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Terry Barham, editor
Welcome to ACDAs new e-newsletter 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. The topics presented each issue
will vary, but over time, you can expect to see helpful teaching points in articles which address vocal
pedagogy, choral techniques, vocalises for various age singers, boys voices, girls voices, choral literature,
special needs singers, classroom management, technology resources, and much more.
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.
Do you have a favorite article from a previous state newsletter you would like to share with col-
leagues from around the world? Scan it. Email it to me (Word format only). Ill look it over. Be sure
to include the following information: state newsletter title, volume and issue number, year, title of the
article, author of the article, your name and email address. Articles chosen for inclusion in ChorTeach
can be reprinted only with permission of the parent state newsletter.
Whats in this issue?
1) Repertoire Search Strategies,
2) The Vocal Edge,
3) Where the Wild Things AreTeaching Middle School Boys Choirs, and,
4) The Collaborative Rehearsal
Let me know what you think.
ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
Repertoire Search Strategies
James D. Niblock
(Reprinted with permission from New York states Choral Cues, Winter 2008)
s another concert sea son begins, many cho-
ral directors breathe a sigh of relief, having
nally tracked down the music they will need
to keep their choirs think ing, learning, and
singing for a few more months. It is the rst step in the
cycle that many of us follow -- program, practice, perform.
Among these three phases, program ming is uniquely soli-
tary. It is undertaken in the ab sence of performers. There
is no real-time feed back by which one might gauge success
or choose to make adjustments. Selecting music can be
tiresome and frustrating as lead time evaporates. The path
to a perfect program order is paved with purchase or ders
and littered with back orders.
Still, the nagging question resurfaces time and again:
Where will I nd repertoire that will lead to a wonderful
experience for my singers and a polished performance for
our audi ence? Those of us who direct a mens or womens
choir have become especially adept at bemoaning the
lack of repertoire appropriate to the number, skill level, or
intellectual capacity of our singers. The truth is, the music
is out there, but we have to nd it. Here are a few clues
to help you keep your sanity while you search.
1) Do not let yourself get locked into one mode of
procuring music. You wouldnt assume that your choir
could thrive indenitely on the music of one composer,
would you? Would you think that one publisher could ll
all your present and future needs? No. So why count on
one catalog, one conven tion, or one distributor to ll every
void? Branch out!
There are many ways to obtain quality music. You may
never explore all possible paths, but dont get locked into
any one for all of your music needs. If you peruse a single
catalog from a single distributor and call it a day, you and
your singers will miss out on some great possibilities. Look
at samples, go through catalogs, shop online, listen to re-
cordings, trade with colleagues, and read repertoire lists.
2) Remember your favorite composer(s). Its not good
to as sume that they havent written anything your choir
can sing. At this past years national ACDA convention in
Miami, attendees were treated to a performance of A Sea
Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams. While few directors
will be putting that into the folders any time soon, some
might be wondering What did Vaughan Williams write for
my choir? Dig up a list of his works and you might nd
the answer. Its easier said than done.
If you have access to the New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians in print or on line, look through the listed
works by your favorite composers. If you are not able to
access this particu lar resource, use other online indices.
For example, a Google search will reveal the online home
of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, complete with lists
of compositions, arrangements, and the voicing for each
3) Figure out who arranges well for your type of choir.
Look past the trendiest names, set aside your style prefer-
ences, and consider the craftsmanship involved in a few
pieces that have worked well for you in the past. This might
give you clues about what fosters interest, singability, and
Be pragmatic. Narrow the eld based on the ability level
and voic ing of your ensemble. If the alto parts are too low
ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
or the tenor parts are too high in the rst four selec tions
you peruse from one composer, there is a good chance
this person is not arranging with a choir like yours in mind.
As a rst year high school teacher, I was asked by one
of my male students Why do we keep singing pieces
that are arranged by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker? My
reply was simple Theyre the best at what they do, and I
want you guys to have the best. He thought I was being
smug. The pieces had only one thing in common--great
arranging for a TTBB chorus.
