More than almost anything else, literacy is the key to freedom, possibility, and advancement. Those who are literate in a collective language are able to work better together, learn from and inspire each other, achieve higher, and discover a world of previously unknown possibilities.
Likewise, since music is a mode of understanding like a language, the means by which we understand, create, interpret, and perform at a higher level is by laying a common foundation of musical literacy
The first time I had a true aesthetic experience, I was 17.
Within the first 30 seconds of the choir opening their mouths, my life was changed.
It was bright, vibrant, fully committed, and filled with life. The singers’ faces and bodies completely engaged, their eyes in unison on the conductor.
I wept, and I experienced that magic that we all have experienced a few times in our life when we
make music with others who are living with full hearts in the same place and time. The feeling that is so deep and overwhelming that you feel sick with wonder. One month later, I packed the car and moved to the middle of nowhere to go live in that sound for the next four years as an undergraduate.
I knew that my life’s work was not only to figure out how to recreate that sound, and that fire for my students, but to know how to teach others to create and perpetuate that experience for THEIR students.
A peak experience like I had, and that so many musicians have had, is addicting. It’s like a drug that we crave and constantly search for to get our next “fix.” When I graduated and began to look for jobs that would support my sound addiction, I naïvely knew that I would only take a high school job, in a really nice area, with lots of students, who all wanted to be there and felt like I did about choral music. That was easy to find, right?
The reality of what happened is that I took a job as an associate director split between HS and MS in a school district that was 60% affluent students, and 40% students that were in a very low socio-economic bracket who were bussed in from rough areas to help them succeed.
The disconnect between my drive for helping create people who were passionate about choral sound, and the reality of my choirs being filled with 90+ students, many of whom were there simply for a credit, mixed with a few great singers, caused a huge crisis for me. I cried every day for six months because I poured my heart out each minute trying to explain what they should/could feel instead of giving them an experience that made them discover for themselves. But, instead of running away, I decided that I wouldn’t stop until I figured out a system and a way to help my large, “y’all-come” choirs make unified sounds, remarkable music, and give them an experience that makes them want to be there every single day.
My mission became my passion, and my favorite choirs to work with today are non-auditioned, large choirs.
Through my process of finding ways to unify these groups both musically and emotionally, I’ve found that there are a few key ideas and techniques (among many others) that I prioritize in rehearsals:
Economic voice matching and changing seating often
A system of exercises that standardizes healthy vowel space/placement and tricks to modify consonants/vowels to improve intonation
Utilizing the forte dynamic and gradually working our way to a healthy, piano with a core tone and focus
Picking repertoire that is diverse tonally, challenging and attainable for all levels of musicianship and singers.
Building peak experiences through principles of appreciative inquiry
I believe that these priorities are the means to reach connection among singers.
I believe that connection leads to vulnerability and making mistakes.
I believe that mistakes lead to discovery.
I believe that discovery leads my students to find their own contribution to make to themselves, the ensemble, and the world around them.
I believe that it is unconditional contribution that creates that brilliant, unified sound that changed me when I was 17.
In the end, I believe that change is the legacy we leave behind.
Dr. Cory Ganschow is Coordinator of Music Education and Associate Director of Choirs at Western Connecticut State University. She is extremely active as an adjudicator and clinician for honor choirs across the country including All-State, All-Region, and All-District Choirs. Prior to teaching at WCSU, Ganschow taught choir in the Texas and Illinois public schools, and served as a facilitator of music in the adolescent behavioral health community. She has sung professionally in the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Voce, and Spire, and is also a published researcher and presenter in the areas of choral rehearsal approaches and engagement. She currently serves on the NAfME National Council for Choral Education Executive Committee and the CT-ACDA Executive Board as the R&S Chair for Women’s Choirs. Ganschow holds a Ph.D. in Music Education and Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, a MME from Illinois State University and a BME from Millikin University where she studied conducting with Dr. Brad Holmes.
