I agree with the criticism about the “award-bearing” adolescent world we live in today. Every student gets a trophy. Students get participation awards just for breathing.
The answer isn’t as cut and dry as you might think…..
The February issue of Choral Journal features a special series of articles on the topic of multigenerational choral singing. You can read a preview of all the articles available in that issue in this post. Following is a section from the article by John C. Hughes and Jon Hurty, “A Life of Song: Considerations for the Collegiate-Based Town and Gown Choir.”
Perhaps more than any other type of choral ensemble, collegiate-based multigenerational choirs embody “a life of song.” Many colleges and universities offer a “town and gown” choir—an ensemble open to students, faculty, staff, and singers from the surrounding community. For the purposes of this article, the term town and gown choir will describe a multigenerational choir that functions primarily in a college or university setting and includes both students and community members. Undergraduate students away from home for the first time stand next to community members who have sung in the choir for decades.
There are benefits for everyone who participates in this kind of ensemble. Musically, community members’ years of experience are advantageous, and younger voices balance more mature sounds. Furthermore, students recognize that regardless of major or profession, one can and should make singing a lifetime activity, and community members are energized by their interaction with young adults. This article explores the musical, social, and vocational benefits of these choirs and discusses the opportunities and challenges that are specific to town and gown choirs. The authors (who conduct multigenerational choirs at their respective institutions) offer suggestions for leading these unique ensembles.
Every choir, whether high school, church, university or professional, comes with its own potential for success and inherent challenges. Multigenerational town and gown choirs are no exception. Two of the primary challenges are the wide range of individual skill levels of singers and limited rehearsal time—both of which can engender performances that are not of the highest quality. However, these challenges can also provide special opportunities for conductors and ensembles. Conductors have the opportunity once or twice each week to unite people of different generations and talent levels into something larger than themselves. By creating what Weston Noble refers to as “the special world,” when “everything is in line—we are momentarily whole,” conductors can guide choir members beyond social and generational divisions and toward oneness with each other. The unique setting of these choirs provides particular opportunities.
Repertoire selection and using the skills, knowledge, and talents of the surrounding academic community can help everyone be more engaged in the artistic process. Examples include asking a German major to read a German text aloud or provide a translation for the group or inviting an English professor to lead a discussion of the text. One could even develop a course that addresses the context, history, and related material of a major work that the choir is preparing. At Augustana College, we have an interdisciplinary general education requirement called “Learning Communities.”
In conjunction with a performance of Britten’s War Requiem, I (Jon Hurty) collaborated with English and Religion faculty to offer a Learning Community course exploring the musical, social, religious, textual, and historical context of the piece. In addition to the normal coursework, students did research on various aspects of the work, then shared their information with the larger ensemble through email and short presentations. Involving the singers and sparking discussion about the music and text not only bridges the generation gap but also unifies them as an ensemble. Town and gown choirs can be more than a class to students or another weekly obligation for community members. Rather, they can be an event that members look forward to in their own way—a break from exams and papers, a night out for parents of young children, or a social activity for retirees. Interesting repertoire presented in an engaging and collaborative manner is perhaps the fastest way to create a feeling of community.
ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the February 2017 issue and read the rest of this article and the others in this issue. You can also read our electronic version. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
As we move closer to our Spring concerts, many of us believe a memorized concert will make for a better performance.
How we teach and run daily rehearsals greatly impacts our students’ ability to be responsive to our conducting, sing freely, and be communicative.
Our rehearsal approach can foster the ability for our students to naturally memorize their music;
We should not need to require them to memorize or even waste time and energy giving part tests!
The latest issue of Choral Journal features an ongoing column written by retired choral conductors, for retired choral conductors. This month’s contribution was written by Linda Lovaas, a retired middle school choral music educator from California.
Following is a section of the article, which you can read in full in the May 2017 issue. ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the newest edition. You can also read our electronic version. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
“I don’t call it retirement. I call it redirection!” I can still hear Dr. Ginger Covert Colla, a choral teaching colleague here in Modesto, California, saying this some years ago. I laughed at the idea and thought it was a great way to look at things, but I never really “got it” until I joined the ranks of the retired. What a perfect way of describing what happens to us in this time of life!
I loved my choral music job in junior high. I started in Texas, where I was born and raised. My dream was to go to New York and be a famous star—either opera or Broadway—or to teach college music. I got my teacher’s credential for backup, student taught at the high school level, and was hired in Texas City, a “blue collar” oil refi nery community near Galveston. It was in middle school. What fascinating creatures! I was hooked for life.
The biggest thing I miss about teaching is the contact with young adults. I fi nd myself seeing junior high-age students at the grocery store or at the mall, and I try to get them to talk to me. (No, I’m not stalking!) It is fun to make brief connections with the “skills” we have as teachers to be able to communicate with them. To help fill this void, I have also offered my experience to choir teachers around my area and have been invited to work with choirs in our county. It is a good exercise for my brain, and it is a great feeling to help guide students and their teachers in a healthy way. I really enjoy the connections and the happy feeling that I am a part of an exciting work community even though I am retired.
I’ve also realized there is a huge need for mentoring. Some teachers are like me and are loving retirement with a finger or two (or twenty) in the field still, helping out those who are still teaching and needing advice and someone to work with their choir or observe and offer help. Other retired music teachers I know do not feel wanted or needed anymore because no one contacts them. There is this huge gap between those who teach and those who are retired, and I am advocating to close that gap. We must reach out and continue to offer our services and experiences!
