Advice for VERY small chorus

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    This is my first year teaching (just a few days in), and I’m completely stumped with my chorus. I’m the only music teacher at a very small high school (<300 students). My position is only 50% because enrollment in music classes is so low. Chorus is my smallest class with only FIVE students! I don’t mind so much the fact that it’s small, but these five students have little to no motivation. Even though they signed up for chorus and have all been in chorus for a few years, they don’t seem to want to sing. I have two senior girls who don’t seem to care, and they definitely influence the rest of the group.

    I had pulled out the Alleluia Canon ( from the limited library of choral music at my disposal. I figured the melody would be easy to learn, and a canon would be a good way to begin working in harmony. I can’t really tell if they’re getting the melody because they sometimes don’t sing when I ask them to. I even tried doing “Row, Row Your Boat” in a round to get started, but they just give up in the middle of it. I think some of it is being self-conscious singing in such a small group, but I just wish they were willing to put in more effort. Also, I don’t know if they aren’t putting in the effort because they don’t like the piece. I may pull out something different to see if that changes, but even doing warmups, they don’t try very hard, so I’m not sure just picking a new piece will fix things.

    My goal was to do some acapella music with them, but that might be too difficult for them, and I don’t know if they’ll put in the necessary effort. The past music teacher didn’t really work with them as a chorus; he just had soloists singing pop songs with the chorus as backup. (As a parent described to me, it was like “America’s Got Talent”) That definitely isn’t the way I want to go! But I just don’t know how to pique their interest.

    I have sung in chorus for many years, but instrumental music is more of my pedagogical comfort zone. This is my first time teaching chorus, aside from substitute teaching two or three times! I’m really at a loss. It looks like these forums don’t get much attention, but if anyone can offer some tips or suggestions, this discouraged first-year teacher will be very thankful!


    Hi! I teach in a very small school as well and it has taken me many years to change my mindset about what chorus “should be.” My primary goal is to give these kids a positive musical experience. That means that they need to feel successful- if they don’t, they aren’t going to want to continue. Some ways my small choirs have been successful:
    1. Rock band style- teach them a few simple chords on guitar, drum set, bass, and piano and perform a piece.
    2. Ukulele ensemble- easy instrument to pick up and sing at the same time (cheap too!)
    3. Let them choose the music. They will be more invested. Start by giving them a few choices you seem appropriate, but then let them have ownership.
    4. Get off the risers! Kids feel very self conscious- put them in a semi circle around a mic or two
    5. Lots of games in rehearsal to build a culture of community and acceptance- if they don’t trust you and each other, they won’t sing out.
    6. Combine with another choir from a neighboring school.
    7. Most importantly- change your own mindset! It’s not about how you were taught- times are a changing!

    I hope this helps a little!

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