After presenting an interest session with the Mansfield University Concert Choir demonstrating vocal techniques at the 2006 ACDA Eastern Division Conference in New York City, Frank Albinder commented: “I didn’t know that you were such a process person.” The comment inspired my thinking. Since then as I have read articles on teaching philosophy and observed conductors in rehearsal, I have considered whether the process of how students learn is as important as the final product or, in other words, the performance. If the performance is great, does it matter how we get there? My answer is “yes, it does;” in fact, the process can enhance the product!
I am really looking forward to presenting interest sessions on Saturday morning in Boston, “The Choral Rehearsal: Process to Product,” with the Mansfield University Concert Choir as a demonstration group. Throughout my twenty-six years at Mansfield, I have been passionate about vocal pedagogy and sequential learning as applied to choral rehearsals.
Successful performances are grounded in a creative, yet systematic, rehearsal process that builds confidence through vocal development, musical knowledge, and security in musical performance. My process involves layers of learning centered upon the elements of music: rhythm, pitch, harmony, texture, and tone color, combined with articulation, dynamics, and cultural understanding.
The interest session will focus on specific concepts related to each musical selection and will demonstrate rehearsal techniques that define an efficient and effective rehearsal process resulting in a musical product that is grounded in healthy vocal technique and musical understanding. Techniques such as count-singing using the Tometics method, pitch-reading based upon solfège, text-chanting à la Robert Shaw, and changing choral colors using head- or chest-voice will be incorporated. In addition, exercises for achieving choral blend through vowel formation, dynamic balance, and voice matching will be demonstrated. Here are examples of pedagogical approaches to tone color:
Bright-forward timbre: Laudar Vollio from Cortona laudario (13th c.)
A. Bright tone color
1. Begin with puppy whine
2. Vocalize on tongue vowels only: “nee-ay-ah-ay-ee”
3. Five tones descending on “nyae, nyae, nyae,” or “yellow”
4. Fast vocalises with initial consonants: V, Z, Y
5. Vibration towards the hard palate; soft palate not as involved
B. Application to music
1. Chant text on Shaw chord
2. Learn pitches with solfège in E dorian
Dark vocal color: I’ve been in the storm so long (Jeffery Ames)
A. Vocalize with dark color (compare dark and bright)
1 Sense an open throat – sip air through straw to feel lift in palate
2. Use lip vowels: ah, oh, oo
3. Sing five tone descending scale on “ee-oh” with Oreo cookie concept
4. Sing ascending/descending scales on “noo noh nah nay nee” with puckered lips
5. Put hands on cheeks for tall vowels and rounded lips
6. Pretend you have marshmallows in throat
7. Imagine Timothy Seelig’s concept of the woofer and the tweeter:
woofer– resonance in the pharynx with lifted soft palate
The Concert Choir and I will demonstrate the rehearsal techniques with repertoire selections by Monteverdi, Parry, Britten, Messiaen, Esenvalds, Memley, Ames, Runestad, and Hatfield, and a handout with teaching techniques will be provided. Hope to see you there!
Peggy Dettwiler is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University, where she conducts the Concert Choir, Festival Chorus, and Chamber Singers, and teaches choral conducting and methods. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Dettwiler has served as a guest conductor and lecturer throughout the country and has given presentations at numerous NAfME and ACDA Conventions. She has produced two DVDs, one entitled, “Developing a Vocal Color Palette for Various Choral Styles” and the second, “Sing in Style.” Dettwiler made her conducting debut in Carnegie Hall in January of 2014 and presented an interest session at the World Choral Symposium in Seoul, Korea, in August of 2014.
ACDA conferences, both regional and national, often tend to serve as mileposts as we head along our career path: “Do you remember the national conference when we heard…. Did you hear the interest session at the regional when we first learned about….” The 2012 Eastern Regional conference in Providence, though, was less a milepost for me than a giant direction sign: “STOP! Turn here!”
