Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal I: Preparation is Key

 “In life, a little planning goes a long way. The choral rehearsal is no exception.” — David Brunner

Conductors are most visible when directing from atop a podium, and many people think that’s all a conductor does. The reality is that most of a conductor’s work is actually done behind the scenes in preparation for a performance.

The preparation period helps build musical awareness and sensitivity and allows learning to occur.

In rehearsal, time is spent with students to:

  • Practice the craft and mechanics of music making
  • Learn notes, rhythms, and technique necessary to reproduce them on demand
  • Train the ear
  • Determine the intentions of the composer
  • Seek to shape the performance in a style appropriate to the cultural and historical aspects of the work
  • Find and communicate the expressive intent of the music beyond the printed page

In rehearsal, the director must listen for:

  •  Incorrect rhythm and pitch
  • Uncertain entrances and cutoffs
  • Misaligned vowels and poor diction
  • Discrepancies of intonation, nuance, phrasing, balance, and blend
  • Musical expression and effect


All this must be done in a way that uses time productively.  This is a formidable task, especially for the young or less-experienced conductor.

MENC Mentor Mary Jennings adds “Before any music can be studied, clear behavioral and rehearsal expectations must be established and understood, and if developmentally appropriate, you can encourage singer feedback and input.”

DiscussWhat do you do to prepare?

Summarized from “Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal” by David L. Brunner (director of choral activities, University of Central Florida, Orlando); published in entirety in Music Educators Journal, November, 1996.

–Sue Rarus, August 6, 2008, © National Association for Music Education