HELP! Elementary/Band person, now full-time MS chorus!
- This topic has 6 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 9 months ago by nafmeadmin.
July 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm #9353
I’m so relieved to share that I have escaped my urban charter school with all its administrative and financial issues, and I have interviewed for, been offered, and accepted a position in my local district! No more hour-long commute through downtown Atlanta, won’t have to figure out the fifth principal in 5 years, won’t have to take the 25% pay cut or the mandatory 90-day “trial period” instituted by the newest principal. WHEW!!! So that’s all great news! The not-so-great news is that this is a full-time chorus position, and most of my career has been band and elementary music. I’ve taught middle school and high school choir for several years along the way, but always in addition to the main band or elementary duties, never as a full-time job. I have a decent voice from years of church choir, and I’m secure in my musicianship, but I haven’t had any formal choral training other than workshops. Also, I play just enough piano to be dangerous, but not enough to accompany really well. The interviewers liked me anyway, and I’m confident I can make things happen, but I would love some general suggestions, books or websites I should check out.The school has a strong choral tradition and lots of support. The “matriarch” of the program retired a year ago and there was an interim director. I heard he left because of his sick child. The matriarch was in on the interview and said she still volunteers to run the musical (I’m wondering if she is really the reason the guy left…not sure how much she is still involved). It is a dream schedule compared to my charter schedule: 3 classes in the morning, 90-minute lunch/collaboration with arts team, 3 classes in the afternoon. There are 2 choirs per grade level (6, 7, 8). I was told that there are very few boys who take choir, so they group all of them in one of the choirs so it is essentially one girls choir and one mixed choir per grade level (I’m not sure what determines who is in each choir). For the past 4 years I’ve taught 10-12 classes a day (25-30 minutes), some days no lunch and never any breaks. I’m certified Orff levels I, II, and III. I’ve taken Opera America! and lots of Orff workshops. I’m not sure how to choose music. I used Activate, Music K-8 with my previous choirs and always bought octavos with accompaniment tracks in case I couldn’t hire a pianist for performance, but I’m able to rehearse with my own paltry piano skills. Thanks for reading and I appreciate any starting points!July 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm #9360
hahah I’m in very nearly the same boat! I’ve never taught outside of elementary though, and this is a brand new program for this school so there is nothing in place right now! I picked up the Getting Started with Middle School Chorus and the complete choral warmup book, both very excellent.July 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm #9423
I am also a band director about to take on an elementary vocal/general music position. So far, I have contacted several colleagues who teach vocal/gm to get together with them for ideas. I’ll be happy to share some after I get to talk with them. But I would use other music teachers in your area as a point of contact for help. I am also going through Pepper online to see what materials and resources I can find and next week I hope to get into the school to see what is already there. Seems like there is enough material out there, along with your prior experience…I think you’ll do fine! I think the key is planning and picking each others brains! So if you come up with any great ideas, I hope you’ll post them.July 19, 2012 at 4:24 pm #10003
I love Activate, too. But for middle school choir you want at least two-part pieces with plenty of energy and inspiration. My favorite source is Sheet Music Plus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/ensembles/Choir-2-Part/46 You can browse by title. Be forewarned, though, there’s a required minimum # of scores for most selections. You can browse selections for various combos, voices and types of groups.
You can take simple folk songs from (older) books like 150 American Folk Songs to sing, read and play: http://www.amazon.com/150-American-Folk-Songs-Sing/dp/0913932043/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1342729028&sr=8-4&keywords=american+folk+songs and make your own arrangement. Repeat sections, add body percussion, add harmonies and auxiliary instruments, give solos. And just like some pop songs, when in doubt modulate up a step and repeat the song!!
Re: specific songs: Actually, my middle schoolers loved a piece from Activate magazine from about 3 years ago called Joy Inside by Wolfe White. It includes clapping sections — and includes a modulation!!August 13, 2012 at 10:13 am #10815
You may find help in these NAfME resources:
Dispelling 4 Middle School Myths (3 parts)
Getting Started with Middle School Chorus by Patrick Freer — https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781607091639
TIPS: The First Weeks of Middle School Chorus by Patrick Freer — https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781607092865
NAfME StaffAugust 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm #11288
My first suggestion is to use good literature. That would be in a classical or concert style rather than pop. This style will allow you to work on vowels and correct singing technique and not have to deal with students singing the way they have heard it on a recording. Russell Robinson has an excellent series with many titles of classical arrangements that students with enjoy. Doreen Rao and Henry Leck also have series that include interesting material. Folksongs work well. Place the students by vocal range rather than calling them Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. Call them Part 1, 2, 3 etc so it doesn’t matter to them whether they are singing a male or female part. As their voices change move them to another part. Check their range weekly if possible because their range changes as they learn to sing. Also this helps to not have to worry about balance. If you have a unison song that works well but has notes that go out of range for some students write in another part so students can stay within their range. Some of these young students only have a 5 note range. It sounds like you are all off to a good start with a lot of enthusiasm. That will help carry you until you get more training.August 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm #11290
Another suggestion is to bring another experienced choral teacher to you classroom. Have them work with your class as you watch. This served me well as a beginning teacher.
Choral Education Council Chair
- The forum ‘Choral’ is closed to new topics and replies.