At that conference, many interest sessions and concerts were devoted to the concept of choral music as community service. I listened enthralled to the sessions devoted to intergenerational choirs, prison choirs, adaptive choirs, choirs for the homeless, choirs for promoting peace in war-torn regions. The more I heard, the more I realized that this was an aspect of our profession I knew so little about but that spoke to me with increasing delight at every session. But how to begin?
It was providence again indeed when I saw a guest choral director posting on Choralnet in December of that year. The Manda Wilderness Community Trust, located in far northwestern Mozambique, was looking for this choir director to come for their annual Choral Festival, held in late July. The position would involve working with the local village choirs, teaching the ensembles a piece to perform en masse, then coordinating the festival and possibly organizing a workshop for the choirmasters for a few days after the festival. I applied New Year’s Eve 2012, and after a few challenging attempts to interview via rainy season solar-powered skype sessions, the trust offered me the position that following February.
I spent the next few months learning the local language, Chinyanja (a variant of Chichewa), finding a piece for the choirs to sing together, and hiking, hiking, hiking to get myself in shape. This remote region is known even in Mozambique as fim do mundo (“the end of the world”), so I knew there were not going to be many forms of transportation much more than walking!
In May, I arrived at Nkwichi, the headquarters of the Manda Wilderness Community Trust. For two-and-a-half months, I logged four hundred and fifty miles of hiking as my guides and I travelled from village to village, sleeping in tents at the compounds of each village mfumu (chief), eating the local food, speaking the language, and working with the choirs – just as here, each with its own distinctive way of working and its own community culture.
With each chorus, I would listen to them perform then ask if there was anything they felt they wanted assistance with. It was important to me never to impose my own ideas of what I felt they might need; and I was glad I came in with that mindset, because by the end of my time there I realized what I would have missed in the culture had I come in with that attitude – not to mention how foolish it would have looked.
I had brought video and audio recording equipment with me, and I used it to record two to four pieces at each and every session. My primary reason for doing this was to show the choirs how they looked and sounded, as they had never had this opportunity to see themselves before. Naturally, however, this meant that in the course of visiting fifteen of the sixteen villages in the region, I amassed a huge video collection of the local choral culture. This I carefully transcribed and translated each time I would return to Nkwichi, with much assistance from the knowledgeable local employees of the trust.
In addition to recording established repertoire, I felt it would be good as a guest director to encourage local composers to consider creating new works for the repertoire. In this endeavor I received enthusiastic support from local choirmaster and trust employee Richard Stephano. At each village in my final honorary speech (an expected custom), I would invite the choirmaster to encourage any choir member who had a composition to come and perform it with their choir when they came to the festival. I would record it, transcribe it, and then submit to earthsongs for consideration for publication upon my return to the United States. How exciting it was when three choirs came to the festival with new works to add to the repertoire!
My last three weeks were spent organizing the festival (Did the rubric sheet make sense for adjudication based on local customs? Were the judges acceptable to the choirs? Did we have enough nsima and mchicha to go around for the meal at the festival?), as well as delivering the workshop with the choirmasters. The total experience was of course life altering. Upon my return I could not wait to begin sharing all I had learned.
I am very grateful that earthsongs enthusiastically embraced the idea of publishing all three composed pieces. Part of my interest session will be the presentation of one of these works, written by Jaime Chiphanga of the Mcondece village choir. Based on my personal experience and observations, I will walk interested colleagues through an authentic rehearsal and performance process for these pieces, all of which would be appropriate for concert or for worship settings and are designed to work for choirs of all ages.
It would be an honor to share this wonderful culture and its music with you in Boston this coming February, four years after that transformational Eastern Division conference in Providence. May your time in Boston provide you with your own revelatory insights, inspiration and meditation, that we may each live a life of service through music wherever that leads us.
MARK CONLEY, a conductor, composer and singer, has conducted numerous ensembles from professional opera companies to high school and middle school ensembles. He has also served as music director for numerous theater companies as well as performing as an opera and oratorio soloist. At the University of Rhode Island he serves as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities. He made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in the spring of 2009. The Summer of 2013, he served as guest choral director for the choral festival in the Manda Wilderness of Mozambique, working for three months in this remote region in order to help present a choral concert in late July. He blogged about his experiences at www.intrepidconductor.weebly.com.
