Starting a HS choir
Dear Listers, I apologize for taking so long to put this all together. A couple of college classes began the day after school got out, so I've been a little busy.But, that is completed now,so I want to take a minute to thank all of you who have taken time to respond to my cry for help.
The number of responses and shouts of encouragement has been absolutely amazing! I am posting most of them in a pair of compiled lists, as it would not fit on one message. The support that all of you have offered and given convinces me of the importance of what we are beginning at
Hardin High school. I have to tell you that my children thought I'd lost my mind, because every time I checked my e- mail and found more information, I must have been giggling,(possible hysteria)etc. It has been such fun to hear from all of you. To all of you who sent me literature and music samples, I cannot tell you what a valuable resource you have given me to start with. I am an avid reader of the Choralnet now, and
look forward to the answers that you provide to everyone.
Thank You All, Tamara Madl tmadl(a)esc5.net
I really admire your mission! and know that with your conviction, you will
be successful and do a great job for the kids.
I suggest that you join ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) as fast as you can; your Texas branch will most likely have a summer
convention and you will immediately have a network of new resources and friends. Here is the address:
Gene Brooks, Executive Director, ACDA P.O. Box6310
Lawton, OK 73506
I wish I had a phone # for you but I imagine it would be easy to get. There is a lot of quality SAB music out there that would work well for a
choir with not many boys; I have been in that situation before; it's just a
matter of finding songs that fit the range of notes the boys can hit!
I also suggest that you find some music reading sessions sponsored by music companies somewhere nearby (I actually have to drive 200+
miles); that way you can hear them live. JW Pepper Music (jwpepper.com) puts out a kit of
new publications with recordings that is really valuable for choosing music, then playing for your students to get the sound concept across.
They have a nice branch in the Ft. Worth area.
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have!
Jane Vanderhoff Garden City HS Garden City, KS
Good for you. We have complimentary perusal copies of our original music.
We could send you some if we could get your mailing address. You could have a look through and see if any of the pieces suit your choir.
Thanks Andy Duinker Donna Rhodenizer
Red Castle Publishing
You are great to try this! Hope you succeed. If you only have 5 guys, I would highly recommend giving them a vocal evaluation before you decide
what kind of music to pick. If they all have a similar voice range and are strong enough to hold their own part, go for SAB music or SAT music,
depending on what you have. There is a good book with some nice selections for this kind of beginning group. I used some of these with a very
beginning, small private school choir, grades 7-12, and they enjoyed the selections. The book is "Choral Connections, Level 1, Mixed Voices"
published by McGraw-Hill. Perhaps you could get yourself the teacher edition and then order some of the selections individually. Alternatively, maybe you could get parents to donate funds
so you could buy books. However, starting with unison songs in a medium range, and rounds would be a good choice until you see what you have. If the boys are not independent enough to hold their own part (or you don't have at least
one of them to be a leader for their part) you might try two part (SA) music, and add the
boys on the soprano melody an octave down--or create a hybrid part for them
with part melody and part harmony. I also recommend that you assume all the girls are sopranos until proven otherwise--require them to challenge their range by giving them help with
breathing and good vocal production. Too many kids with no experience have never used their head voice and think they can't do it. There is also public domain literature you can find and
download on the internet. Go for variety in your repertoire, giving them both classical
and contemporary, but be sure you love what you give them and won't get tired of it before you finish rehearsing it. They will likely love
anything you do, whether classical or contemporary, especially since you are giving them an opportunity for something that has not been available before. Fine music and excellent arrangements are always easier to teach than junk.
Best wishes, Eloise Porter
Having a choir, especially a beginning one, is a balance of teaching them music and getting them interested. You always play that game, but more so in the first few years. It is important to get the kids excited because they will ultimately be your biggest
recruiters in the long run. I would start with some fairly easy literature, and honestly, since you are just starting this choir from stratch, I would start with quite a few pop pieces. Something to grab their attention. Mix in a few "legit" pieces as you go along, but keep it fairly simple upfront. As far as a day to day basis, I would use your warmup at the beginning to let them know that class is starting. Many choir directors then take the 10 min after warm-ups to work on sight-singing/theory. There
are many good sightsing books available. While this will almost always be the student's least favorite part of class, remind them that this is what will make them better musicians: These excercises. Give them some way to see for themselves how far they come with
the lessons. After this, since your choir will probably be fairly inexperienced, I would try to have sectionals in the beginning. Having the accompanist (or a student leader) take the women, while you take the men or however works best for you. I think the most important part of keeping a choir together and organized is having a routine. If they know whats coming, they will behave better for you. In addition, hold them accountable. They are going to be adults soon, so they need to realize that it is their responsibility to do the work for the class....
not the teacher's. I think one mistake I have seen a lot of beginning choirs make is forgetting to teach performance etiquette. How to act at a concert. This is easiest to learn if it is taught from day one. Practice it like your gonna perform it. Well, that is a bunch of random info I could think of off the top of my head. Let me know if you have any specific questions. i would be glad to help.