4) When you come upon a piece that works well for
your choir, nd out if it has a cousin. Pieces are often pub-
lished in series, but how often do you follow up to see
whether or not another piece from that series is equally
appropriate for another day? A series specic to one
voicing can be especially helpful in nurturing a edgling
Read the listed works on the backs of octavos youve
enjoyed to look for other possibilities. Perhaps a favorite
tune or poet will jump out at you. This can be espe-
cially helpful if you program thematically. Titles may reveal
enough to pique your curiosity. Order a copy and take
a look.
5) Long before all else fails, look online. You may not nd
the most comprehensive or scholarly sources available,
but youll certainly nd something! Use web sites to dis-
cover new titles. Once you know a piece exists, youre a
whole lot closer to getting your hands on it. Here are just
a few starting points: - look for concert programs, repertoire
lists, library databases - lists of works, external links - public domain scores, MIDI les - repertoire lists and forums,
links to sheet music retailers - nd octavo numbers or see
if a piece is still in print - repertoire resources by area; an
especially ne list for women's voices.
Intercollegiate Men's Choruses - concert programs,
reading session lists
publisher's web sites - peruse catalogs, listen to
samples, sort by voicing
composer's web sites - sound clips, arrangements for
alternate voicings
Edifying, beautiful, fullling music is available for every
ensemble. Spend time refreshing your memory as to
where you might nd what ts your situation. The best
chance for a great experience arises from the most ap-
propriate repertoire for your group.
The Vocal Edge
Leanne Freeman-Miller
(Reprinted with permission from Kansas Choral Range, Spring 2002)
n a September, 2001, column in the Iowa Sound-
ing Board entitled Knowledge is Power : A Choral
Directors Responsibility, Dina Else and Leanne
Free man-Miller raised pedagogical issues facing
choral directors as they train students in singing. The
thoughts of Ms. Freeman-Miller, summarized here, might
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ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
be con sidered third hand, since they are the com-
ments of Richard Miller, the famous vocal pedagogue
from Oberlin Conser vator y.
Having recently returned from attending a weeklong
workshop in Chicago conducted by internationally re-
nowned vocal peda gogue Richard Miller, I feel a renewed
sense of obligation and pas sion to be certain that all of us
dealing with voices are operat ing with correct informa-
tion. Fortunately, we live in an age of expanding, amazing
technology which enables voice scientists and pedagogues
to study the voice in a new, scientically-based manner.
These new techniques are taking much of the guesswork
out of voice instruction. What is and isnt healthy, proper
vocal technique is clearer than ever before.
The last century produced myriad vocal techniques,
and each of them had proponents who were certain
that they have their nger on the right way to sing. I
cant tell you how important these new technological
advances are, nor stress enough just how important it is
for us to educate ourselves on the new information pro-
duced by the advances. Richard Miller, known throughout
Europe and America for his master classes in systematic
vocal technique and artistic interpretation, has taught or
undertaken vocal research in 37 states and 13 European
countries. He has written several textbooks which serve
as standard studio pedagogical texts. The information he
provides in lectures and demonstration videos is based
on his research and concrete scientic evidence. Thus,
one cannot argue with the ideas he presents. Miller makes
no distinction between what choral directors and voice
teachers should teach and know about the voice. [Miller
points out that] many in the profes sion have been profes-
sional singers and are not schooled in peda gogy. The two
professions (teaching vs. singing) are not identi cal. Those
of us in the teaching end have a responsibility to continu-
ally educate ourselves and make certain we are teaching
with correct information.
Below is a summary of Professor Millers pedagogical
ideas presented in Chicago:
1) Singers should aim for simplicity in vocal pedagogy,
con centrating on what the body does naturally instead
of what we invent. Basic sounds should be natural, not
distorted or manip ulated.
2) Singing is an extension of the speaking voice. Singing is
to speaking as running is to walking. The pedagogy should
be based on the Italian bel canto technique of singing: pure,
bright vowels, the appoggio breathing system (expanded,
quiet chest with abdominal action), exible mouth posture,
supra -glottal resonance (in the head), the importance of
vibrato to an even color and ring in the voice throughout
the range.
3) Miller is opposed to the glottal onset and utilizes
fricative conso nants (h, sh, th, f) in vocal warm-ups.
