Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
- February 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm #250690
Tina HarrisParticipantI’ve been teaching at a private girls school for the last four years and I am noticing a trend amongst my Intermediate choir. Our department is designed with three levels of singers, a 1-semester beginning choir open to anyone (usually 30 kids), the intermediate Concert Choir (50-56 singers; auditioned freshman, girls who passed the beginning choir and any other auditioned singers) and the advanced group, the Chamber Singers (40 or so girls).The beginning choir is usually a very enjoyable class; an introduction to singing for girls not experienced enough for the next group. I keep the music lighter (yet still appropriate for teaching); we do sight reading and music theory; they only perform once at the spring concert. Because it’s a small group, they bond well and have a good attitude for the most part. %70 of them move into the Concert ChoirMy Chamber Singers are my highly auditioned, best singers who are pretty dedicated with a good attitude. No problems there.The Concert Choir has become a bit of a dumping ground for singers of all levels and there are often work ethic issues and all levels of talent. Some of the girls still can’t carry a tune, but they “passed” the beginning choir and there would be no where else to put them if they still want to sing. Girls who auditioned for the advanced group but weren’t accepted often just “bide” their time in concert choir until they can audition again, making their participation lackluster.I’d love some ideas on making concert choir a “destination” group and not just a pass through from beginning to advanced. I think vocally they are doing very nicely and should be very proud of their current state. I can’t change the class makeup any time soon, so I’m stuck with my classes as they are. Our girls are very driven to succeed and many of them don’t want to accept they they are not right for the advanced choir.Sorry for the long post, but I’d love any adviceFebruary 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm #250693
John HowellParticipantHi, Tina. In many ways your situation sounds ideal. But some things are inevitable, and you seem to have hit one of them.Students are not dummies, and it takes them only a few nanoseconds to size up a situation. They are also ALWAYS making decisions regarding their priorities, sometimes influenced by their families, sometimes by their teachers (don’t we wish?!!!), and ALWAYS by their peers. This is called human nature.As long as there is a hierarchy of ensembles in your program, the ambitious singers will aspire to the top ensemble. That’s ALSO human nature. In my own family’s case, our older son (who is now a professional singer) sang at church, not in middle school, and not in any feeder ensembles in high school, but in the top auditioned ensemble as soon as he qualified. He was also an active percussionist in middle school and high school, and was advanced to higher level bands on merit.Our younger son also sang in church, also did not sing in middle school, and also qualified for a couple of the high school ensembles, including the top auditioned ensemble. But he started playing trombone in middle school, and was not the kind of prodigy as his older brother. In high school he was assigned to the lower-level band as a freshman, and that was fine. But when he counted the number of trombone chairs that would open up in the top band, looked at his own placement in the lower-level band, and saw that we would not make it into the higher group the next fall, he dropped out of band and concentrated on singing. (He also got involved in the stage crew, and fomented a visit by the student stage crew to the School Board asking for funding to bring the stage equipment back up to snuff, and they got it!)So my question for you would have to be, in what way is your Concert Choir so different from your Chamber Choir, so unique, so special that students will feel justified in regarding it as a destination rather than a way station. And if there is no answer to those question, that may suggest directions in which you might want to rethink your overall program. Also, you call your Concert Choir “a bit of a dumping ground” for students who have ‘passed’ the beginning choir. OK, that sounds as if you’ve made ‘passing’ beginning choir the single hoop to jump through for Concert Choir, rather than making it an auditioned choir. And if that’s the case, perhaps the best thing to do might be to make it possible for those who need to refine their skills to repeat “beginning” choir and to make it a rich learning environment where they are encouraged to do so. Perhaps worth a thought?All the best,JohnFebruary 17, 2010 at 7:39 am #250729