Hey, thats great, first things first, even for looking at music. get them singing anything, the star spangled banner, america the beautiful, twinkle, twinkle little star, anything they can sing together just to get them singing. You might also want to work on tuning. Give them middle C and let them hum and work on a unified sound. If
they can sing a unified sound then you can work at if by breaking them up into to more and more parts and since you have 45 kids its would be more balanced if you did SSAB music, to divide your girls up so the 5 guys can be heard. SAB music inst good for high school choirs as its either
too high or too low for the guys. But you can find many 2 part pieces that are wonderful on cpdl.org. THEY ARE FREE! Good luck and have fun!
Hi, I was in exactly where you are 4 years ago. I taught English in a 9-school high school district. One of the schools had no choir. I thought it was a travesty and set out to change it. Now I have three classes of choir and sent 7 students to regionals this year. It is
really beginning to gel. What would I do differently? I would "ride the horse in the direction it is going and then try to gradually redirect it." In other words, I would sing stuff the kids want to sing and throw in classical and traditional pieces gradually. When they hear the vast potential they
have with proper training, they are usually hooked to good singing. sight reading is essential. I would do it in tiny pieces as bellwork everyday. Put lines of music - 4-8 measures a day - and point to each note to make sure they are
all with you. And don't assume they know anything about music. some probably don't even know what choral music looks like, they just like to
sing. One girl told me this year' "I don't count, I just
want to sing." It is rewarding and frustrating at the same time. I wouldn't trade it for
anything in the world. Good luck, feel free to email me if I can help you in any way.
You will need prayers. Good luck.
Get the video tape by Charlotte Adams, "Building Voices" (can't remember the exact title.) JW Pepper or other choral music outlets will have it. Take one exercise every two days and teach them to the kids. They are very good and practical. Start quality, easy, unison, or two part music. Italian art songs are great teaching pieces. Other solo music works well. Mix in some pop, musical, or other fun tunes but don't fall into the trap of only doing schlock music.
The kids will appreciate the quality music. Start with easy stuff so they can feel success then once you have estimated their skills you can move to multi part things and other more difficult music.
Go to BriLee Music. They have a website. The specialize in music for schools. It is good quality and graded so you can easily determine what may work for your group. Get your girls to bring in boys. Bribe them with cokes or pizza or whatever you have to. Adversize in the announcements, put up flyers, but the best is to get your existing people to bring in their friends. Determine what you are weakest at as a choir teacher and get some help. If you don't know literature, find someone close to you who knows it well and get suggestions. If you are not good at vocal technique, pay a local voice teacher
to come in once a week to teach voice. Definitely get an accompanist or find a student who can play.
If you have more specific questions I would be glad to respond.
Greg Lapp Centennial HS Bakersfield, CA
I am in Waco. As far as texts are concerned, most of us have the old text ""Something New to Sing about. " If you can't find them, I have enough to get you going and could send them over the summer. Let me know. Your on the right
track with piano, accompanist and risers. Get a good stereo and you can buy accomp tracks for demos for your singers. Get one with a CD burner in it. With inexperienced singers, they are a God send. Get some help. Gaylene Kelley at Brenham High is the TMEA Vocal Chair in Region 9. Mike Ware at the Woodlands High School is TMEA President. They can help you alot. Call them. Go
to TMEA.org and look them up. Also check your region etc. You should talk to your administrators about sending you to TCDA convention in San Antonio July 29-Aug 1. If you go and want me to, I can meet with you there and help you myself. Good luck with it and welcome to Texas Choral Music!