It is our job as retired choral directors to advocate the importance of our passion. It is sad how chorus gets lost in the funding, lost in the order of importance, lost in the need to nurture children’s souls with the instrument they carry with them every moment of their lives. Singing provides a solace in times of stress, grief, and happiness. We need to redirect ourselves to help those in the trenches to give our strength and our voice to help keep choral music, folk songs, classical, and new compositions up front and personal for all.
If YOU are an experienced choral conductor interested in passing your wisdom to the next generation (you don’t have to be retired!), please consider becoming a mentor through ACDA’s mentoring program! More information here. You can also contact with any questions.
In recent years, rubrics have become a popular trend for assessing student achievement; they have been the common grading tool at most choral and solo festivals for as long as any of us can remember. While rubrics can be useful, they also present several pitfalls thats can severely impact the long-term growth and motivation of students at all levels.
ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly publication for choral conductors and teachers at all levels. It is published online, and each issue contains four practical articles. If you are not already a member of ACDA, you can join as an Associate for $45 per year and receive access to ChorTeach and the Choral Journal online.
The fall 2012 issue contains an article written by Rich McKinney titled “The Singer in Prison.” The entire article is copied below. The rest of the articles in the fall 2012 issue of ChorTeach can be found here and are:
“Developing Tone Quality in Middle and High School Choral Ensembles” by Karen Willie
“Jam Sessions – Informal Music Making That Can Enrich Your Choral Program” by Craig Denison
“Men’s and Women’s Choirs: How Different Are They?” by Amy Hughley
“Rehearsal Strategies and Rubrics for Choirs” by Genevieve Tep
I’ve pondered writing this article for some time. Let’s hope that few people find themselves in my situation and have to deal with the subject I discuss here, but there are lessons to be learned, I believe. The title, “The Singer in the Prison,” is borrowed from Walt Whitman.
A life member of ACDA, I have taught music at every grade level. Currently retired, it is my privilege to work with a community chorus of sixty voices and a treble-voice ensemble. In the recent past, I also conducted smaller mixed-voice ensembles. None of us becomes a choral director by choosing it from a list of careers. We love music, singing, and all the other wonderful facets of this ar t. We train for the job much of our lives, often star ting with membership in a chorus as an elementary student. We move on to sing in more sophisticated choruses in middle and high school, college and beyond. Eventually we find ourselves with our own choir and begin the process of learning how to listen to all those singers.
Most of us have, at the very least, a modicum of vocal talent that, coupled with formal training, gives us effective tools with which to work. We learn not to sing with our choirs. We sometimes struggle with an explanation of how to get the singers to make the sound we desire.
And now we get to my challenge. I am not in prison; how-ever, in February of 2000, I lost my vocal cords to throat cancer due to Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam War. Before you dismiss this article, I assure you it is not a “poor-me” diatribe. I’m happy; I have a great life. Do I miss the ability to throw back my head and sing? You bet I do. I miss it terribly, but I haven’t let it stop me from enjoying people and working with them in choral ensembles. My choirs are truly my voice. I admit that there are often rehearsals when I’d love to just look to the sky and ask for a voice for five minutes so that I could show my choir what I would like to hear.
Yes, I can talk—with the help of a battery-operated speech device. I also use a personal amplification system that enhances my audibility when directing rehearsals. But I cannot sing, and I can’t whistle a melody. I’m a neck breather. If I stub my toe in the night, I can’t yell “Ouch!” until I find my speech device. Sometimes I dream that I have a voice.
What’s my point, you ask? It is this: I have to verbalize clearly everything I want to hear from the singers. I have to stop and think, “How can I explain this so they will understand?” Sometimes it takes several attempts. I can’t say the choir always understands and applies the concept I’ve presented, but they give 100%, and we enjoy our work together.
What have I learned from my situation? I had no idea, during graduate study, that I would lose my vocal cords. Would I have changed careers if I knew that I would have no voice to work with? I don’t know. It’s difficult to imagine that I would seek a career as a voice teacher/choral director if I couldn’t make a sound. I certainly wouldn’t have been awarded the scholarships that helped me pay for the education I got.
I still love music. I compose and do some arranging. I’ve been lucky enough to have several works published. I have good piano facility—good enough to have some people say that I sing with my fingers. But while I love playing piano, it’s not the same as singing in my estimation. I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t always find an article to help you figure out how to teach this or that specific technique. Sometimes one just has to think it through and listen for an answer.
The odd thing is that my chorus sounds just like I would have them sound if I did indeed still have my voice. In fact, they sound like the ensembles I worked with prior to losing my voice. All but a few in my present choir have ever heard me sing or speak with a natural voice.
I don’t take credit for any of this. There is a higher power, a power that is an amazing choral director. In spite of what it sometimes looks like, this power nurtures the world and, in turn, the world sings a tune. It should be no surprise that dissonance sometimes muddies the waters, only to resolve into even more satisfying harmony. On occasion, one can even experience adjacent unresolved dissonances. But the overall result is fantastic. In fact, this is what music is—harmony and dissonance—and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. That higher power supports and directs me, and all of us, as we stand in front of our choirs and continue learning to listen and respond to what they are singing.
When I cease to learn, I will truly be in prison.