- August 25, 2017 at 8:53 am #541423
I have a lovely 7th and 8th grade treble choir which just gained a new member who cannot match pitch. She consistently sings quite loudly at a much lower pitch than the rest of the ensemble. We have set up weekly private lessons and I am hopeful we can make some progress but, in the meantime, it is affecting the rest of the ensemble negatively. She is using a PVC elbow joint at her ear which has helped the volume a bit but she is still very noticeable. How can I provide a positive choral experience for everyone else in the group without discouraging this young singer?August 26, 2017 at 10:04 am #541480
Michael J. SeredickParticipant
I have empathy for your situation. Posting as a retired director/teacher, it is one of the most difficult experiences I recall in my career. I applaud your efforts to help with weekly coaching and the point about the PVC is a point of further discussion. If it were my issue, Id approach administration first, explaining what you have already done to help. If their feeling is choir is for all to explore regardless of ability, you most likely will have to do your best under the circumstances. Remember, you have the baton to guide your singers. Education isn’t about YOUR ego directing the perfect concert.
Another approach is a discussion with the parents. Most administrators encourage teacher/parent communication to solve problems. Do the parents realize there may be a hearing device problem that can be corrected? How do they feel about her pitch/volume affecting other choir members to advance?
I hope those two points offer help, but your post reminds me of two examples to keep in mind. I taught at a high school that had a program for children with severe disabilities. The Disability Program colleague approached me about Christine, a quadriplegic student in her program. Christine loved to sing while in her care. All day, Christine was singing something. Could Christine try choir for a week? I said yes, and introduced her to my Girls Choir. She took her place off to the side in her wheel chair. I never had a student who tried so hard, but was limited even in her effort to take a proper breath of air. I still remember the reaction of her classmates. Some tried to help during rehearsal. Like you, I scheduled help sessions, including having her barely movable fingers touch the piano key matching the pitch she attempted to duplicate. She made limited progress, smiling with every slight improvement.
At the end of the trial week, her instructor asked how she was doing. I explained her physical problems would never physically allow her to sing properly in any choir with normal children. The instructor thought that would be the result and said she’d schedule another activity during that rehearsal time. I said no! The girls had already accepted Christine and wouldn’t be pleased with that decision. Christine came to every rehearsal for the rest of the year. Her inability was in some ways a blessing as a reminder to the girls who had the gift of music to not take it for granted.
Contest was coming soon on the calendar. Christine was absent on the day I asked the girls how they felt about Christine’s family and her teacher understanding if she didn’t participate because her sound would eliminate any chance for a high rating. The girls gave a resounding no! We care more about Christine than a (I) rating. We sang as a team. We cherished the less than perfect rating. The humanity of the girls was more important than a rating.
In summary, it depends on your administration, your course goals, other kids in the choir, and parent involvement. Oftentimes we receive performance applause for musical perfection without consideration of the unseen human factors, such as yours.
Best wishes on this tremendous challenge.
Broadview Heights, OhioAugust 26, 2017 at 7:23 pm #541496
Thanks to Michael for that post. It’s a reminder to all of us of what our priorities should be, especially in the educational world. And there are parallels in the church music world as well. To quote Hercule Poirot, It gives me furiously to think.August 26, 2017 at 7:24 pm #541506
How long has she sung with your choir? Does she have previous choral experience? (Sounds like she doesn’t.) She may simply have no concept of what it means to sing with others and may instead think a chorus is made up of a bunch of soloists. If she is singing so loudly that she cannot hear her fellow singers, she won’t be able to sing in tune with them. I suggest asking her (and all of your singers) to not sing so loudly that they can’t hear each other. (“Listen more loudly than you sing.”) It’s a tender age, but have you told her she is singing louder than everyone else? Have you recorded the group, so that she can hear herself stand out when it is played back? I also suggest working with the group on messa di voce exercises.
Best of luck on keeping her singing!
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