Earl Presley Dir. of Choral Activities
La Vega ISD Waco, TX
>This is Warren Avery, my wife is Linda Spevacek. We would like to offer a couple of items. First if you will send us your address we will put some
>SSA and SATB music in the mail to start you library. Second, I would like to suggest ordering Linda's new video 'The Choral Director
as Voice Teacher'. JW Pepper has called this video a 'seminar in a box' and a 'home
>run' from their standpoint. The video can be ordered from us directly, JW
>Pepper or your favorite music source. We taped one of Linda's seminars for
>choral teachers and edited the video to be of help for new and experienced >choral teachers. On Linda's web site on the left is the 'Video' area,
click >on this and the next page has two 30 second clips that give you an idea of >her style,delivery and content. > >We wish you good luck and look forward to hearing how the year went.
> >Linda Spevacek
I just noticed the correspondence between you and Warren. How exciting for you to be able to start the program! We will be getting packets of 2003 ready hopefully today and will try to put you on the top of our list. All the other packets are gone and we are expecting large amounts of boxes from publishers due this week. We then need to hire someone to help collate, etc. and get back into mailing mode. (I am also under heavy deadline and clinic schedule for the next couple months so the one time larger mailing we do can take months!.) I will second the fact that the video would be most helpful for techniques, motivation, etc. Band and orchestra directors have used it to give them ideas vocally too. They view both videos through first as if attending the workshop (marking on the Reference Guide the places they want to rewind to and practice.) If you do decide to order it even if only for your own personal use as a good model, I am here to help and answer any questions !
as you attempt to
lock in techniques. I wish you all the best in your new endeavor. Music is truly a wonderful
balance in this world of stress, violence and anger. Thank you for your contribution in making this world a better place...
Warmly, Linda Spevacek
**New Video: The Choral Director as Voice Teacher**
Hello Tamara -
What a daunting task ahead of you - but really exciting as well. I am usually a casual observer on this list, but in this case I thought I would write a reply. Every choral program is defined by the quality of the literature that it learns, studies, and performs. This is the mantra of my education philosophy. I am in a different
situation as I teach in a school of 2100, with 8 choral groups, but I hold firm in my belief that quality music is imperative to a quality program. The exciting part for you is that you do not have an immediate predecessor and the baggage that situation often brings. You can start with
quality music and not have to transition from "how it used to be". I stress to the parents of my students that as long as the English classes study Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Twain, the choir will sing Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff. No comic
book literature in english means no comic book literature in choir! Our students need (and thrive on!) challenging literature. Starting with your numbers, all things are relative, but there is some great music that could get you started. Don't forget unison singing - I make my top groups
sing plenty of unison, and I tell them that if they can't sing unison- they can't sing harmony!
Anyhow - best of luck on this excting endeavor.
Matt Culloton Director of Choral Activities
Hopkins High School Minnetonka, MN
If I were you, I'd get them a repertoire of songs as quickly as they can learn them. Lots of fun things and start prepping Christmas carols early.
Then, go sing everywhere you can get them. Nursing homes, shopping malls, restaurants, any office bldgs with big open areas, likewise hospitals are
good... Getting them out in public having a good time and being seen and heard will do a lot with the administration in terms of getting some
financial resources. In the school, you could carol, do singing valentines, do a "Spring Sing", anything you can think of to get noticed. Good luck from a native Texan living in the frozen North, Karla Cole St. Paul, MN
Here are the rest of the responses to my plea for
help...Thank You Tamara Madl, tmadl(a)esc5.net
Teach them to read the Music using Solfege or numbers or whatever. If they feel like they are building skills, they will be more inclined to stick around. Melodia is a good book to start with. Reseach some info on Kodaly Methodology, particularly the sequencing of musical elements to present. It's made for elementary students, but don't let that bog you down. High school students
will move through the sequence faster because they can think abstractly, but they will be more successful if the sequence is followed. (you can get through levels 1-4 in one year with high schoolers). Make literacy building a daily
priority. Choose literature by great composers that span the ages. Mozart has a series
of Italian Pieces for Soprano, Alto, and Bass voices. I do them with my beginning groups and the kids like it. Don't be tempted to do all pop stuff. It's rarely rewarding in a choral setting. Real Music that teaches them real
skills will be your best recruiter. Of course you should balance the program, but in my experience, the audience favorite piece of often one by one of the greats. There is a lot of music out there that is rewarding and accessible to beginning groups. Music that spans the ages and languages
and cultures. check out www.cpdl.org for music that can be photocopied. They have a ton of stuff that is good and of varying difficulties. Gastoldi has some neat three part stuff,
too. Have them sing in different languages. They will fight it at first because it's unfamiliar, but it brings a higher level of acheivement and "classyness" to the program. Eventually, they won't even notice and you can to Latvian and
Russian and Gaelic without even blinking. :)
You are so right that singing in a choir is a fabulous thing. Who would need war if we were all singing in choir?
