In May, August, and September 2015, the Choral Journal featured a three-part article series titled “Notes for Success: Advice for the First-Year Choral Teacher.” As part of the series, 11 choral conductors with teaching experience ranging from 4 to 34 years answered 10 questions related to setting expectations for your first year, classroom management, balancing a successful work and home life, finding repertoire, and more.
This column will address Question #8: Where can I find quality repertoire for the skill/size/balance of my choir?
A portion of the suggestions listed regarding this question are below. Read the rest of the article in the May 2015 issue of Choral Journal by going to acda.org/choraljournal. Click “Search Archives” and choose August 2015 from the dropdown options.
“ACDA has an incredible amount of resources to help you select music for your choirs. Reach out to your divisional and national R&S chair regarding your needs. Additionally, make use of state contest lists such as the Texas Prescribed Music List. These lists have been governed by committees and the literature has been deemed valuable by experienced directors. Additionally, the Cambiata Institute has a wealth of resources for the changing male voice. There are even videos to help you classify boys’ voices and repertoire lists for various voicings.” – Jennifer Alarcon
“Finding quality repertoire is very time consuming for me. My choirs are all extremely young, and there is not a lot of material out there targeted at beginning singers. That said, there are some real gems if you know where to look. Find a music store that carries a lot of sheet music in its library and look through songs. Before each year, I go into JW Pepper’s store in Minneapolis and pour through the songs in their library. I can look at every page of every song, and because of this, I can find music that my choirs can perform, some of which I might never have found by searching specifically online.” – Seth Boyd
No decision you make as a choral music educator has greater ramifications than the repertoire you choose for your ensembles. To determine the quality and appropriateness of your choices, subject each piece you consider to rigorous review. The book Shaping Sound Musicians (O’Toole, 2003) lists nine criteria to gauge whether a composition has artistic merit: uniqueness, form, design, unpredictability, depth, consistency, orchestration/voicing, text, and transcendence. Goetze, Broeker, and Boshkoff (2009) offer six criteria for examining potential repertoire for younger choirs: text, singability, form, part-writing techniques, accompaniment, and pedagogical implications. Use these categories or create your own, but thoroughly examine all aspects of any piece you consider programming.” – Philip Silvey
“What I find comforting is how many different directions one can go to get assistance in planning educational, appropriate repertoire. I love seeing questions on the ACDA Facebook page pop up in my newsfeed in regard to repertoire, classroom management, etc., and see a plethora of comments and responses for each question. The repertoire lists that ACDA posts online are a great place to start. I have printed many of these lists out and have often taken an hour to listen to some of these pieces on YouTube and write descriptions for them so I can recall them quickly. The Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir texts are also helpful, giving you not only a difficulty level for each piece but a description of the piece, background on the composer, and units that could be discussed during the learning of each song.” – Jacob Truby
Read the rest of the posts in this series on ChoralNet here.
And please share this post and Choral Journal article series with those who are in their first year of teaching!