He stresses that one must remain in the inspiratory
position during singing, neither pushing out nor pulling
in the abdominals. The ideal mouth position is exible,
with the vowel, range and loudness of tone determining
the shape of the mouth. The larynx should be sta ble and
slightly descended. In singing, one should constantly raise
the zygomatic arch (upper cheekbones) to assist with
resonance, vibrancy and pitch. The position of the tongue
should be in contact with the lower front teeth. Vowels
should never lose integrity. Over-modifying them should
be avoid ed. The [i] vowel provides the most space in the
pharynx, while the [u] provides the least.
4) Vibrato is actually a freedom- and relaxing-producing
principle; straight tone singing should be done at a mini-
mum. One should strive for a balance of upper and lower
partials; the dark/light tone is balanced.
The following is a list of information from Richard Miller
which I feel is important to share with singers and choral
Too much drop in the jaw is detrimental. It reduces the
space in the pharynx, increases jaw and throat ten-
sion and interferes with proper tongue placement.
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ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
A dropped jaw has no rela tionship to loudness and
actually interferes with vowel integrity and ring in
the voice.
The singing voice is an extension of the speaking voice. In
speech range, singing is similar to that of the speak-
ing voice with unmodied pure vowel shapes.
The breathing process is a reex. The diaphragm does
not con trol the process but rather responds to it.
When the sternum is high, the ribs are expanded and the
diaphragm is low. When the sternum descends, the
rib cage collapses and the singer is out of breath.
The more one overcrowds the lungs with air (tanks up),
the more exhalation is induced.
Breathing through an [a] position is not necessary to
open the throat and inhale the largest amount of
air. Rather, breathing through a narrower mouth
space and/or the vowel you are preparing to sing
reduces tension and the likelihood of taking in too
much air.
Relax on inhalation; do not hold the breath; immedi ately
exhale. Inhalation/exhalation is circular.
Upper teeth should show in singing. Covering the teeth
low ers the velum (soft palate) and the upper par-
tials are lost.
The [i] vowel provides the most formants and ring in
the tone.
One should not sing all vowels through an [a] mouth
shape, but rather shape the mouth to keep the
integrity of each vow el.
In summary, it is our responsibility to the profession to
educate ourselves and teach the proper information to
our students, be they choristers or vocal soloists.
I predict that scientists and pedagogues will continue to
provide us with even more accurate information.
Books by Richard Miller

National Schools of Singing Revisited. Scarecrow Press.
The Structure of Singing, Schirmer Books
Training Tenor Voices, Schirmer Books
Training Soprano Voices, Schirmer Books
On the Art of Singing, Oxford University Press.
Where the Wild Things Are
Teaching Middle School Boys Choirs
Mary Jane Phillips
(Reprinted with permission from Texas Sings, Winter 2007)
h, the joys of being female and teaching
middle school boys! The challenges are
enormous, and, sometimes, the rewards
are difcult to recognize. Ive been teach-
ing middle school boys for 18 years now, and there are
days when I want to pull my hair out. Im in a new school
this year, and the seventh and eighth grade boys choir I
inherited is, to say the least, challenging; however, some of
the greatest joys in my teaching career have come from
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ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
those wiggly, loud, squirmy male creatures.
When you manage to get middle school boys singing
well and on your side, they are the most loyal people on
earth. Several times in the past few years I have been
stopped at the mall or in a grocery store by a tall, hand-
some young man who said, Ms. Phillips (or Ms. Self - my
maiden name), do you remember me? Lo and behold,
that handsome young man was once a hyperactive sev-
enth-grade tenor on the rst row.
Those young men take great pleasure in telling me
about their adult lives and the things they have accom-
plished. Its wonderful to see them grow into responsible
adults, espe cially those for whom responsible adulthood
seemed like a remote possibility when they were attend-
ing middle school! It was such a thrill to see many of my
former students give an amazing concert at last years
Birdville HS Chorale performance at the Texas Music
Educators Association conference. If you had told me a
few of those boys would have ever performed at TMEA,
I would have fallen out of my seat laughing. One of them
even came up to me just before the concert and apolo-
gized for all of his bad behavior in middle school!
Many things must be considered when teaching middle
school boys, especially if you are female. The rst is getting
the boys on board with singing in the choir. Weve all had
to ght the choir is girly stereotype. One way to coun-
teract it is by being sure you never embarrass the boys
onstage. Boys 11-14 years of age are incredibly observant
music critics. They can sniff out trite music quickly. Theyll
call it stupid, but trite is what they mean.