From the moment it was announced that Roxbury Classic Sounds Honors would be singing in Boston, my students and I felt an anticipation and excitement that was intangible and special. I feel particularly grateful about our upcoming performance in Boston. Roxbury’s first appearance at an ACDA convention was Friday February 13th, 2004 at the Old South Church. We feel privileged to sing at the Old South Church again, this time on Friday February 12th, 2016. There is something very sentimental about this for the Roxbury kids, alumni, staff and myself regarding this “moment in time.”
My mom taught me the value of these “moments in time.” She often said that a special “moment in time” was important as it acted as a frame of reference for modeling all the other days of your life. I feel certain of what these “moments in time” – milestone dates of anniversaries, important performances, and birthdays – do for us. They remind us that the journey is the real deal. Why do we do what we do on a daily basis? Because as teachers and musicians we are in the business of enhancing lives through daily music-making. The bigger picture is a culmination of the details: the months of rehearsal; the study of great music; the interaction of students and teachers; the welcoming of guest artists and their special talents to contribute; and – through all the above – the development of students’ confidence, skills, and talents.
I hope and trust through every rehearsal across days, months, and years that each student can develop their own passion to create and continually strive for authentic musical experiences. I hope these musical experiences can then become a “moment in time” for them, a frame of reference for their future experiences in life – a sort of chain-reaction for an extraordinary life.
Certainly, the actual performance moment in February is a significant “moment in time,” but so is the journey: the
daily musical phrases that hit correctly; the interaction of friends, singers, and colleagues; and the communication of beauty through music – this is the point of all we do.
I never want to forget the “big picture” concerning my involvement in ACDA.
This organization has given me great joy, friendships, opportunities, and resources in the choral world beyond what I ever imagined. So, for the “moment in time” in February, I am very grateful; however, it is the journey that I will truly cherish.
Several years ago, my co-director and I decided to split the 7th and 8th grade choirs by gender at Marsteller Middle School in Bristow, VA. Little did we know the dramatic effect that would have on our male enrollment. In just two years we reached a 1 to 1 ratio of boys to girls and at our largest, had over 900 students in choir. My session will focus mostly on the repertoire and gimmicks I use, both in class and on stage, to get young men interested in singing and looking and sounding their best. This blog, however, has been written by my singers. They are the backbone of the session and will be there with me, showcasing many of the songs we’ll be discussing. I asked them “What’s cool about being in a men’s chorus?” and told them to send their response to me via the Remind app, which limits their text to 140 characters. Here’s what they had to say:
To me, Men’s Select helps me to liberate my creative passion for the art of music.
I enjoy being in a men’s chorus because we form close bonds with each other and with Mr. Keirstead and have fun singing together.
Men’s Chorus is a great class. I get to be in a class with a lot of my friends and I love being able to express myself in music.
I enjoy Men’s Chorus because it is one of the classes where I can go and do what I like doing, which is singing.
What I love about men’s chorus is that we get to go around and perform for our parents and little kids, showing them how much fun chorus is.
In Men’s Chorus you get to show your talent and hang out with guys that do it, too. You don’t need to sing too high and the music is great.
We are not just a boys’ choir. Mr. Keirstead has taught us all to be men.
I don’t have to worry about impressing girls. It’s fun hanging out with just my guy friends.
Men’s Chorus is fun! Not just the singing and dancing, but the actual learning of the music is fun in itself.
A men’s choir gives me an opportunity to have fun learning about music with kids like me. It makes me feel normal while learning music.
Being in men’s chorus is a good human experience, not only for the students, but for the teacher, also.
You can make new friends and support each other in and outside of men’s chorus.
Being in men’s chorus is a unique opportunity to show who you are and the person you are inside, where you won’t be judged by others.
