Kinesthetic Gestures to Aid Your Choir

by Jennifer Berroth, Contributing Author, DevelopingVoices.blog

Movement is often used to engage a singer’s breath, energy, and musicianship.  Young singers can benefit from using gestures throughout a rehearsal to help them understand musical concepts they are performing.  Here are some kinesthetic gestures I use to help my own singers.

Staccato gestures

            Staccato phrases can be tricky.  Singers might find it hard to stay in pitch, maintain tall vowels, or continue the shortened rhythms.  I have my singers “pop bubbles” in the air with their fingers while singing staccato phrases.  The “popping” helps maintain the shortened sounds. I also instruct them to sing with the round space of the bubble. 

Pop the Bubble Video

Other staccato gestures can be “throwing a dart”, tip-toeing in a space, or tapping the staccato rhythm with their fingertips on their shoulder or arm.

Singing Legato

            Legato phrases can be tough to get singers to sing with energy through the entire phrase.  Here are some gestures I have my singers use:

  • Paint on a blank canvas with smooth brush strokes in the air
    • Add a color to your “painting”- If you want a warm sound have your singers visualize warm colors: deep reds or oranges. 
  • Spread the butter or frosting gesture
    • Use one arm to “spread” your sound evenly over the other arm.
  • Long, legato rotations
    • Using the arms, rotations should move perpendicular and not parallel to their body.  This helps singers keep their energy and sound moving out in front on them verse staying right in front of them.

Long, legato rotation video

Supporting the tone

          Have singers imagine they are lifting weights.  When someone is lifting weights, the support should come from their core strength and lower body; the idea is the same for singers supporting their tone.  Some things to remember when having singers utilize this gesture:

  • Keep knees slightly bent
  • Don’t allow the chest to drop, vice versa, don’t overextend the straightening of the spine
  • Singers should imagine they are lifting a fairly heavy object and the weight should be lifted over the entire phrase.

Phrasing- I really like to use sport gestures for phrasing; Throw a baseball/football, shoot a basketball, shoot an arrow, etc.  The same way we might see football laces or baseball laces spin throughout a throw, so can singers visualize “spinning their sound” to the end of the phrase.

There are many ways you can have your choir experiment following through with their energy and phrase.          

Other Kinesthetic Gestures

Using opposite movement for ascending or descending line

Have singers move their arms upward when singing a descending line to avoid coming down too hard on their sound. The same thing applies to ascending lines and using downward motions.  Have singers try to bend their knees, or a plie squat to create support and an ease of sound through-out the ascension.

Move around the room

            Use the rehearsal space to have singers move freely while singing.  Encourage them to really listen and fill up the entire room with their sound.  

In addition to the benefit these movements provide in learning new musical concepts and vocal technique, they are a great way to break the monotony of “choir class,” and encourage a classroom climate that is relaxed and safe.

Article written by Jennifer Berroth, Choral Director, Leawood Middle School, Leawood, Kansas, USA.

The Difference Between Timely and Timeless Music

THE TIMELY AND THE TIMELESS

The voice of the high school junior was a bit hesitant as he offered his question during a Q&A that followed a talk I had given to a his choir at the end of a workshop: “Why is it that you [choral leaders] call some music “worthwhile” and other music “something less.” After all, isn’t Bach and Beethoven just the Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift of another time?”

This is a question that is often heard.  Indeed, the peddlers of commercial church music would be quick to say that a contemporary religious music song-spinner with big hair is the 21st century version of Martin Luther or Charles Wesley.

Of course, we know that today’s pop artists are not Beethoven and Bach, just as we know that someone selling a paint-by-numbers canvas out of the trunk of a car parked along a highway is not Monet or Rembrandt.  It may be hard to articulate how we distinguish greatness from the ordinary but, if we are honest with ourselves, we have a sense of it when we hear it.

There is music that is timely and there is music that is timeless.  Both have a legitimate place in our expressive lives.

I would bet many lovers of great choral music would be surprised to look at the playlists on the cell phones of America’s most well-known and respected choral leaders.  Most certainly there would be thousands of recordings by the great choral ensembles of the past half-century, from the Robert Shaw Chorale to Trinity College Cambridge to Chanticleer and many others.  There would also be music of a more timely fashion, perhaps Johnny Cash, perhaps Queen, perhaps Gladys Knight, and possibly even Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift.  Music that is timely has its place.  Timely music can comfortably sit in the background.  It can offer atmosphere for warm or nostalgic feelings, even inspiring a spirit of romance at the right occasions.

