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 “Teaching Rote with Rigor: Embedding Musical Concepts and Preparing for Music Literacy” by Craig Hurley and Rebecca Atkins.
Learning music by rote can be a necessary evil in beginning choirs. Students do not yet have the music literacy skills to read their concert literature, but the music still needs to be learned for the performance. The rote versus note controversy has a long history. Used exclusively, rote teaching impedes progress to musical literacy and does not provide challenge for students. Webster’s dictionary even defines the term rote as “the use of memory usually with little intelligence.”
Rote teaching can be effective to help students learn their literature quickly, but when conductors only teach to the concert they sometimes miss opportunities to introduce musical concepts and prepare their students to become musically literate. This article will present four instructional strategies to increase the rigor of rote teaching by introducing musical concepts such as form, lyric interpretation, and expression while furthering musical literacy. Students (and teachers!) enjoy the variety of strategies and develop a deeper understanding of the music they are performing.
Use the Octavo
Teachers do not need to wait until students can read music to give them an octavo. Exposure leads to literacy when students have a reason to use their octavo for more than just text. Introduce a new song by singing the melody with appropriate tone and expression on a neutral syllable while singers point to the melodic line in their octavo. Stop singing in the middle of a phrase and have students identify the word or syllable. This short, quick activity gives meaning to notation, helps students identify where they should be looking, and provides the singers an opportunity to hear the pitches, rhythm, tone, and the expression of the melody several times before singing. For an example of this strategy, see page 9 of the Summer 2022 issue of ChorTeach.
The article continues with teaching strategies. Read the full article in the Summer 2022 issue at acda.org/chorteach.