Men’s Chorus is cool because of the awesome songs and dances along with the cool outfits!
Being in a men’s chorus is fun because we can all relate to each other and understand each other. Also, we sing songs that are meant for our voice range.
I think it’s cool to be in a men’s chorus because we all understand each other better. Also, we get along with each other without it getting awkward.
And finally, from the kid who didn’t follow directions and sent several 140-character texts to finish this thought…
Men’s Chorus is an inspirational class to get you to where you want to be when you grow up. Being separated into these two classes of men and women allows the teachers to dig deeper into the music and focus on the important things without only touching on them. This also allows the students to stay engaged in their music because being around the other gender distracts them from their musical experience.
Philip Keirstead is one of two choral directors at Marsteller middle School in Prince William County, Virginia. There he directs the 7th Grade Men’s Chorus, 8th Grade Advanced Men’s Chorus, and co-directs the 6th Grade Mixed Choir with Julie Phelan.
Philip attended James Madison University where he was a founding member and treasurer of its first collegiate chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association. He served as student conductor of the University Chorus and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree is music education. He currently serves on the university’s Music Education Advisory Committee. Philip completed his Master of Choral Music Education Degree at Florida State University in 2015.
Philip began his teaching career at Hylton High School in Woodbridge, VA, serving as assistant choral director and musical director. He has served the Virginia Music Educators Association as District IX Choral Representative and as the VCDA Secretary. Philip is also very active in the American Choral Directors Association, having served as the Middle School Repertoire and Standards Chair and organizing the All-Virginia Middle School Honor Choir and auditions.
Guest conducting engagements include several district and county choir events in and around Virginia. In 2011, Mr. Keirstead and his 8th Grade Men’s Select Choir were invited to give a presentation entitled “Get Guys Singing” which focused on repertoire that attracts young men to chorus. This presentation was reprised at the ACDA Southern Division Conference in Jacksonville, FL in 2014. Philip was named Prince William County’s Middle School Teacher of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year and was a runner-up for the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.
If you are searching for choral repertoire, and the fact is, we are indeed searching for choral repertoire all the time, your membership in the American Choral Directors Association offers you the entire Musica choral database to track down repertoire throughout the world.
Why would you use Musica rather than a Google search? Great question! Here are some answers I think you will find compelling:
The Musica database references the score for the choral piece you want to find and does not drown in all other areas that you will encounter in a typical Google search;
Music is a structured database, which means there exists a specific field for each type of information describing a score—composer, title, voicing, number of voices, key center, genre, style, form, instrumentation, liturgical use, and much more (for example, try searching in Google for Swiss choral scores for mixed voices in French, for a harvest festival, lasting about five minutes….Good luck with that! But in Musica, your search can be pinpointed with these criteria.)
With Musica, fields of a search are grouped, making the search much more friendly and faster;
In Musica, several search forms are available for the user who can choose the one that is best suited to the research desired, or to the one that is most comfortable to the user;
Musica automatically translates the important data into four languages, allowing access to all data, even those introduced in Musica in a language other than that used by the visitor;
A Musica record includes all the information about the score into a single entity; you will find the bibliographic description, but also the multimedia links (video, audio clip, translations, pronunciation of the text, image of the page, and more);
The information is monitored constantly and checked and improved (in other words, it is trusted) by the Musica coordination team, which is a team of choral conductors and music librarians (in other words, this is a trusted site, avoiding the negative aspects of Wikipedia and Google searches);
The videos selected for the choral works sought are only the good performances, unlike Google and YouTube that mix the best with the worst;
In the composer’s file, nearly 11,000 composers have one or more links to detailed biographies, again checked and monitored by the Musica team;
Musica offers “favorite pieces of the month” for additional exploration and interest;
Musica offers an “auditorium” where you can browse through the vast compilation of all audio and video links;
Musica allows you to interact with the data by using a Musica Wiki or Facebook page;
Musica offers a list of important anniversaries for composers.