Great music, or what we might call “classical” music cannot sit in the background.  Its richness and urgency calls for our full attention.  Whether it be the creations of the great European masters, or authentic renderings of folks music from across the globe, or the spirituals of those who fought oppression of the body and the spirit, great music distinguishes itself in unmistakable ways.  We have a sense of it when we hear it.

The first distinguishing characteristic that comes to mind is craftsmanship.  Great music is distinguished by the quality of its construction.  It has been said that Handel was such a genius at musical craftsmanship that he could receive an order for a work on a certain theme for a certain array of instruments to last a specific amount of time, and that he could fill the order perfectly with a work glorious and inspiring.

Great music is also marked by its integrity.  There is an honesty and a reality to it, an avoidance of contriving, in words and sounds, something unique or something said uniquely.

Great music conveys a spirit of inspiration.  Inspiration may certainly evoke a religious response, but it may also inspire any area of contemplation, be that human relationships or self-reflection.

Great music is beautiful.  What would be considered beautiful in sound will certainly vary from culture to culture, but within each is a standard of melodic and harmonic interest that delights the aesthetic of the ear.

Lastly, and most importantly, great music is timeless.  It has passed, or has the power to pass, the test of time.  The symphonies of Beethoven have been enjoyed for 200 years or more, the Masses of Palestrina for twice that long.  This music will still be enjoyed many hundreds of years from now.  Indeed, one could study the scores and listen to recordings of the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem or the Beethoven Missa Solemnis every single day for the rest of one’s life and discover new treasures with every encounter.

Timely music certainly has its place.  It can bring a welcome distraction to a busy or stressful day.  It can help anchor a joyful memory, or assuage a time of sadness.  Timeless music, on the other hand, has the power to change lives and destinies.  When it passes through the heart, soul, and mind of the performer and the hearer, it changes those lives forever.

William O. Baker, DMA

Founder and Director, The William Baker Choral Foundation

References:

Image found online:

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Interview with Emily Crocker, Renowned Composer and Choral Consultant

Emily Holt Crocker has recently been appointed Founder and Music Director Emeritus of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, an organization she established in 1994, by the Board of Directors of Milwaukee Children’s Choir. The choir has received acclaim for performances with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, American Choral Directors Association and international choir festivals in Japan and England.

As a composer, Ms. Crocker’s works have been performed around the world. She has received ASCAP awards for concert music since 1986. She is well known for her work in developing choral instructional materials and is author of Experiencing Choral Music, choral textbook series for grades 6-12, published by McGraw-Hill/Glencoe. As a conductor, she has led the Midwinter Children’s Choral Festival in Carnegie Hall and conducted the Milwaukee Pops Orchestra and Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. In 2002, she was a recipient of the Excellence in Youth Music Award from the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee. 

Here is a brief interview with our notorious contributor to developing young voices around the world ~

DV: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born? Where did you attend school and study music?

EC: I was born in Fort Worth, Texas and received my primary and secondary education in Fort Worth Public Schools attending Meadowbrook Elementary, Meadowbrook Junior High, and Eastern Hills High School. I did spend 18 months during grades 6-8 in Altus and Weatherford, Oklahoma.

I went on to get a Bachelor of Music Education from University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Music Theory from Texas Woman’s University. From there, I continued my post graduate studies in Choral Conducting, Choral Literature, Rehearsal Techniques and German from University of North Texas. From 1980-85 I studied Linguistics, and English and American Literature as a secondary teaching field.

DV: What is your first musical memory? 

EC: Hearing Hank Williams singing Hey! Good Lookin’ – What ya got cookin’ on the radio, and then the great singing at my home church, Church of Christ. There was a lot of a cappella singing. I heard 4 part harmony from my earliest years and began to follow the hymn notation from about age 5 or 6

DV: Did anyone in your family sing or play an instrument? Would you say your family was musically inclined?

EC: We were avid players of the radio and record player! My mother sang old songs around the house. My father had played the guitar as a teen.

DV: Did you study an instrument privately when you were young? If so, what and with whom?  

