As my vacation from recording continues for another week, I sat down to chat about the history and future of the Choralosophy Podcast. The video below is about 22 minutes. Enjoy, and please join the conversation! That’s why this blog and this show exist!
For the Midsummer installment of the Choralosophy ChoralNet blog, I am encouraging you to take a professional development break from your summer fun, not to “do work,” but to begin thinking ahead. To start hoping, dreaming, and scheming for your BEST academic year yet. In fact, I believe that in order to be a a”professional educator,” the summer must include this type of reflection AND planning. I know we’re off the clock, but if your goal is to be the absolute best for your students and singers, this time spent is crucial. Trust me, I am all for unplugging and unwinding, in fact, I am doing that right now as I type this drinking coffee in a cabin in the Black Hills.
In this post, I have curated several discussions from the last 2 and half years, and almost 110 Choralosophy Podcast episodes that I think can contribute to every choral director’s professional development and improvement for next year. The foundation of what we do every day rests upon our mastery of the fundamentals, and our ability to convey these concepts to our students. Please browse the library below, and enjoy your summer!
Understanding the Science
An important part of what we do IS science. Don Brinegar and I had an eye opening discussion about how tuning systems work, and how to teach this concept to our choirs in a way that improves their ear, AND their understanding of how tuning systems vary around the world. Amanda Quist joined me for another tangential, and mind blowing conversation about teaching concepts of resonance.
Another really important conversation regarding the science of our job is the vocal ped conversation. Choir directors are often thought to have an insufficient education in this area, often times leading to some assumptions and oversimplifications being taught to students in a choral setting. For this conversation, I will point you toward a session delivered at the Choralosophy Convention in Atlanta back in April. This session by Beth Munce, my FAVORITE voice teacher specializing in introducing adolescent voices to classical technique, was revolutionary for those in attendance, and we had a lot of great conversations about “Things Choir Teachers Shouldn’t Say” about the voice. The full session can be accessed on the Choralosophy Patreon feed for subscribers only. (normal episodes are always free.)
In Episode 44, Dr. Andrew Crane and Dr. Jami Rhodes joined me for another voice science and pedagogy conversation that is a MUST listen for any director wanting to avoid the pitfall of teaching a diverse group of voice types and body shapes etc by using “one size fits all bandaids.”
Most recently, I did a short “Car Thoughts” video with some easy to try tips related to achieving resonance from young singers WITHOUT asking them to “sing louder.”
Literacy Starts on the First Day of School
Students at any place along the learning curve CAN be taught to read music, and can be taught to do it WITHOUT notes being played simultaneously. This begins of course, with rote training. They must have an aural picture in their mind for pitch relationships, and they must have at least a beginning level of confidence making noises. This can be developed AND connected to literacy concepts on the first day of school. From there, it’s just about consistency, and holding students accountable with logical, growth oriented grading systems. ALL students can learn to be literate.
I recommend listening in the following order: 1. Episode 18, Episode 21, Episode 52. These are all connected to each other and should be very cohesive. Then, follow up with Episode 69 and “Growth vs. Achievement.”
See Below for a list of Literacy and grading episodes. The podcast players below will contain all of the audio for free!
Over the past year, I began to notice a breath of fresh air in the online choral discourse in the form of Reginal Wright. Like many of you, I have used Facebook to network with other choral directors that I don’t know in real life. This has benefits for me as a Podcast host, but can be a challenge on a personal level. Reginal, however, stood out to me because of his frequent posts inviting polite disagreement and creating a platform for multiple views to be expressed and treated with respect. So, I had to speak with a kindred spirit. In the course of this conversation, he and I talk about our approach to political discussions within professional spaces, in our classrooms, as well as the need to put our differences as choral directors aside in order to support each other, advocate for each other and build each other up.
Past Choralosophy Episodes on “Improving the Choral Communication Culture”
- Episode 9: How Should Choralosophers Handle Contentious Choral Topics?
- Episode 13: Choral Snobbery? with Chris Maunu
- Episode 15: Making Your Choir Thoughts Public with Adam Paltrowitz
- How NOT to Write Your Cancellation Essay
- Navigating Post-Election Conversations at Thanksgiving Dinner with Angel Eduardo
- Car Thoughts: Why Conversations Online End Badly
- Car Thoughts: Is Social Media Steering or Reflecting Choir Conversations?
