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Instrumentalist seeking help!

I am an orchestra teacher and there is a possibility that i will be responsible for rehearsing 6th and 7th grade choir as well next year.
Any advice on where to start?  Required reading? Suggested rep list?  Where should I be investing the most energy in the beginning?(My personal vocal ability? Pedagogy research? Piano/accompanying, solfeggio?)  Since I do have a year to prepare what classes should I take ASAP(pedagogy, diction, literature surveys)  I do plan to seek the full license.(I can file an expectation for up to two years while seeking certification.)  I am also interested in seeking the license concurrently with a masters degree. Does anyone have any recommendations for schools that are able to accommodate a fulltime teacher? Summer options would be great but many take me out of state so I would would have to work out transfer credits to a local university to get a WI license.
Any help or advice would be geratly appreciated
Thank you,
Tyler Bakken
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on March 5, 2014 3:13pm
The books by Doreen Rao We Will Sing, Jean Bartle Sound Advice, and Nick Page Sing and Shine On, plus related videos and CDs were life-savers for me when I started 13 years ago with a 4-5-6th grade public school choir and no experience.  Also Henry Leck's DVDs: Vocal Techniques for the Young Singer and The Boy's Changing Voice.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 6, 2014 8:56am
Empathy abounds for you, Tyler!
As you well know, instrumental conductors know how musical instruments are made, how they function, and how to play many or most of them. As I'm sure you know, that cannot be said about instrumental conductors' knowledge about the "instruments" that are not instruments, called voices. In fact, using my early personal history as an example, many choral conductors and general music teachers are considerably "under-knowledged" about voices (I've observed this in my voice education travels all over the Western areas of the world).
"Above-and-beyond" everything, I highly, highly recommend that you attend the course offerred in the summers by The VoiceCare Network, Bodymind and Voice: Lifespan Voice Education in the Real World.  It is presented at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, which is about 80 miles west of Minneapolis (near St. Cloud MN). The course covers: (1) how voices are made and how they're "played" with physical and acoustic efficiency and healthy function, (2) how conductor gestures can affect voices for 'good and ill,' (3) preventive voice health and protection including the use and protection of conductor's/teacher's voices, (4) how voices grow up, including the big 'payoff' for your upcoming situation: (a) what happens to male and female voices when they go through their pubertal voice changes, (b) how to help them optimize their singing during that time, and (c) how to select music that will enable them to display their true vocal capabilities (insert here the ol' metaphor of 'give you a fish versus you learning how to fish for a lifetime').
One other aspect of the course that makes it waaaaaaay unique is referred to as human compatible teaching, learning, and leadership. That means that teachers learn to teach in such a way that their students/singers frequently have very pleasant, enjoyable experiences while they build their ability to sing with increasing skill and expressiveness.
Another note: All the voice and voice health aspects of the course are based on findings from the voice and voice medicine sciences and the human compatible learning aspect is based in...warning: a biiiiig, waaaay unfamiliar word is about to happen...the neuropsychobiological sciences. Worry not. Big waaay unfamiliar scientific words are used very minimally during the course (but they are available in the course's textbook, Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education).
Good luck and be well, Tyler.
on March 6, 2014 9:17am
Ooops. I forgot.
(1) The VoiceCare course at Saint John's U can be taken for 4 graduate-level credits (or is it 5?) and some colleges/universities have readily accepted the course as a substitute for theor own vocal pedagogy course in their choral programs, or as satisfaction of elective credit in their degree program.
(2) For a masters program that accommodates fulltime teachers, I'd suggest the program at the School of Music, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee...summers only courses, four summers, I think. Contact Dr. Sharon Hansen, sahansen(a)
on March 6, 2014 7:52pm
Thank you both for your advice.  I contacted Dr. Hansen about a week ago and was referred to the music education chair, Dr Faey-Shaw.  Many of the classes required to fulfill state license requirements are undergraduate courses that are not offered in the summer. I was told it would be impossible if I am working fulltime. This is unfortunate since my district is near the campus.  I have taken other courses from them and been very happy with the quality.  I will look into the transfer credit option but have little hope since they have not been very accommodating to my previous experience and course work. (I have been an active singer much of my life but chose to major in strings).
Thanks again.
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