EC: Like every young girl in the 50s, I started piano at age 7 and I was lucky to have a treasure of a teacher, Laura Helen Coupland, who took me through to my high school graduation. Not only did she teach me piano repertoire and technique, she made sure I had a good understanding of music theory, ear training and music history.

DV: Were there any opportunities that came your way that inspired you to take the path of devoting your life to music?

EC: By high school, I was fairly certain that I was going to go into music. I had a number of experiences that were formative. I was selected as the high school drum major, and although I was a small person to be a drum major, I learned a great deal about leadership. In college, I also had the opportunity to tour Asia with an all-girl USO band, which opened my eyes to the wider world and helped me form bonds with other women musicians like myself. I received my music degree from University of North Texas which was a very large music school. This helped me establish myself among my peers and begin charting a career pathway in music.

DV: What were the greatest lessons you learned from your teachers (life lessons or musical) and who were they?

EC: I have had great mentors and teachers throughout my life, even now! I have learned the value of optimism, of humor and of persistence. Any challenge in life can be looked at as a series of steps or actions. Also, you have to advocate for yourself – see yourself where you want to go. That is the first step to getting there!

DV: You have balanced life as a composer, music educator, choral conductor and publicist. Tell us why and how you continued to simultaneously balance all these pursuits.

EC: My position with Hal Leonard Publishing made all the rest possible! I started writing music while still an educator and did that for about 10 years before officially joining the company and moving to Wisconsin. Composing and conducting were more personal goals of mine, and with lots of energy, I was able to combine all these with varying degrees of success. Also, I had lots of help from associates, friends and family and support from my bosses.

DV: In 1994 you formed the Milwaukee Children’s Choir. The Milwaukee Children’s Choir is celebrating its 25th season this year. What inspired you to create this organization? Are there others you would like to recognize that were on “the team”?

EC: Milwaukee had children’s choirs in the past, but for some reason, had not become a part of the children’s choir movement of the 1980s and 90s. One of my bosses at Hal Leonard, Steve Rauch, helped me to organize a group in 1994 based on Henry Leck’s Indianapolis Children’s Choir model. Henry was enormously helpful as well, sharing governance documents and organizational strategies, and although there were differences in our situations, I consider Henry’s initial guidance as crucial. I also was inspired by the writings of Doreen Rao and Jean Ashworth Bartle on children’s choir repertoire and techniques.

I had wonderful collaborating colleagues: Charyl Granatella, Assistant Conductor from the very beginning, Donna Mitchell, our first Accompanist, Ellen Shuler, Assistant Conductor, Sharon Stosur, Accompanist, Amanda Draheim, Accompanist, Maria Koester, Accompanist, Sandy Cristan, Choir Manager, Casey Murphy, Choir Manager, Rob Sholl, member of the Board of Directors, along with Sharon Hansen. 

Other conductors remembered with great fondness: Christopher Peterson, Tina Glander Peterson, Raymond Roberts, Roxanne Miles, Linda Rann – there were tons of choir assistants, other board members & volunteers as well.

DV: What are your greatest memories of Milwaukee Children’s Choir?

EC: We sang wonderful music in beautiful spaces, but my favorite memories are the day to day moments and rehearsal successes, where the music came together and friendships were made and laughter shared.

DV: Did you ever have thoughts about how it would evolve and how it might look today?

EC: Milwaukee Children’s Choir has achieved many of the goals we established in the first 15 years of our existence: high artistic quality, comprehensive graded choirs, recognition as a full-fledged arts organization, school and other outreach programs, and collaboration with other Milwaukee and regional groups. I think that everyone would like to see a enrollment increase and a provision for further opportunities of children with limited means.

DV: You have been an advocate for children’s voices. You have experienced great success as a composer that understands the voice of the child and how to develop it. Can you tell us how the creative process begins for you and what that process is from conception to finished product?

EC: For me, it all starts with song and play. My first years teaching classroom music based on Kodaly principles gave me the opportunity to enjoy making music with children and seeing how song brings learning to life. My first successful arrangements were based on folk songs and the simple techniques employed in Kodaly teaching: ostinato, canon, countermelody. So, as a composer/arranger, I start with the song and develop it outward from that point. I also try to write a piano accompaniment that supports and contributes as an independent voice. My original music comes much the same way, but from a carefully chosen text and a melody that flows naturally from that text.

