Carefully Crafting the Choral Rehearsal V: Even More Success Tips

Choir directors should construct rehearsals that give the responsibility for learning to students. To do this, students must have a system of music reading that allows them to read music independently. Rehearsals led from the piano or that are reliant on accompanists to teach parts fail to create independent musicianship.”  – – Bill Fordice, Clarke College, Iowa

Successful rehearsals are positive

Create an atmosphere of encouragement, cooperation, and positive reinforcement. This is crucial for the development of a singer’s healthy self-esteem and pride in the ensemble.

Throw out intimidation; tyrannical, condescending or impatient posturing; and negative reinforcement. They’re not conducive to learning or building a congenial atmosphere of mutual respect.

Help your singers feel competent. Encourage them by finding small things to praise. Compliment them on where they are, and then challenge them to further excellence.

When correcting your singers, do so in a respectful and positive fashion.

Successful rehearsals stress the individual and corporate importance of the singer

Recognize each singer’s personal contribution and individual importance within the chorus. Students must never feel anonymous within the context of the larger group, nor should they be used as the means to a musical end. They must sense that they play an important part and share responsibility as cocreators in the musical process.

Successful Rehearsals are challenging

Help young musicians to learn to set goals and aim high. This motivation begins with the director’s example. Always expect the best of your singers – and yourself – by setting high standards and striving to attain them.

Stretch students’ imaginations, understanding, abilities, and appreciation by providing a challenge that neither bores nor frustrates them. When repertoire is mediocre and expectations low, singers become bored. However, when music is beyond their grasp, they become frustrated. Challenge students intellectually and emotionally as well as musically.

Successful rehearsals are unpredictable

Provide a variety of musical experiences to enliven rehearsals and add spontaneity.
• Involve singers in kinesthetic activities
• Rearrange them for new aural perspective and independence of parts
• Have half the chor sing while the other half listens and evaluates
• Ask questions that require critical listening and musical judgment
• Alter rehearsal pace
• Have students stand and sit at various intervals
• Change the rehearsal environment periodically
Students should feel comfortable within the structure of familiarity while stimulated by fresh ideas and variety.

Successful Rehearsals are Sequential and build upon each other
Plan in detail the goals of each rehearsal, broadly anticipating and planning for subsequent rehearsals in sequential manner. Learning activities should reinforce each other within a rehearsal and evolve from one class period to the next. Build today on yesterday’s successes.

“In working with our choral students, it is important to develop the understanding as to the purpose and role of choral performance…..Not to be interpreted that choral singing is always serious. In the mix of a well balanced program, some pieces we perform might be showy entertainment. It is wonderful to include pieces of various expressive messages both musically and humanly. This is different than performing the concert as a “show” or “performing at them” instead of a sharing experience. Enjoy the music making and happiness that comes from singing well and sharing the music with others.” Lois Veenhoven Guderian, PhD, coordinator for music education, University of Wisconsin-Superior

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 and Linda Brown, September 17, 2008, © National Association for Music Education