Have you ever felt that rehearsals end too quickly and performances arrive too soon? MENC member Christina Lamb shares some tips for more effective choral rehearsals. Part One discusses Tips 1 – 5.
6. Make sure students have pencils. Have students mark their music as you give directions. Tell them at the start of year you’ll be making random checks to see if they’re marking their music, and be sure YOUR music is marked ahead of time. If all else fails, have a cup of sharpened pencils up front for those who have forgotten their own.
7. Communicate thoroughly, yet with as few words as possible. Say what you want students to know in as few words as possible – rambling or confusing explanations are going to lose their attention. Be sure students understand what you mean, and can use the terminology correctly. Also, be sure your conducting gestures show just what you want.
8 . Keep students singing. The more you involve the students at every point of the rehearsal, the less restless they’ll be, and there will be fewer discipline problems.
When rehearsing sections:
• Send each section to a different part of room to work simultaneously on their parts.
• Work on a specific section’s part (S, A, T, B), and have the entire chorus sing along in unison on that part. This not only keeps students involved, but helps with sight-singing skills too!
9. Plan well for the rehearsal. Be disciplined in your preparation for class.
- Select music you want to work on before class
- Look over new music carefully, marking it in advance. Decide ahead of time how you want to approach the music.
- Start each rehearsal with a piece that will give quick satisfaction to students.
- Do a more difficult or challenging music in the middle of the rehearsal time.
- Work on an energetic, fast paced piece, near the end of rehearsal, to give the students an uplift they can carry with them as they leave rehearsal.
There will always be days when your best plans have to be put aside and you have to do something different. There will also be days when inspiration hits you and you change everything on the spur of the moment–those rehearsals can sometimes be the best.
10. Make the rehearsal fun. Rehearsal needs to be fun. Although it’s important to get as much accomplished as possible, try to keep the atmosphere light. Singers who enjoy rehearsal will be willing to do more, and work hard when you ask them. They will enjoy each other and develop camaraderie.
Adapted from “Ten Steps to a More Productive Choral Rehearsal”, Teaching Music, April 2005, by Christina Lamb, assistant professor of general music, Ball State University, Burris Laboratory School.
— Sue Rarus, April 13, 2010 © National Association for Music Education