DV: You served as Choral Editor for Hal Leonard Publishing for more than two decades. Can you tell us a little bit about the work of a choral editor and just what an editor might be looking for – something that can help rising composers understand the criteria for getting published or writing appropriate works for choir?

EC: When I went to Hal Leonard, it was primarily a publisher of pop arrangements, and of course still is. We expanded the types of pop arrangements, leveled from easy to difficult, Broadway, jazz and show. My contributions were of expanding concert music for school groups and upward to the collegiate and professional level. We accomplished this by establishing relationships with important conductors and composers who introduced us to new compositional voices. Some of these include: Moses Hogan, Henry Leck, Rollo Dilworth, Andrea Ramsey, Audrey Snyder, Craig Hella Johnson and more. We also maintained our longterm writers such as Roger Emerson.

My advice for a new writer, would be to carefully examine works published by composers or companies that you admire, analyzing the overall qualities of those works. Then work to develop your own unique, authentic voice, performing your works with your own choirs and asking for input from your friends and colleagues.

As to getting published, try to make a contact with a publisher’s representative. There are also options for self-publishing now that didn’t exist when I started.

DV: What advice would you give to new composers pursuing a career writing for voices and especially children’s voices?

EC: The best way to learn to write for children is to work with children – so find (or start) a children’s choir and see what causes them to light up when they sing.

DV: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspires Emily Crocker?

EC: I enjoy and am inspired by the process. So when I’ve finished a piece or project I’m a little bit at loose ends until I find the next one. I have dozens of ideas on scraps of paper tucked away in a folder, so I have plenty of potential projects!

I am also inspired by the new generation of conductors, composers & educators. Our art is in good hands!

DV: What projects, personal and musical, are next for you?

I’m just finishing up my composing portfolio for the year, just one or two pieces still in progress. I’ll be shifting to a couple of instructional/curriculum projects for the spring. I have a couple of sessions this spring at Illinois MEA (also the elementary girls honor choir) and national ACDA.

DV: In May of 2019, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir will be premiering a commissioned work written by Emily Crocker to celebrate its 25th season and honor its Founding Music Director. 

We wish Ms. Crocker continued success with all of her many endeavors. We hope we are able to enjoy her talents and contributions to the world of choral music for a long time to come.

Lynn Swanson

The Human Brain and the Influence of Music

Are you looking for a great book to add to your holiday reading list?
By Developing Voices Author Jamea J. Sale, MME

Are you looking for a great book to add to your holiday reading list? I suggest Musicophilia (2007) by Oliver Sacks. Musicophilia explores the wonders of the brain, neuroscience and music. In any other hands the topic could make for dry reading, yet Sacks exudes enthusiasm about advances in neuroscience which enabled the visualization of the human brain under the influence of music. Sacks also adhered to his point of view that the description and observation of the people being studied is paramount. Perhaps this explains why Sacks’ writing is so appealing and accessible to readers; he weaves the clinical aspects of musicophilia into an artful telling of each patient’s life experience.
What is musicophilia? The Greek word suffix -philia as applied to music refers to an abnormal or heightened awareness of music which presents as intense music-seeking or music-associated behaviors in people. This might include the playing of music, dancing, or singing along to tunes (Fletcher, Downey, Witoonpanich, & Warren, 2013). An example is the account of Tony Cicoria, a surgeon who had a near death experience when he was struck by lightning in a telephone booth. He made a full recovery and returned to his work as a surgeon, but his life was transformed by an extraordinary craving to play the piano thereafter.
Sacks refers to such phenomena as musical “hauntings.” Less dramatic hauntings occur for the average person. Many have experienced the occasional “ear-worm” in which a song is “stuck” in one’s mind. The music subverts a part of the brain somewhat like a tic. Unfortunately for some people, this repetitive firing of the brain becomes a musicophilia, and it takes on a disturbing pathological quality taking place at a high level in the brain.

