Contemporary music in the chorus classroom

Frontpage Forums Choral Contemporary music in the chorus classroom

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #18054
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    What is your stance on incorporating rock/pop music in the chorus classroom? I taught my students two pop songs last year (Firework by Katy Perry and Born this Way by Lady Gaga) for an intermission performance in the school talent show. I plan on doing the same this year for the talent show. However, I was thinking of making the spring concert only contemporary music. The students seems to respond well to the music, and they are very energized and eager to learn. I still teach proper singing techniques and how to apply them to this genre. I also teach them more classical repertoire throughout, so I do not feel like I would be doing them a disservice in teaching solely pop music for a semester.

    What is your opinion on this? Am I completely off base in thinking this?

    #18243
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Contemporary music can be a great way to generate excitement for your program and draw students who might not be interested otherwise. A great deal of student learning can take place in this genre, especially with the contemporary a cappella arrangements that are available now. As you have mentioned, care must be taken to ensure healthy vocal production in order to avoid excess tension in the voice. Student have a tendency to oversing, trying to push too much volume utilizing a vocal style that normally employs microphones.

    #18245
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Good question! I’ve struggled with this question over the years I’ve been teaching. I used to say “absolutely not” but then, trying to recruit and retain more boys, I let them do a pop song as a boys-only feature, and then of course the girls wanted to do one too. So now each concert includes two pop songs, one for the girls and one for the boys. I’ve been been questioned a few times by the other music teachers, but never by the parents, who generally compliment my choice of repertoire. As you found, even the best “chorus” song doesn’t motivate and excite the kids the way “their music” does.

    One question though: Are you worried that by doing an all-pop concert, you’ll set a precedent for next year? You didn’t say what grade you teach, but if you have returning students, they might think “we did only pop last year and it was great, so why not do it every year?”

    #18461
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Thanks everyone for your opinions. I appreciate them very much.

    I am worried that the students will come to expect an all-pop concert next year. I teach 5th and 6th grade chorus, and both grades will be participating in the pop concert. I suppose I can approach it as a one time deal with the students, or perhaps do one every other year. Suggestions?

    #18468
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    My approach with my middle school choruses has been to save the contemporary music until the second half of the year. Fall semester, I am emphasizing vocal technique, musicianship, sight-singing skills, etc., and so keep most of the repertoire “legit.” We have our performance assessment in March; after that, we will concentrate on what the kids call the “fun” music. Our spring concert is primarily contemporary music–and I get some of my friends to back up the choruses with live keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do any light or contemporary music before that. If we have a performance in the community with a venue/audience where that type of music is appropriate, we’ll include it.

    I agree that it’s important to include contemporary music if you are performing before a student group where you are trying to recruit, but I’m very careful to mix up the repertoire in that situation. If that’s all you perform, students come into your program expecting that to be the norm.

    #18472
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Pop songs are good to do. I don’t think I’d ever do a total pop concert, but I always include one or two pop songs on my concerts. It keeps the kids excited and teaches them that singing is really fun. It goes a long way to building energy in your program. Additionally, Pop songs are well received at community performances and the energy that the kids put forth when they sing the music they like does carry over into the other music.

    #18476
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    And vice versa: you may overhear them singing along to the radio with better breath support and taller vowels! For me the main benefit of teaching pop music is simply showing that it can be “taught” and “learned” and worked on seriously like any other music. So often we assume that only pop music is fun and only “legit” music is educationally sound. There are lots of high-quality pieces by outstanding composers that get kids just as excited as pop music, if not even more so. Likewise, a great arrangement of an appropriate pop song gets kids thinking about advanced harmony and might spark some interesting conversations.

    #18508
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Almost any music can be used to teach concepts, and there is nothing inherently wrong with popular music. Pop music can entice students, keep their interest, and add variety to programming. We must not forget that it is possible to create the environment in which classical music becomes the favorite part of the students’ experience. Teaching a standards-based curriculum is the key.

    Anna Hamre, DMA
    Member, NAfME Choir Council

    #22080
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching some popular music with your choir. It is a very good way to build your program and give the students something they recognize. The question I always look for when doing popular music is “what are the teachable moments in this piece?” Is it written in such a way that sight reading/solfege skills could be improved? Is the choral arrangement well written, giving you the opportunity to discuss word painting, phrasing, etc? When I taught high school I programmed Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They were very excited to be singing it and it was a true challenge in terms of tight harmonies and range.

    I would not suggest programming a piece simply because it’s popular and the students know it. There are a lot of bad arrangements out there and, in my experience, the students become bored with them quite easily.

    #22319
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I’ve found that most kids want to sing songs from Glee. This is all fine and good, however, they don’t understand that everything about Glee uses professional musicians, editors, mixing, etc. Pick the arrangements carefully, and explain that they are NOT going to sound the same as on tv. There are teachable moments, and you must always stress good vocal technique, and breathing.

    #23351
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Programming for your concerts should be the same as choosing your food; its important to keep a balanced diet! Doing an all-pop concert sounds like a lost opportunity to make connections between the musical and cultural elements of pop literature and classical or other choral literature. There is so much benefit in students discovering similarities between the music they listen to at home and the beautiful works musicians have studied for decades/centuries.

    #23365
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I think that contemporary music has its place in our choirs. Having said that, I need to reiterate that it should not have a prominent place. Our job is to educate the students about all styles of music. I wouldn’t do an entire year with only music from the Baroque Period. Therefore, I wouldn’t do music solely from the 21st century. But, I also think we shouldn’t exclude it for the afore mentioned reason.

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • The forum ‘Choral’ is closed to new topics and replies.