HS Choir Help

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    I am in my 8th year of teaching but only my 2nd year teaching high school. I am trying to build the program but I feel like a fish out of water most days. My numbers went up this year which is good but I am struggling with how to pace my rehearsal each day and what I need to do in rehearsal everyday. My classes are kind of a mixed bag of levels. Some kids are good at reading music and some are completely lost. I feel like I need to start from the beginning but the kids that know it are bored and feel it’s a waste of time. I want them to write in the solfege to their parts and work in groups to learn music faster but I find myself sitting behind the piano plunking notes to kids that aren’t paying attention. It’s a waste of my time and it’s frustrating. What do you guys do to help them become more independent and accountable for their parts? Lastly, what is a typical rehearsal plan for your groups? We start with warm ups and then I usually work on two or three pieces throughout the class period. I just want the rehearsal to be fun and effecient. I just feel like my creativity is stumped and I’m feeling frustrated.


    Most (actually all) choirs I have taught are on differing levels. Some students are in their first year of singing and some have had vocal and piano lessons or have played other instruments. It is not such a task to bring up the students that have not had experience by teaching all to sing well in spite of their experience. It certainly can be done. You can use the higher level students to teach the other students by dividing in small groups for maybe 10 minutes during your class. I wouldn’t recommend always starting with warm-ups but call these warm-ups vocal exercises and use them to teach the students how to sing with good tone quality and good vowels and no matter how advanced a student is they can benefit here. You can use some of the more talented students to demonstrate good tone. Work on blend with your vocal exercises. These vocal exercises are best interspersed through the period so you are not doing the same thing all the time. Have your pianists work parts in sectionals while you work with a sectional in the choir room. Hopefully you have some practice rooms. That helps break up the class period. Don’t do it for a long period. Maybe 10 minutes. Have them return and sing for the class what they have accomplished. Have small groups stand and sing and give helpful critique and compliments. Everyone can feel successful. Have them change positions. A small class can actually move their chairs and circle the piano for a piece. Have them stand frequently. After working a page or two of notes have the class stand and sing a cappella while you conduct. Efficient rehearsals are fun. You do not have to entertain them if you are changing things up constantly during the class and picking music with excellent musical qualities and thoughtful text.

    Break the class up with a sightreading exercise and/or a rhythm exercise at various times. Use students that understand these concepts to teach. This teaches leadership to the advanced students and the other students can learn from them.

    Work a solfege exercise everyday but not at the beginning. Use a couple of lines of music and have them sing solfege with hand signs. Unison is best with struggling singers. An advanced student can lead this.

    Your success isn’t whether everyone is on the same level, it is based on improvement. If the advanced students are improving and getting opportunities for higher level thinking you are successful there.

    Always use the text to question students about deeper meanings and call on different students everyday. I have made it my goal to call on every student during each semester. If you ask a question and let them hold up their hands the same students will answer everyday. Just be sure that the student you call on is on the level of your question. Letting them know that you are going to question them all helps them to keep focused.

    This is a lot of information in one reply. I hope it is of some use to you. Please let us know through the forum how things are going.

    LeAnna Willmore
    NAfME, Choral Education Council Chair

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