Christopher Rhodes Santa Monica High School
Santa Monica, CA
I hope to get in to the office next week. One starting place might be unison and 2 part literature that is High quality AND fun:
Persichetti - four cummings chorus;, Sam was a Man... Vaughen Williams and Britten have a
lot of this type lit also. Pfautsch - I thank you God has some divisi, but is primarily 2part. More specifics as I can get to it! Rutter - For the
Beauty of the Earth (the 2 part works well)
South African Suite - arr. Leck Plymouth HL-400 is 3 part, but easy and a reall winner with audience and lids alike. Howells - My eyes for Beauty
pine (unison, but tough) Please consider posting a compilation later.
1. I put a few things together for you today and my husband will take them to the post office tomorrow. Expect a box within the week or week and a half. Enjoy...Have a wonderful summer! :) Linda Spevacek
I have put a package in the mail to you today. It includes several songs that were not done by Common Thread but came from other singing groups I've been with. Some of them are PD; others, are marked as to where to get them. Here are some other thoughts about resources:
http://www.northernharmony.pair.com./ is the website for a project directed by Larry Gordon who runs summer choral camps for high school students using music from folk traditions. Much of this would be sung in chest voice (I'm mindful of a rant about chest voice singing by a lister a
while back...I don't know what your feelings about this are but singing teachers I've
worked with seem to value the chest voice and encourage use of both head and chest voice and being really the speaking voice, it may
be a place to start with untrained voices. The idea that only head voice bel canto singing is "singing" is what makes most peole thing they
can't sing.) They publish some material, mostly in the form of books and for the cost of the
book, you get permission to make copies for use. (we have used some of it) World Music Press and earthsongs are two other publishers who put out quite a bit of this kind of material. Best of luck, Susan Goldberg Secretary, Board of Directors
Common Thread: Community Chorus of Toronto
Well I read your email and thought that since I had nothing else to do for a couple of months that I would do some research and come to your rescure-- Hopefully!! LOL Well attached is some research I have done in my choral library and I hope it helps you. It is 16 pieces... If you need any help
during the year do not hesitate to email me with the subject HELP JASON!! Well read it and tell me if it helps. Sincerely, Jason A. Mincy
P.S. Do not forget to post your results.
P.S.S. Also check out the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) their website will help a lot, and also check the Music Educators National Conference website and the Texas Music Educators Association Website. These
will all be very valuable to you!! Have fun!!
>Rounds are a great source. They can be sung in unison to begin with and later used for listening. Any music company will have books to pick from. >Many times you can get music "on approval" and send it back or buy it.
I will send you some materials within the next couple of days. I have a huge stock order I am working on right now, but I will not forget you. Thanks for your interest in BriLee Music.
Brian at BriLee Music
I can't help you at all, because I direct an adult choir in australia and don't know anything about school choirs or resources available in the U.S.,
but I read your email and went "Wow!" Cogratulations on taking action! I have a feeling you'll do a really really good job, wh tever
resources you manage to find, just because you have enough musical background, and heaps
of enthusiasm and commitment, not to mention determination. All the best, Margot.
Director, Macquarie University Singers
Macquarie University 2109 NSW Australia
Bless you! If you email me at mwade49(a)hotmail.com I will try to suggest
literaure that might work as I get time during the summer. An initial thought is to use rounds and solo literaure as a starting point. I have
done both for 34 years with a high degree of success...you can teach technique and independence with both.
Michael S. Wade Elkhart Memorial HS
First Cong UCC ACDA Central past pres
"Music begins where mere words leave off." Heinrich Heine
I am right in the middle of the work of our final concert of the season
(this Saturday) but I will put some information together for you when it is done. For arrangements by Isabel Bernaus, these are not published so you
should request her permission to use them. There would be a fee for this but this then allows you to make copies for your choir members.
