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Conference Morsel: Middle School Vocal Techniques

(An excerpt from the interest session “Developing Vocal Techniques in the Middle School Choral Rehearsal,” presented by Sandra Howard during the 2014 ACDA Eastern Division Conference)
       The main theme of this session centered on repertoire selection with the consideration of vocal technique requirements for the singer. In addition to other selection criteria, choral directors are urged to program choral literature that address the overall development of the singer in the following areas as suggested by James Jordan’s “Evoking Sound The Choral Warm Up Method, Procedures, Planning and Core Vocal Exercises”: dynamics, crescendo, decrescendo, range extension upward/downward, leaps, legato, and martellato.
       At the start of each rehearsal, choral directors must also provide initial exercises that reinforce technical demands from the repertoire and extract passages to include in the warm up. Through score study, we need to identify primary and secondary technical requirements from the literature in an effort to build a balanced and diversified vocal experience in the choral ensemble.
       One of the largest challenges in middle school choral ensembles is for singers to bring the head voice down into the lower range to avoid belting. Many examples of middle school SSA, SAB, and SATB repertoire includes melodic patterns that require upward leaps from the chest register to the head register, which can become problematic for the adolescent singer. By including songs with melodies that descending stepwise in the upper register, we can reinforce singers’ use of the head voice. While we do not want to avoid choosing repertoire that challenges our singers’ production, we need to skillfully choose songs with vocal lines that can support their development in the current stage of the singer.