- A Rhetorical Analysis of Toxic Online Discourse with Dr. Erec Smith
Reginal Wright was born in Henderson, Texas. His life as a musician began in his middle school band as a trombonist. As a 20 year educator, Reginal has earned many awards including Outstanding Teacher, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and a nomination for the UIL Sponsor Excellence Award. Reginal also earned the 2018 Educator of the Year Award for the Mansfield School District.Reginal has performed music in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria as well as Munich, Germany and throughout the United States. As a conductor, he is a sought after clinician in both Gospel and Classical genres. He has enjoyed the opportunity to conduct Honor Choirs for many school districts throughout the United States.
He also serves as a clinician in many Texas All State Choir camps and All State Choirs.Reginal is also an aspiring composer, writing music that caters to school and church choirs.Reginal received both his Bachelor and Masters of Music Education Degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He is currently the head choral director at Mansfield High School. His choirs are consistent sweepstakes winners in both concert and sight reading contests.
Choirs under his direction also earn “Outstanding in Class” awards at National Music Festivals. In 2012 the Mansfield High School A Cappella Women’s choir was honored as SWACDA honor choir. In 2018 the Mansfield Varsity Men’s Choir performed at the prestigious Texas Music Educators Association Convention in San Antonio. He is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, American Choral Directors Association and served as Vocal Chair for TMEA Region 5 from 2014-2017. Reginal resides in Arlington with his wife Renetta, son Gabrien, daughter Reece and Yorkie Cooper
Executive producer and host of the television program African Ascent, W.E.B Du Bois fellow at Harvard, Professor of Philosophy at Berklee College of Music, Author
“I try to argue that they can become better musicians if they become philosophically trained. They will become sensitive to aesthetics in their lives, to the role that art plays in their lives.”Dr. Teodros Kiros
I feel like I caught lighting in a bottle with this episode. We are all incredibly fortunate to have the chance to absorb wisdom from Professor Teodros Kiros. Dr. Kiros and I discuss the many connections between philosophical training and musical training. I was spellbound many times throughout this conversation hearing about how inseparable music and philosophy SHOULD be. We discuss the common humanity that is unearthed through the sharing of musical and philosophical ideas throughout history, the most scholarly unpacking of cultural appropriation I have yet encountered, as well as Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and why, with in that one piece of music, we can find a unifying theme for our life and for our music. Don’t miss it.
Executive producer and host of the television program African Ascent· Professor of Africana Philosophy at Harvard UniversityAwards· Winner of the 1999 Michael Harrington Book Award—Author for Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and DesireEducation
Singers often have the mentality that if they go to the audition and don’t get the gig, they have failed. Choral directors often feel that if someone doesn’t hire them for the tenure track, or the honor choir gig, then they have sufficiently been told “no.” “I guess this isn’t for me after all.” The happy reality, is that this is a mindset you can chose, or reject. Being an entrepreneur simply means rejecting the “Who’s going to let me?” posture, and adopting the “Who’s going to stop me?” mindset. I sit down with Brian Witkowski of the Lucrative Artist, to discuss this anti-entrepreneur bias inside of Classical music, and how to break out of it. Giving yourself permission and tools to earn from the value you create for others.
I’ve had a love for singing throughout my childhood, and my passion expanded to the stage when I performed my first ever role of Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man. I was fortunate to have a father who always said I could literally do anything I want in life and find success. So I majored in music and pursued a career in singing with experiences spanning the globe in many genres including opera, musical theatre, sacred music and art song. My aspiration to teach led me to earning my Doctor of Musical Arts degree.
Another Installment of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast
Cecilia McDowall has long been one of my favorite Choral composers. If I were to boil down my reasons for this it would come to her masterful ability to transport both audience and performer through space and time with her writing. In this conversation, I was able to understand a bit more about how her approach and it all became more clear. She immerses herself in a story with each work. Be a fly on the wall as we discuss her writing process, her thoughts on balancing composition, teaching and motherhood throughout her life, interactions between composer and conductor, as well as an exploration of the vulnerability one must face to sing and to compose.