My homepage address is directly below this letter. You may want to inspect it for some other ideas in addition to the one I proposed. For several years, I have had an Internet publishing
concern entitled, Picardie Court Publications. Upon receipt of your postal address, I will send you a free CD of my mixed sacred and secular
offerings as well as one containing my Christmas music. A score of "All God's Children" will be enclosed with the CDs. Of course, you'll have to wait until you have a choir; however, if
you will describe your choir in as much detail as possible, I may be able to suggest repertoire that will be suitable for it. How many sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses are there? Do any of
the kids read music? How high and low can each vocal section go? My high school choirs became sterling successes during the years I
taught kids from grades nine through twelve. Since I was eight-years-old, I was either in a choir, directing a choir or writing for a choir. You seem to know by intuition what I have
learned through 62 years of choral experience: more than in any other subject, children achieve their greatest knowledge through singing
music. The Greeks knew that 500 years before Jesus Christ! You will be blessed in your efforts in forming a choir for the high school. Cheers! WD
PS: Consider "The Animal Fugue" at the end of the secular CD. It is spoken!
Firstly, let me say that you are a saint to do this for the kids. it is wonderful and so giving. Some bits of advice: Trust your training as the basis of what you do. If you do not have training as a conductor, try to get
some. Lots of profs out there are willing to teach conducting privately. Knowing how
to move your arms well will go a long way to making the choir spectacular. There may even be a class you can audit with the undergrads.
Get involved in ACDA if you can, there is a great journal, and the conventions are so educational...you will learn tons about techniques and literature in these quick weekends. Go to
ACDAonline.org and check us out! ACDA has a new book (monograph really) out on recommended High
School Literature. You can order it on
http://www.acdaonline.org/catalog/product_info. Invite guest conductors from the community into the classroom and take lots of notes.
Go to other high school concerts and collect programs. Dale Warland once said that the best way to build a choir is with literature. You
need to give them lit that meets them where they are and some that pushes them to the next level. Once they accomplish a hard piece, the
next one will be easier. (Pieces can be hard in so many ways besides just notes and rhythms ...pieces can challenge their ideas
of what is beautiful, of philosophy, and everything else in life.) Reading books on choirs can only do so much because it is such a skill
oriented thing, but there are two really good ones: Barbara Brinson Choral Methods and Materials (Schirmer Books) James Jordan Evoking Sound (GIA press) I recommend them both very highly. The Brinson book is plain-talking
and very much a handbook for being an effective choral teacher. The Jordan book is filled with wonderful concepts and philosophies that will
augment your teaching. He has also written a short book called the Musician's Soul that as an artist, you will identify with. It happens
to be about music, but it fits all of the arts. He discusses vulnerability, envy, and all sorts of deep aspects of the artist that seem to me, anyway, to be at the root of why we are different from other subject matters. It is also on GIA press. Congratulations on your endeavor! Keep asking questions! Best of luck to you! Lisa
Dr. Lisa M. Fredenburgh
National Chair, Women's Choir R&S Committee ACDA
Director of Choral Activities
Meredith College 3800 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC 27607
Dear Tamara Madl,
Forgive me for saying, 'Been there, done that," but I have! Starting such a project as you describe will get special help from above: "As
ye have done this for the least of these, you have done this for me." There is a jubilee piece, SAB, that might be good for your
new choir. Whereas it presents a challenge, it is possible fare for a beginning
choir. You may request a free copy and a CD containing the piece if you wish. Your kids may profit from hearing how it sounds. There is
also a CD with "practical" Christmas music that you may request. Sincerely, Wallace De Pue
I don't know what kind of music you are aiming to sing, but I helped found
and sing with a community choir in Toronto that sings folk music from many different traditions. The pieces were chose for the first year were
relatively easy musically (though we sang in many different languages) and though we are now finishing our fourth year, new singers with little
singing experience are coming in each year so we continue to keep some relatively easy pieces each year. There are a number of South African
pieces (Freedom is COming, Siyahamba) in which simple parts combined polyrhythmically make a great sound. Our conductor has also done some nice
arrangements (e.g., of a Bolivian song about singing and dancing together, La morenada; a French Canadian song about making clothing
from sheep's wool, La laine des moutons). Next year we will be singing Song of Peace,
which is a choral arrangement (with English words) of FInlandia. If any of these are of interest, I can send copies of some of these or (for things we
had arranged) put you in contact with the arranger. Best wishes,
Hal Leonard has a series out called "Essential Elements". The one you
will need is the Choir method edited by Emily Crocker and John Leavitt. (Emily is the director of our Milwaukee Children's choir,
and has a lot of experience building young voices.) Just get a copy for yourself. The
student copies are quite expensive, and you can adapt it to your needs without spending a whole lot of money. Also, get involved in Choristers
Guild. http://www.choristersguild.org They have the materials and can be of great service in starting young choirs where there was none
before. Good luck in this endeavor. It will be greatly rewarding.
William Weinmann Slinger, Wisconsin