- August 28, 2016 at 11:56 pm #520943
Some teachers in my district hold auditions for the 5th and 6th students who are interested in choir. What are the key things to ask for in an audition at the elementary level. I am well versed in secondary, but this is my first elementary teaching experience. Any help is greatly appreciated!August 29, 2016 at 8:40 am #520965
Please, please, please don’t exclude children from chorus! As someone who’s been in this field since dinosaurs roamed the earth, I can’t even begin to count the adults who have told me – at a random social gathering – that they wished they could sing, but were turned away as a child and never sang again. In fact, Hillary Clinton was one such case. These people literally never find their voice. Listening to each child individually for placement is one thing, but a child who is turned away at age 10 will not sing again., and that should be a punishable crime.
If you have children who are pitch inconsistent, they can be helped. I’m sure many of us can give you strategies, if you’d like help with that.August 29, 2016 at 8:41 am #520967
Allison R EnglertParticipant
I do not auditions students for my regular 5th and 6th grade choruses. However, I do audition them for membership in the 5th Grade Ensemble and 6th Grade Honor Chorus (advanced choruses out of the regular daily chorus classes). In the audition, I do about five tonal memory exercises where I sing and play short 4-beat melodies and the student sings back what he/she hears on “la”. Next, I ask the students to sing “Row your boat” (key of F Major) a cappella. I want to hear them sing something they know really well, while assessing if the student can maintain the tonal center, and if he/she can “hit the high note” (F above high C). We also practice singing Major scales in our chorus class, so I ask the student to practice the scale (D Major) with me a few times, then we sing it in a round a cappella with the student starting first. They may look at Curwen hand signs and solfeggio syllables which are posted on the wall of the chorus room. Lastly, I ask the student to sing vocalises to determine range for assigning voice parts in the choir. The a cappella sections of the audition are very helpful in determining who is an independent singer. If students have trouble, I will ask them to try again with me “helping” them to see if they need external reinforcement. If they have nice sounding voices but are not independent singers, I will still consider them for membership, and I will know to place them in the group between strong singers who will lead and model. This method really helps the students become more independent as the year progresses. I hope this helps. Good luck!August 29, 2016 at 8:41 am #520969
I am currently retired from public school teaching but I used to “audition” my 4th, 5th & 6th grade students for the school chorus. These auditions are a sensitive issue and they need to be viewed by everyone as part of the culture of striving, working and achieving. Being a member of the school chorus was optional–never required–and always an honor. The “audition” was more of an evaluation process; I listened to the children individually to determine if they could or couldn’t match pitch and if so over what range. I also determined whether they felt more comfortable singing high or low. I used this information to place the voices in part 1(sop.) or part 2(alto). When we did 3 part music, I just put my strongest ears on the middle part.
Since I taught music to the entire school, I was already familiar with their aural skills and since I worked on pitch matching every year since kindergarten, I expected them to be able to do this by 4th grade. Nonetheless, some children were not ready to sing in the choir. Maybe they were new students from a school that didn’t stress singing on pitch in the curriculum; maybe they weren’t physiologically ready to match pitch; maybe they haven’t valued learning the skill or applied themselves to it….
Every year, I took one child from each class who was hard working, highly motivated and on the brink of matching pitch. That amounted to 9 to 12 children who aren’t really ready for chorus but I felt that if they were in an environment of people matching pitch, they’d take that last leap and accomplish it. Inevitably, by the Winter Concert, everyone was on pitch!
I’d tell the others who did not qualify yet that I’d help them in class and offer private sessions during recess to learn how to match pitch–and yes, they would come! if they applied themselves, and learned the skill, I’d invite them into the chorus for the second term.
In January, I invited everyone who had made progress on pitch matching during the fall, to join the chorus. The strong body of singers currently in the chorus (about 100+) gradually lifted these children onto pitch and by the Spring Concert the group was quite good at producing a clear unison line in each part.
The children in 6th grade who still couldn’t match pitch but expressed a strong desire to be in chorus, were invited to join because I didn’t want them to leave elementary school without having a choral experience.
This process was respectful, encouraging and motivating. But you must be careful what you communicate to the children. They should feel that you believe they can accomplish this skill, that you’ll provide extra attention and time for them and that every bit of progress will be celebrated. It should be seen as an individual challenge rather than a personal defeat.
I suppose this philosophy won’t work for everyone or for every school culture but it worked well for me and my students. I had good support from the parents, teachers and my principals and I’m still proud of what the children were able to accomplish. My facebook contacts tell me they are too!
EileenAugust 29, 2016 at 9:07 pm #521020
I think, as others have said, this is a sensitive issue, but it really depends on your situation. I work in the Los Angeles Unified Schools and am assigned to 5 schools for the year. All but one of my schools have 2 or 3 classrooms of 30+ students at each upper grade level. I strongly believe that children have a right to sing in a quality group and learn what it really means to be in a chorus. For many of my students, this will be their only opportunity–possibly throughout their K-12 education. I see my K-3 students for general music, each classroom separately, and work with them on their singing. By the time they get to 4th-6th grades, they have had many opportunities to learn to sing on pitch.
My auditions are in small groups, and I am only listening to see if they can match pitch in the group setting. We practice something like ‘Row, row, row your boat’ in D Major or ‘Happy Birthday’ in G major (most of them have never learned to sing the octave jump correctly). Then I walk along the first row while everyone in the class sings over and over until I have chosen a few who seem to be strong in that row. Then I ask them to come up around the piano and sing in a small group–usually about 6-8 students. I ask the rest of the class to listen and see if they sound like ‘one voice’ (singing in unison.) Then I do the same with the next 2 rows. With 4th graders, I eventually add everyone to one of the strong small groups. With my 5th and 6th graders, I will ask “who did I miss that wants to try out?” In 5th and 6th grades, they need to really want to come, since most had the opportunity in 4th grade. With 5th and 6th, if I had them in chorus the year before, I’ll call those students first. They have to come and sing, but they don’t have to join, if they don’t want to. I often keep a few strong singers up with me and tell them they are my ‘helpers.’
Meanwhile, I am scoring them so I know my strongest singers, the ones who are close, and the ones who are basically non-pitched. There aren’t a lot of those, if I’ve been seeing them since 1st grade. When I finish, I tell them not to feel bad if they are not on my list, because I had to pick the voices that are ready now for a chorus experience and I have to limit my numbers. I tell them that some voices are like fruit–we want to eat fruit when it is sweet and ripe, but fruit will ripen over time. So if you’re not chosen now, you may be ready later.
I HAVE tried the ‘self-select’ method as well, and had some success with that, even though there were some students who never sang on pitch. When I do auditions, I also ask the classroom teacher to eliminate those that can’t control their behavior. I have 45 minute choruses once per week. Out of 120-150 students, I only want 60-75 in my group. Sometimes I get over 100 who qualify. Then I try to find the time in the schedule to split it by grade level. I try to include as many as I can and still make it a quality experience for the participants. I just auditioned 60 4th graders in one school and only found 12 that couldn’t match pitch. So I am having ALL of them come, with teacher support.
Hope that was helpful–just a different perspective. Good luck!
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