Sacks made profound discoveries about music and the brain in his lifetime. Movie enthusiasts may be acquainted with the dramatic film called Awakenings, based on his 1973 book of the same name which recounted the experience of catatonic patients suffering the after-effects of sleeping sickness. These patients miraculously “awakened” after being treated with the drug, levodopa, but sadly the effects of the drug were short-lived. However, Sacks found that his patients responded to music! They were observed to temporarily move with ease and grace in response to music, and they could sing expressively. Music represented auditory dopamine for these patients, a testament to the therapy of music in their lives.
https://youtu.be/JAz-prw_W2A (Awakenings trailer)
Musically talented people are often described as having a marked, innate musical ability, and a good ear for pitch and rhythm (Watts, Murphy, & Barnes-Burroughs, 2003). In Musicophilia, Sacks suggested that there is innate musical talent in everyone but that the cognitive and emotional capabilities needed to grasp music varies from person to person. He explored the ability of people to realize the artistry, meaning, and phrasing of music, and the apparent neurological misalignment that inhibits some people from achieving their desire for great musical ability. The advent of MRI morphometry in the 1990s made it possible to visualize the brain structures of musicians. It was determined that in the brains of professional musicians, the corpus callosum is enlarged and that the planum temporale, a part of the auditory cortex, is asymmetrically enlarged in those having absolute pitch (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003; Hutchinson, Lee, Gaab, & Schlaug, 2003). There are “increased volumes of gray matter in the motor, auditory, and visuospatial areas of the cortex and in the cerebellum” of this population (Sacks, 2007, p. 100).

Figure 4: Gaser, C., & Schlaug, G., 2003, pp. 9243.
For a very few, amusia is a reality. Acquired amusia can occur as part of a neurological event (stroke, migraine, etc.) that may affect one’s perception of music. Researcher Steven Mithen, author of The Singing Neanderthal (2005), was convinced that musical language is embedded in the human genome, even more so than spoken language, yet Mithen said that he, himself was unable to match pitch or rhythm. Therefore, Mithen was compelled to discover whether his claim to life-long amusia could be overcome. His adventure involved taking singing lessons and having brain examinations under fMRI. Mithen’s singing practice not only led to heightened activity in his brain’s inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus but Mithen also had substantial improvement in his ability to sing! After the year-long experiment, Mithen wrote that it is “remarkably difficult to sing—to simultaneously and unconsciously manage pitch, rhythm, timbre, tone, and dynamics—I am even more mystified as to why humans have evolved such an amazing ability.” (Mithen, 2008, p. 39).
Musicophilia concludes with a reminder that all cultures hold music in high esteem. It is central to human dance, religion, celebration and entertainment. One need not be particularly knowledgeable about music to be profoundly affected by it. The same could be said about the artfully woven personal stories and scientific studies of humans and music in Musicophilia. It is a compelling and worthwhile addition to your holiday reading list!

Jamea Sale, Director of the Institute for Healthy Singing:                                JSale@HealthySinging.org                                                                                                              Executive Associate Director, William Baker Choral Foundation
Voice Specialist, Allegro Choirs of Kansas City
References
Fletcher, P. D., Downey, L., Witoonpanich, P., & Warren, J. (2013). The brain basis of musicophilia: evidence from frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 347.
Gaser, C., & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. Journal of Neuroscience, 23(27), 9240-9245.
Hutchinson, S., Lee, L. H. L., Gaab, N., & Schlaug, G. (2003). Cerebellar volume of musicians. Cerebral cortex, 13(9), 943-949.
Koelsch, S., Skouras, S., Fritz, T., Herrera, P., Bonhage, C., Küssner, M. B., & Jacobs, A. M. (2013). The roles of superficial amygdala and auditory cortex in music-evoked fear and joy. Neuroimage, 81, 49-60.
Llinás, Rodolfo (2001). I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Mithen, S. (2008). Singing in the brain. New Scientist, 197(2644), 38-39.
Robb, S., Hanson-Abromeit, D, May, L., Hernandez-Ruiz, E., Allison, M., Beloat, A., Daugherty, S., Kurtz, R., Ott, A.,
Oyedele, O., Polasik, S., Rager, A., Rifkin, J., & Wolf, E. (2018). Reporting quality of music intervention research in healthcare: A systematic review. Complementary therapies in medicine.
Sacks, O. (2007). Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York: Vintage Books.
Storr, A. (1992) Music and the Mind. New York: The Free Press.
Tomaino, C. M. (2015). Music therapy and the brain. Music therapy handbook, 40-50.
Watts, C., Murphy, J., & Barnes-Burroughs, K. (2003). Pitch matching accuracy of trained
singers, untrained subjects with talented singing voices, and untrained subjects with nontalented singing voices in conditions of varying feedback. Journal of Voice, 17(2), 185-194.