Dont choose a 2006 song arranged in a 1950s style.
Instead, pick songs from that era--Rock Around the Clock
or All Shook Up. Middle school boys also, as a rule, hate
novelty songs. Instead, nd funny folk songs, e.g., I Wish I
Was Single Again or Thats Where My Money Goes from
the UIL Prescribed Music List. In all of my concerts, I
make sure the boys have one showcase number thats
funny or exciting. Doing so makes choir cool. The boys
respond positively and take pride in their membership in
the choir.
Next, you have to manage/control them. Thats much
easier said than done. Ask anyone who has taught middle
school choir for a while, and they can tell you hilarious
stories about the day discipline fell apart in the non-varsity
boys class. It happens to all of us, whether weve been
teaching for two years or 20. It helps you cope if you ac-
cept the fact that boys simply learn louder than girls. The
other thing you must accept is how much boys need to
physically move during a rehearsal.
Take their nervous energy and put it to good use by hav-
ing different standing formations. In my classes, we warm
up in one or two places, and then move to another to sight
read. When we rehearse literature, we have one location
for two-part music and another for three-part singing.
Moving to a different place four to ve times during each
class period will make a big difference.
Teacher demeanor is truly important. Anyone who has
taught middle school choir for very long has probably
wanted to scream at certain times, but its not produc-
tive. Adolescent boys love to try to goad you into yelling
because it means they have won. Getting silent often
works well. When my boys get rowdy or wont listen, I say
Ill just wait for ... in a stern tone of voice and then say
nothing until they calm down. It works for me.
Next, talk less and sing more. I believe all students,
especially adolescent boys, learn more by doing than by
Another ingredient in managing middle school boys
is your consistency and rmness. The rules and conse-
quences cannot vary from day to day. Find a plan and stick
with it. While being rm, you must be compas sionate and
fair. If your best boy has an uncharacteristic outburst one
day, nd out what caused it before you react. Remember,
fairness is not about everyone getting the same treatment.
Its when each guy gets what he needs.
I have a theory that in every young tenor-bass choir,
there is one boy who is a catalyst. Almost everything hap-
pening in the room revolves around this child. This can be
a good thing. If the catalyst is president of National Junior
Honor Society, rst chair all-region bass and an altar boy
at church, everything rolls along quite nicely. Unfortunately,
some of the timewell, okay, most of the time--the cata-
lyst is not a joy to teach.
The class clown is often a catalyst who is looked up to
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ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
by his peers. The other boys cant wait to see what this kid
will do next! Step one is to identify him. If it seems like the
entire class is a nightmare, look more carefully. Find the
boy who is in the middle of everything that goes right or
wrong. Theres your catalyst. First, try to get him on your
side. Praise anything he does that is right. Give him extra
responsibilities like checking roll or taking something to
the ofce. If positive reinforcement does not work, then
quickly change tactics. Be sure to discipline him, and only
him, the moment trouble starts. Blanket discipline of an
entire section or class creates anger and even rebellion.
The catalyst must under stand you mean business. I have
a current student who ts this mold perfectly. He is the
ultimate class clown and the best bass in the eighth grade.
A combination of positive and negative reinforcement has
signicantly changed his behavior for the better. Because
he is such a good singer, I often use him as a model for the
other boys and encourage him to try out for solosposi-
tive reinforcement. He also knows he gets no warnings
or conferences with me when he messes up because
of his past behavior. Its one strike and hes out to do a
written assignment in isolationnegative reinforcement.
The combination has changed his classroom behavior to
a manageable level most of the time.
Finding appropriate literature is another important as-
pect of teaching boys. Before you can choose literature,
you need to hear each boy individually so you can deter-
mine his range and voice part. I classify boys using John
Cookseys voice classication system. When adolescent
boys are placed on the incorrect voice part, both vocal
and discipline problems can arise out of their frustration.
Its not enough to listen to boys individually once a year.
Voices change all of the time. I listen to my boys one-on-
one after each concert and then re- voice the choir before
we start new music.
Once you have your guys singing the correct voice part,
you must be sure you have quality literature or them.
