Teaching Repertoire and Reading Skills Simultaneously

Stronger Together—Teaching Repertoire and Reading Skills Simultaneously

By NAfME Member Dr. Eva Floyd
Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music


Does your rehearsal structure look like this?




A traditional choral ensemble rehearsal structure consists of vocal warm-ups, an ear-training or music literacy activity, followed by learning and rehearsing repertoire. Often our rehearsal structures resemble the first visual, where the time devoted to teaching musicianship skills (sight-reading/ear-training/music literacy) are compartmentalized into an isolated section of our rehearsal, and do not intersect with the rest of our rehearsal when we are learning and performing repertoire. 

Would you like your rehearsal structure to look more like this?

music literacy


This workshop will share ideas for rehearsal structures that integrate sight-singing/musicianship skills/ear-training into the process of learning repertoire. 


Benefits of Teaching Repertoire and Reading Skills Simultaneously

  1. Integrating the two together can strengthen the transfer of skills—making your teaching more efficient
  1. Improving the quality of performance with increased accuracy and intonation
  1. Increase motivation in the rehearsal by giving students a sense of purpose and help them relate their skills to a “real-life” situation of learning music that will be sung in concert 


Working in the Zone

Do you feel there is a gap between what your choir can read independently and what they can perform with assistance? We will discuss the need to work in the developmental area between what the students can do independently and what they need assistance with before success is possible (the zone of proximal development). In musical terms one aspect of this zone can be regarded as the difference in their independent reading ability and their rote performing ability. 

This workshop will give practical examples of how choral music educators can begin to bridge this gap while making accommodations for students’ various developmental levels. These techniques are often referred to as “scaffolding” and provide excellent transitional strategies when working this zone of learning. These scaffolding techniques are wonderful opportunities to incorporate musicianship skill activities, which will be purposely transferable to other musical situations.


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Tips for Using Scaffolding Techniques with Your Choral Repertoire

A. “Extract” a reasonable challenge—find a place in the music that can be reduced and summarized with minimal distraction.

B. (Or) find the most difficult passage—it can be accessible with guidance. You can use the opportunity to teach the “trickiest” section with careful precision and student understanding.

C. Less can be more—you can choose which aspects of the music are priority at the moment.

D. The purpose of these strategies is to learn your performance music with a firm foundation while building your singers’ music literacy skills.


Musical Example

I used Kyrie from Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis in D, op. 63 to incorporate interval study and prepare the thematic material of the piece. This sample from the workshop’s handout illustrates a visual understanding of the intervals used in do-re-mi with instant modulation.  The same principle is applied to the ascending intervals so-la-do and descending intervals la-so-mi, which outlines the melodic material Britten composed for the Kyrie movement.


sight reading

The workshop will include demonstrations of teaching sequences using an integrated rehearsal structure.

This integration of performance skills and literacy skills can be stronger when used together, rather than only in isolation.  This comprehensive approach of teaching music guides our students toward musical understanding, which informs and strengthens their performing. Kodály summarized the characteristics of a good musician as possessing a well-trained hand (technique/vocal instrument), a well-trained intelligence (musical understanding), a well-trained ear (aural skills), and a well-trained heart (Kodály, 1974). A well-trained heart influences the other three in how teachers deliver instruction and interact with their students.  The heart transmits the joy of teaching, learning, and making music with others, which influences all aspects of music education.

For further inspiration see the attached video of a demonstration lesson from the Symposium of the International Kodaly Society (2013).  This lesson demonstrates integration of music theory/literacy skills with repertoire throughout a rehearsal with a high-school aged female choir.  Even though the lesson is in Hungarian with limited English translation, you can easily see the integrated approach of instruction and joy of artistic teaching and learning from both teacher and students.



Kodály, Z. (1974). Who is a good musician? In F. Bónis (Ed.), The selected writing of Zoltán Kodály (pp. 185-200). London: Boosey & Hawkes.


About the author:

Dr. Eva Floyd

NAfME member Dr. Eva Floyd is assistant professor of choral music education at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Dr. Floyd studied two years at the Liszt Academy’s Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music in Kecskemét, Hungary earning an advanced diploma in Choral Conducting. She founded the Cincinnati Homeschool Choir in 2014 and a community choir for female singers in 2016. She is active as a choral adjudicator, guest conductor, and clinician, as she frequently guest-conducts elementary, middle, and high school honor choirs.  Floyd served as a conducting coach for the Chorus America National Conducting Master Class for conductors of children’s and youth choruses and also served on the Music Advisory Committee for the World Choir Games in Cincinnati. Floyd currently is the Midwestern Regional Representative to the Organization of American Kodály Educators National Board. 

Dr. Floyd has published in NAfME’s (National Association for Music E ducation) publications such as Update: Applications of Research in Music Education and The Journal of Music Teacher Education.  She also has articles in The Choral Journal, Kodály Envoy, and the Bulletin of the Internal Kodaly Society.  She has presented her research at Kentucky and Ohio Music Educators Association conferences, American Choral Directors regional conference, Society for Music Teacher Education national conferences, and International Symposia in Scotland, Hungary, Poland, Australia, and Greece.


Connect with me on my school website University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, my e-mail eva.floyd@uc.edu, on Twitter @cincyeva, via Facebook, or on LinkedIn.


Eva Floyd will be presenting on her topic “Stronger Together—Teaching Repertoire and Reading Skills Simultaneously” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today!

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Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: http://bit.ly/NAfME2016. And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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