Organizing the Chaos: Managing the Middle School Choir

I’ve heard it said that teaching middle school puts one at the front of the line for sainthood. We’ve all had days on which we have earned that status. I have been teaching middle school choir for seven years, and in that time I have witnessed the full spectrum of adolescent behavior; from the sweet to the disrespectful, from the silly to the hyper-focused, and sometimes just chaotic madness. Classroom management is more of an art than a science; it requires flexibility, reflection, and attention to detail. I don’t have all the answers, but thought I would share some practices with which I have had success.

Problem: My choir is too chatty during rehearsal.

Option 1: Call and Response. This seems elementary, but it has worked for me.  There are many types of calls and responses you can use. Make your expectations clear when you teach the protocol: one call, one response, refocus, and move on with rehearsal.

  • Clap or “Sh” a four beat rhythm for students to echo
  • Vocalize a “Yoo-hoo” and students echo
  • “One, two, three. Eyes on me” Students respond “One, two, eyes on you.”
  • Be creative—there’s no wrong way to do this

Option 2: Rehearse your rehearsal. At the beginning of the year, my students practice standing with their folders, ready to sing, over and over again.  If students talk during this process, we start again. We don’t move on until everyone can stand poised and ready to focus.  We usually revisit this exercise a handful of times each semester when things really devolve.

Option 3: Reward Chart.  Another elementary technique, but one that my sixth graders seem to respond to. After each rehearsal that the class meets my behavioral expectations, they earn a mark on the reward chart. After 10 such days, they receive a free seating day. I’ve heard of teachers offering a day of music games, movie days, or candy—just find out what will motivate your bunch!

Problem:  My students don’t use good singing posture or technique, even though we talk about it all the time.

How’s your sticker game?  My students love stickers (really! they love being recognized in front of their peers).  I keep a pack near the piano, and whenever I spot a student using good posture, tall vowels, marking their music with a pencil, etc., I quickly acknowledge their good behavior by passing them a sticker. There’s minimal disruption to rehearsal, and it’s amazing how many students start to sit taller and follow directions after they see their classmates earning stickers.

Bonus: Let a student or two students play “Posture Police”.  Have them walk around while you are sight-reading or rehearsing.  They can give stickers to students who are demonstrating great posture.

Problem: My students don’t stand still when they sing. 

In Rehearsal: Use movement to your advantage. As much as I understand the need to practice standing still while singing, I encourage my students to use movement while warming up or practicing parts in rehearsals.  Deliberate movement can help students connect their breath to their sound.  We make waves for crescendos, pop bubbles for staccato sounds, shoot basketballs for ascending leaps, and much more. Sometimes, I’ll have students alternate between sitting and standing while we are singing to keep them moving and alert.  Control the movement and make it work for you.

For the Performance: I use a saying that I learned from my friend and colleague Nathan Dame.

Feet, feet”(stomp each foot down)
“Hips straight” (point to each hip)
“Shoulders back” (touch the left and right shoulders)
“Head tall” (Pull an invisible string from the top of your head)
“ Chin down” (check that the chin is parallel to the ground)
“Eyes on you.” (students use their two fingers to point at their eyes then yours and FREEZE)

The students learn the chant at the beginning of the year.  When we are preparing for a concert I have them repeat it.  Once they say “eyes on you,” they freeze with their hands at their side and then we run our music.  If one member moves before the music starts, we do the whole chant again. I have found this to be a very helpful tool in getting students in the correct performance posture.

Final Thoughts

  • Make your expectations known from day 1, and be consistent! Research suggests posting expectations in the classroom is best practice.
  • You must allocate time in your rehearsal to practice the simple tasks: walking on risers, standing quietly, using good posture, etc. Be diligent and don’t move on before they achieve mastery.
  • Positive reinforcement works. It’s basic human psychology. Offer ways to earn rewards.
  • If a management technique is failing, try something different. Reach out to colleagues for ideas. Talk to the effective core subject teachers in your school. They may offer something you can adapt for the choir room.
  • Choose your battles; I laugh when I think about all the time I wasted as a new teacher sweating the small stuff. There are annoying behaviors that adversely affect rehearsal—but there are also annoying behaviors that don’t.  Learn to let the small stuff go and your nerves will thank you for it.
  • Above all, cultivate a sense of family and teamwork in your classroom. When everyone invests and trusts each other, working towards that common goal becomes much easier.

Jennifer Berroth