Musica can be used to manage your choral holdings without need of doing your own database, by benefitting from private fields to input for instance your location.
Musica has developed into THE choral music research and teaching tool for the benefit of conductors, musicologists, music conservatories and schools, music federations, and choral music industry members, worldwide. For the experienced choral musician, it is the source for discovering literature from around the world. For the student of choral music, Musica is a keen way to discover and learn about the world of choral repertoire.
Music comprises four databases that can be consulted separately: choral scores-170,000 records; choral composers-30,000 records; authors of texts-13,000 records; choral publishers-2,200 records. These databases are interlinked so that it is possible to navigate directly between them.
The database of scores comprises a series of records yielding as many as 100 different types of information about the score, including composer, arranger, publisher, title, genre, form, difficulty, type of choir, language, musical period, instrumentation, etc. About 20 fields are translated automatically through several multilingual thesaurus developed by the Musica International team. As a result, information is automatically and immediately available in the different languages.
Musica currently contains more than 200,000 multimedia links. The multimedia fields are designed to provide a fuller understanding of the piece: image of one page of the score, the text, its translation in several languages, a sound clip of a good interpretation and/or a video, a sound file of the correct pronunciation by a
native speaker of the language, a midi file, and links to pages external of the project. By the end of 2015, the Musica database contained more than 170,000 records, making it the leading virtual library of choral music in which all possible information about a score is available.
Since 2011, Musica has concentrated on the development of features allowing full interactivity with the actors of choral music. The choral world is able to contribute actively to its development through the linked online Musica Wiki, allowing every composer, publisher, conductor, musicologist, or choral music lover to leave comments, additional information and reports of experiences with the music, and to directly input their favorite pieces.
Musica is now a benefit of membership in ACDA. At the Eastern Division ACDA Conference in Boston in February, 2016, I will be joined by the Musica Board to present an Interest Session on the use of the Musica database with all of the features mentioned in this blog. I hope many of you will come and learn from the Musica team as they unfold the richness of this choral repertoire search engine and learning resource.
Tim Sharp is Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association, the world’s largest association of choral conductors, students, scholars, composers, and choral industry representatives. Tim has pursued an aggressive agenda of strategic planning and progressive initiatives to keep the American Choral Directors Association energized and relevant in the 21st century. He represents choral activity in the United States to the International Federation for Choral Music, and appears regularly as guest conductor and clinician throughout the world. Tim is in his eighth season as Artistic Director of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, where critics characterized his performances as having “stunning power” and “great passion and precision”. In a recent review of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus’ performance of Mozart’s Requiem, arts critic James Watts stated, “The Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, prepared by its artistic director Tim Sharp, was in excellent form, summoning up rafter-shaking power…and showing great sensitivity ….”
The benefits of having students in your ensembles participate in voice lessons can be invaluable. The reality is that access to these lessons is not always available or affordable. This participatory session will introduce vocal techniques, literature ideas and rehearsal tips that will strengthen your singers’ musicality and promote healthy vocalism throughout your rehearsals. This session is for the “do it all” teacher/conductor searching for more strategies to develop their choral singers’ personal vocal development.
Introducing vocal techniques that encourage the unification of registers and develop effective breath management are essential strategies for strengthening your singers’ musical capabilities. Unifying vocal registers refers to the singer’s ability to smoothly transition between the breaks that naturally occur in the voice. Singing a descending scale on a [i] vowel, particularly through the passaggio, is an effective tool for teaching your singers how to unify the tone through vocal registers. Effective breath management is essential for fostering the musical growth of your singers. Messa di voce exercises can be a key tool in developing effective breath management for your vocalists. Messa di voce is characterized as singing a on a single sustained note maintaining consistent resonance and vibrato while evenly increasing and then decreasing volume throughout the note (Ex.1). One can also make this exercise more interesting for the singer by utilizing a four part singing texture (Ex. 2)
The benefits of breath management include building stamina through increasing the duration of the sustained note, encouraging breath management and NOT breath control, and strengthening tone. It affords the opportunity to incorporate kinesthetic learning and reinforces musicianship through the exploration of dynamic contrast. The consistent implementation of vocal techniques that promote the unification of registers and development of effective breath management should be at the core of all vocal music programs.