Ronald Richard DuquetteParticipantI agree with John, but with a caveat: be careful of parental “drive” in this mix. Likely in the group of young ladies in the Concert Choir is a pretty fair proportion of whom are not being “shoved” by their parents to excel in every single thing – but there is that percentage who are – and that’s where you have to be cautious. I’m not speaking from personal experience, but observed behavior among a wide range of ensembles over the years. Also, one additional factor to keep a weather eye out for is the maturation factor – and here I can speak to personal experience. My wife and I met doing community theater, loved it, and when Robert came along, we hoped he would get into theater, especially since performance didn’t seem to bother him at all (he’s also a musician as are we). Didn’t happen through middle school, and in high school not until he got to his junior year, when he finally acceded and took Theater Tech. Funny thing: he’s a guy, and they needed guys in the One Acts, so guess what? Next thing we know, he’s singing and dancing and making a real thing of it – oh yes, and he didn’t sing in any of the ensembles after fifth grade until he tries out for the top choral group at his high school his senior year – and nails it. Who’d a thunk? So some of your young ladies who are ambitious or being pushed to be so may see this as “a dumping ground” (I know, we’re beating you up over a very honest description which, while not PC, is certainly seen as that) need to grow up – and most assuredly their parents need to grow up. Truth is, and this is a truth you can’t really state but have to keep thinking, talent isn’t fair. So, this is a situation which could be seen as a bucket of lemons (not that they’re lousy, that’s not what I mean); how do you make lemonade? I think John has some excellent thoughts on this. Just be conscious that there will be the parents (and girls) who want cognac – the best they may be able to handle will be light white wine. Sigh…would that things were so simple….RonFebruary 17, 2010 at 8:36 am #250734
Faedra WeissParticipantMake your Concert Choir an opportunity. I might have stayed in my high school dumping ground choir if it hadn’t conflicted with classes I needed to take. But it was the Brown University Singers, which was up front that it was a developmental choir–everything from working on breath and support to singing early music to develop our counting and reading–that helped me learn what I needed to learn and has enabled me to keep working on my voice–and singing–30 years later, while classmates who auditioned right into the higher groups have blown out their voices in the interim.Of course, it doesn’t hurt at all if you come up with fun exercises and exciting music that support your goals.February 17, 2010 at 11:44 am #250753
Sarah Hager JohnstonParticipantHmmm. The Concert Choir (50-56) and the Chamber Choir (40 or so) are about the same size.Perhaps you could reduce the size of the Chamber Choir to make it a real chamber ensemble. Tighten the entrance requirements, and accept only the top-tier singers, thus limiting the group to 24 or so. Focus the repertoire on more difficult literature (languages, multiplle divisii, etc.) so that singing in the Chamber Choir becomes a truly challenging experience for these singers. Include some one-on-a-part music, too.Reducing the Chamber Choir would move about 20 talented singers to the Concert Choir, thus increasing its numbers to about 75 or 80, and raising the overall musical ability of the group somewhat. With more singers, you can focus here on repertoire suitable for a larger choir or for double choir. Look for music that offers good solo opportunities for the better singers, and distribute solos generously (auditioning as needed if you want to introduce an element of competitiveness that would make up some for the Chamber Choir opportunity).For each (and all) of your choirs, but especially for the Concert Choir, look for opportunities to collaborate with other choirs in your community, especially a professional adult choir or a top-notch community choir. As we all know, musical collaborations can provide meaningful and memorable opportunities.Sarah Hager JohnstonGraceNotesFebruary 18, 2010 at 10:41 am #250835
Michael PopplewellParticipantI agree with Sarah (as well as the others). Your situation echoes my own at my high school: 3 choirs, beginning, larger intermediate, and smaller top group (although SATB vs. all treble). I really sell the ‘middle choir’ on the idea of the opportunity to do larger works, or do music befitting a larger ensemble… it seems to work. The top choir in my school has ranged from an octet to this year’s 22 students, I make the size subservient to the ability of singers auditioning and in the lean years, it’s a lean ensemble, but it keeps the kids hungry to audition the following year! Also, I have a few kids who also join the intermediate choir as a class, thus saying without saying aloud, this is a worthwhile ensemble to be in because I’m still singing here even though I’m in the ‘top group.’Good luck!
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