ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly online publication, designed for those who work with singers of all levels but specifically K-12 and community choirs. A full annotated ChorTeach index is available online at acda.org/publications/chorteach. Over 160 articles are organized into seventeen categories. For more information, email or visit acda.org/chorteach. Following is an excerpt from an article in the current Winter 2022 issue titled “Democratic Approaches for the Choral Ensemble: Repertoire Choice and Rehearsal Design” by Robert C. Jordan.
Early in my teaching career, a mentor offered me some advice that would radically change and eventually distinguish my pedagogy. He encouraged me to choose repertoire with students instead of for students. Now, my mentor was a very successful choral music educator and a trusted advisor, but his proposition seemed strange. When I was a student, conductors selected their concert programs, and the idea of offering my input to my conductors seems unimaginable. So, why did I take this mentor’s advice? Essentially, because I was burning out. My wick blazed brightly at the beginning of my career, but the fi re was all-consuming.
In hindsight, I see that my exhaustion was fueled in large part by my controlling personality hidden (or so I thought) within a teacher-centered and autocratic convention. I see now that my need for regulating every aspect of the classroom was denying students experiences that reflected their backgrounds and interests as well as their investment in the rehearsal process. I needed to try something different, so I took my mentor’s advice and ran with it. Seventeen years later, my middle and high school students—over 500 students in nine choirs—were choosing all their performance repertoire and designing their own rehearsal processes. I view this transformation to student-led repertoire selection as pivotal to my formation as a conductor and music educator, and yet in looking back, I was really challenged with the task of how to begin.
Certainly, choosing repertoire with students could be an important part of a culturally responsive choral practice, but I had only one model. Why did I trust this mentor, I wonder? These students did not instinctively know how to collaboratively choose repertoire. They were not accustomed to teachers asking them to make meaningful choices that affected their instructional experiences. I mean, should they trust me? It turns out, they were very keen to try.
Read more in the Winter 2022 issue at acda.org/chorteach.