At the center of any good choral program is well-planned and thoughtful literature consideration. There are many outlets from which to choose choral octavos to use a teaching aides in our choral ensembles. We oft neglect art songs as instructional tools in our choral programs and have relegated them to solo singing experiences. In fact, arts songs provide another outlet for capitalizing on the value of unison singing. Employing these songs in your choral program not only strengthen your singers intonation but can also be used in group vocal lessons, commonly found in schools throughout New York state, and offer options for assessments.
Collaboration and encouragement are also essential elements in helping your students translate vocal studio concepts into the choral rehearsal. Inviting professional singers into your classroom setting, especially if they are former students, can help your students see connections from your classroom to their career goals. Once might even consider programing a small work with soloists in which you can use your students as the soloists, i.e. Mozart Veni Sancte Spiritus. This type of experience can serve as encouragement for those students who choose to pursue singing as a career. We know that singing is a VERY personal experience. Choral directors should stay engaged vocally so that we never forget what it feels like to be on the other side of the podium. If we remember the skill and effort it takes to keep our own voices in shape, it will inform our efforts to do the same for our students.
Most teachers must subscribe to the school of “Do It All, ” meaning we are the choral director and voice teacher for our students. We may not be fortunate enough to live in areas where the resources are available to provide students with supplemental musical instruction and if we do, our students may not be able to afford those services. We have to continue to grow our knowledge base so that we can effectively and efficiently provide the necessary instruction our students need in order to support their musical growth. The practical techniques outlined in my session in Boston will be focused on equipping you with the tools to employ these techniques in your choral classroom.
Dr. Derrick Fox
Assistant Professor of Choral Music Ed./Choral Conducting
Ithaca College, New York
I became an educator to help young people find their singing voices and advance their personal musicianship. What I did not realize, at the time, was how engaged I would become with how adolescents develop through choral experiences. I remember when my thoughts came to a fore—the Mixed Choir was preparing for an international tour. We engaged in additional rehearsals and sectionals, the students sang run out concerts, faculty and administrators held meetings with parents, and the choir participated in team-building activities. With more than 55 singers traveling to Europe, we crafted several interactions to facilitate a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Upon our return, student after student told me the choir had “bonded.” I probed into the students’ experiences and realized they described a sense of belonging and community that developed through extended time together. Participating in choir helped singers feel connected to one another, fostered emerging friendships, and encouraged greater self-awareness and self-growth. Choir members positioned singing in the center of their social development. One student said:
But when you hear someone singing it’s their voice, but it’s also a different way of seeing someone. We are using ourselves. We become the instrument when we work together. When you are singing, you are making yourself vulnerable. You want to make friendships with those people because you are already opening yourself up to them by singing. (Parker, 2010, p. 347)
My interest was piqued when choir members discussed how the repertoire contributed to their experiences of belonging:
In English class the other day, we were reading Beloved and a character said, ‘Oh my Jesus.’ The rest of the chorus kids in the class broke into song [at that time in chorus class, students were rehearsing Moses Hogan’s I’m gonna sing ‘til the spirit which includes several ‘Oh my Jesus’ within it]. We always have that class right after chorus and so many chorus people are in it. It occurred to me after that experience that maybe other people don’t get it” (p. 346).
Adolescents shared that choir is significant because it is a protected, safe space for those who seek friendships and compelling musical experiences. For some, choir acts as an in-group that serves powerfully to build adolescent social identity. Through conducting several research studies, I have learned that young people have important experiences to tell and unique ways of telling—I believe listening to adolescent voices will sustain and inspire our developing practices as choral music educators and advance advocacy efforts for music education.