Start with the Prescribed Music List, and then branch out.
Go to music retailers websites and browse through the
TB, TTB, TBB, and TTBB selections. Ask long-time middle
school teachers for their favorites. Listen to every publish-
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ers CD that comes to your mailbox. You can nd a gem.
Teaching proper vocal technique to boys with changing
voices is critical. It begins with singing in falsetto everyday.
Yes, theyll giggle at rst when they hear their high voices,
but all good male vocal technique is linked to the proper
use of falsetto, I believe. Theyll eventually get used to it.
They cant create a good tone, a healthy tone, if they
dont know what it sounds like, so let them hear record-
ings of boys and mens choirs.
To keep an ever changing supply of good examples of
male singing available, I buy two or three new record-
ings at every convention I attend. Play the recordings as
the boys enter and exit your room every day. If you are
female, bring in a male colleague to model proper vocal
technique. The greatest female choir director in the world
cannot model, exactly, the sound she wants the boys to
make, so have a male colleagues demonstrate and sing
with your boys. Of course, return the favor by singing with
his female students.
Finally, you must be vitally interested in boys lives outside
of choir. Pay attention to things they love. If you dont al-
ready own a copy of the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, rent
it. Youll understand twice as many of your boys jokes once
youve seen that movie.
Celebrate boys gooness. There is nothing funnier in the
world than a middle school boy. Even if you can hardly
stand it, listen to some of the music boys like. Tune in to
one of their favorite radio stations or MTV for 10 minutes
a week. Being able to throw out a popular rappers name
in class will score big points with your boys. Go to their
athletic events. They may never thank you, but they will al-
ways remember the day their busy choir director showed
up to see them do what they love sports!
Try the ideas above. They work for me. Ill bet they
will work for you too.
ChorTeach Volume 1 Issue 1 Fall 2008
The Collaborative Rehearsal
Jason Heald
(Reprinted with permission from Oregons Choral Focus, March 2008)
eslie Guelker-Cone presented several sessions
at the 2007 Oregon ACDA Summer Work-
shop on the collaborative rehearsal, a concept
in which directors encourage choristers to
provide input during rehearsals. That is the opposite of
the traditional authoritarian conductors approach when
working with his submissive singers. Although the response
of those in attendance was a mix of enthusiasm and skepti-
cism, most agreed that some chorister feedback during a
rehearsal is desirable.
As educators, it is our responsibility to train new gen-
erations of musicians. That training should include the de-
velopment of conducting skills. Every chorister should be
encouraged to think like a conductor, develop a critical ear,
musical taste, and communication skills which will assist the
other musicians in achieving the ensembles musical goals.
By de-mystifying the role of the conductor, choristers can
gain a broader understanding of the rehearsal process.
Here are three simple concepts for choral conductors,
concepts which may be useful in preparing choir members
for the collaborative rehearsal and for helping singers be-
come effective conductors and skilled musicians.
1) Think out loud. Avoid simply barking out instruc-
tions. Explain what you, the conductor, are hearing, what
you would like to change, and the objective you hope to
achieve. Move beyond the what and explain the why.
2) Use A-B demonstration. Have the choir execute
the same passage using two (or more) different techniques
or interpretations. Let the choir be the judge as to which
is better or more appropriate. If the choir is invested in
musical decisions, it will be more diligent about executing
the various choices. Truly, a picture--a sound--is worth a
thousand words.
3) Be transparent. Let your choir know what you are
thinking. We are often quick to point out musical sections
where improvement is warranted, but it is equally impor-
tant to show approval when the choir performs a passage
in a musically satisfying manner. Conductor mystique is
over-rated. A conductors every gesture should have a
clear purpose, one which members of the choir under-
stand and can incorporate into their own bag of tricks.
Singers are great mimics and, consciously or uncon-
sciously, reect our behavior as directors. Watching choris-
ters apply our rehearsal strategies and techniques can be
rewarding and, occasionally, supremely embarrassing. Not
only should we pursue excellence in choral performance,
but we must also be mindful of our inuence as role
models. The collaborative rehearsal provides an excellent
opportunity for choristers to exercise their musicianship
skills and for conductors to witness their inuence on the
ChorTeach page 7