maintain good mental health also. The Role of Small Ensembles in the Curriculum Single-gender or Mixed Small Ensembles Small ensembles have the advantage of being more portable for performances in the community and for touring. Often these groups consist of elite singers. Their repertoire can be more appealing to general audiences. However, there's a downside: Select group members sometimes are allowed to skip the requirements of the choral curriculum, e. g., concurrently singing in the large concert choir. Establish rules and procedures that keep singers from skipping the large choir experience while waiting to get into the small, select ensemble.The tail must not wag the dog.The small ensemble should not get all the attention. A larger concert choir is a not a second-class citizen in the choral program, school, or community. Letting the small ensemble rule the roost is counterproductive to the overall health of your program. However, superb small ensembles can achieve high levels of performance, be a vital part of your curriculum and an important vehicle for reaching into your community to develop good will and support for the arts. Small Ensembles within Larger Choirs Small ensembles can also be developed within the large choir, either in the spring for festivals or all year to provide variety in each concert. When instituted at the beginning of the school year, small ensembles can learn valuable listening skills, develop mixed standing arrangements, and be successful when spring festival season arrives. Ultimately, the skills of singing in small ensembles will enhance the performances of and learning
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within a large choir. Conclusions Choral directors can strengthen their programs through a serious look at what constitutes a choral curriculum. Nothing should be haphazardly taught nor become so routine as to lose its value in the eyes of the director, students, administration, and community. No single aspect of the choral curriculum should become so important as to diminish other critical components of the total program. Contrary to the notion that a curriculum is a list of dry ideas on a shelf, the choral curriculum should live and breathe and grow with the developing program at any school. A welldened choral curriculum promotes long-range vision as well as moment-to-moment decisions and actions. Above all, the choral curriculum, developed by an informed and enlightened director, helps rather than hinders the development of every singer who steps into a rehearsal. Recommended Reading Caldwell, J.Timothy (1995). Expressive Singing: Dalcroze Eurhythmics for Voice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Conable, Barbara (2000). The Structure and Movement of Breathing: A Primer for Choirs and Choruses. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications. Conable, Barbara, and Benjamin Conable (2000). What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body:The Practical Application of Body Mapping & the Alexander Technique to Making Music. Portland, OR: Andover Press. Cooksey, John (1999). Working With the Adolescent Voice. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. Hibbard, Therees Tkach (1994). The use of movement as an instructional technique in choral rehearsals. DMA, University of Oregon, DA9418994.

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Holt, Michele Menard (1992). The application to conducting and choral rehearsal pedagogy of Laban Effort/Shape and its comparative effect upon style in choral performance. DMA, Music: University of Hartford, DA9214439. Lessac, Arthur (1997). The Use and Training of the Human Voice: A Bio-Dynamic Approach to Vocal Life. Mountain View, CA: McGraw-Hill.

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