I look forward to engaging with you in how to create and sustain supportive communities through building relationships, student leadership, enhancing and expecting high-level music-making, and communication within and outside of the school community during my presentation, “What Happens in Choir…Adolescent Development through Singing” at Eastern ACDA in Boston. I hope to see you there.
Parker, E. C. (2010). Exploring student experiences of belonging within an urban high school choral ensemble: An action research study. Music Education Research, 12, 339–352. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14613808.2010.519379 Elizabeth Cassidy Parker, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Music Education at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. She also conducts the Troubadors, one of four ensembles of the Pennsylvania Girlchoir. Prior to her work at Temple, Elizabeth taught at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, GA. Selected journal publications include the Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Choral Journal, Music Education Research, and the International Journal of Music Education.
The Boston Conference is pushing boundaries in more ways than one! For the first time, we will exclusively be using an app to replace the traditional conference program book. We have partnered with DoubleDutch, one of the industry leaders in conference apps and are excited to provide a top shelf experience in communication, scheduling, and general information. The app works on all major Apple and Android smart devices and tablets and a web based version of the app is available for any other devices. The app itself is native, meaning once you install it, just about all information exists on your device and will not require data (with negligible exceptions). Here is a brief tour of what’s in store.
This is the default view of the app – the Activity Feed. Think of this as the Conference’s “wall.” Here, you will find promoted posts from our sponsors and exhibitors, pictures and posts from other conference attendees, and general announcements. You may scroll down the Activity Feed just like a Facebook Wall or the comments section of a webpage to see previous posts. Note that the first post is labeled “Promoted Post.” Those will be from the leadership or from our loyal sponsors. The next post down is a picture from Dr. T.J. Harper – a great example of a social posting. You will be able to post to the feed by using the “pencil and paper” icon in the upper righthand corner of the screen.
Most importantly, at the top lefthand corner of the screen
is the menu button. A close-up is shown here. Clicking this button will cause the main menu to appear. You may also bring out the menu by swiping the screen from the left edge to the right edge. From the menu, you may get to any of the subsections of the app.
The Menu has several useful sections, the most important of which is the two Tracks, which will include every scheduled event: concerts, interest sessions, Together We Sing reading sessions, receptions, research sessions,
roundtables, and everything else. To the right, you will see the default menu view. You can see that the two tracks have their own menu items, color coded appropriately. The Tracks are filterable, meaning, if you just want to see the concert sessions, you can filter everything else out. Each session will contain a wealth of info: live links to repertoire for concerts, interest session materials, and much more.
Below that is the People icon. Here you can find information on the conductors, leadership, interest session speakers, and more. Speaker and Conductor profiles are linked to their respective concert and interest sessions.
Clicking the note icon will display information on all of the Performing Choirs, including rep, linked to publishers, and when they are performing.
Below the Activity Feed icon, you will find Venue Directions. Selecting this provides directions and addresses for all venues from the Sheraton. iPhone users can click on the address and get directions from anywhere instantly. Android users can use Google maps.
Next, you will find the menu item for the Sheraton. Clicking this provides floor layouts and the Exhibit Floor map which is interactive.
Below the Sheraton Floor Plan, are the Exhibitors and Sponsors menu items. The Exhibitors item will provide the location of any booth on the floor and the Sponsors section is interactive, with live phone numbers, email addresses, and weblinks.
Lastly, a section providing Dining info in the Back Bay area should prove useful, listing price point, live addresses and phone numbers, webpages, and a brief description of the cuisine.
Stay tuned for some video walk throughs of the app. On January 1st, the app will officially go live, but we will start adding registered conference attendees as users on December 10th. If you have registered by that date, you will receive and email from Mark Boyle, our Conference Tech Liaison, explaining how to download and log into the app. After the 10th of December, we will be sending out emails weekly to each batch of new registrants after that with the same info.
Mark A. Boyle is the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. He serves ACDA as the Male Choir R & S Choir and the Conference Tech Liaison for the Eastern Division, and the Undergraduate Conducting Competition Chair for ACDA PA.