Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal IV: More Success Tips

“Explanation is important, but talk less about the music and sing more of it.” –David Brunner

Singers should experience broad concepts before they are verbally articulated by the teacher. It’s more meaningful for young singers to experience a “fermata”, an accelerando, or a crescendo in their bodies and voices before it is diagrammed on a chalkboard or before they are required to memorize abstract terminology.

When verbalizing musical concepts, use language appropriate to the age and understanding of the student. Provide a foundation of understanding that allows for further growth as the student matures and his or her knowledge and experience broadens.

Successful rehearsals teach musical skills.

Using the musical score itself, and the actual experience of making music, successful rehearsals take an integrated approach to teaching theory, music history, vocal technique, aesthetics, and appreciation, while enhancing sight-singing, analysis and aural skills.

Bill Fordice, of Clarke College, Iowa says: “A good choir rehearsal is one that is not teacher led, but teacher guided. You will recognize this classroom, because the teacher is rarely in the front of the rehearsal. Over half of this rehearsal is spent in groups of sectional size or smaller, rehearsing parts independently, with the teacher intervening only to encourage and facilitate difficulties.
In order to achieve this style of rehearsal students must be prepared to read music independently. I have had great success with Solfege symbols used with accompanying hand symbols. This system is the most universally used system in Western music. I have found success with its use in grades 3 – 12. My high school students learned over 75% of their music independently using this system.”

Successful rehearsals follow a synthesis-analysis-synthesis model. 
This can be applied to an entire rehearsal, a composition, a section, or phrase.

Singers should first grasp the overall musical intent, shape and structure, and expressive nature of a piece of music – how it begins and ends and the manner in which it gets there. The synthesis or “big picture” of broad musical concepts is best grasped by singing through an entire piece or large section to gain an overview of the work.

Analysis is the portion of rehearsal that involves inspecting, listening, critiquing, evaluating, questioning, correcting, drilling and refining.

The conductor diagnoses problems at this phase and prescribes specific solutions.

The conductor then reinserts these fragments back into the total fabric of the piece, and evaluates results.

Students compare their performance with the previous version (synthesis) and determine what has improved and what still needs attention.

“The basis for all musical learning is the study and performance of quality literature.”
–David Brunner

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 27, 2008, ©National Association for Music Education