Choir season is starting soon and I am so excited! Auditions at PACS began today and will hopefully wrap up tomorrow. Auditions at ACS will begin next week. By the end of the month, I will be in full swing with both of my after school groups.
While I do a lot of singing with the students at both of my schools, I am really excited every year to sing with kids in Chapel Choir (PACS) and Show Choir (ACS). Both groups are a way for me to connect with students who want to take the next step with singing. Before we start working on our repertoire (music for Christmas or Spring concerts), we take a few minutes to warm up our voices and talk about and practice technique – pronunciation, listening skills and breathe support. Yes, we have to practice breathing! Singing can sometimes be like running a marathon and so every aspect needs to be discussed and practiced.
Before we get to our rehearsals, though, everyone must audition. Auditioning is an important step in the process and an important thing to practice. Just like how a student can know a lot about one subject but then freeze when it comes time to take a test, a student can have a great voice but their nerves can work against them in an audition. This is one of the reasons why even returning students must audition for me each year. Being comfortable with the audition process will get them far should they choose to participate in music programs in high school and college.
Another reason to audition is it gives me a way to check in with each student, especially the older boys and girls. Everyone knows that a boy’s voice changes as he grows older, but girls voices change as well. Checking in with everyone at the beginning of each year helps me to assess their voices to see if they should be singing lower or higher parts when it becomes time to split the group into different voice parts. Every child has a beautiful voice, even those with uncharacteristic boy or girl voices (some of the most beautiful high solos are sung by boys; some of my favorite female singers have deep and rich voices). Knowing what kind of voice a student possesses beforehand helps me to bring out the best in each of them.
Finally, after I decide who makes the cut (I unfortunately just cannot accept all the students that audition each year), students will receive a permission slip for their parents to sign. This lets me know that the parent knows their child will be staying after school (Thursdays for ACS until 3:50, Fridays for PACS until 3:15). This also informs parents of my requirements for their children – students must be well behaved or they will be asked to leave Choir, students must also maintain a music grade of B or better through the school year. All students should, of course, be getting all As in music so this should be a pretty easy requirement for all to fill.
Once we audition, and I get back all my signed permission slips (SUPER IMPORTANT STEP!), figure out voice parts, decide on a seating chart, and get into rehearsals (Oct. 14 for PACS, Oct. 20 for ACS), it’s right onto music for Christmas performances! In addition to each schools’ Christmas Programs in December, I am working on one more performance each for both groups. These performances will be outside of school hours so parents should please watch out for the permission slips coming home. Students will not be allowed to perform without a signed permission slip!
After our Christmas performances, it will be on to the Spring Concerts. At PACS I do not have a theme picked out yet, but the ACS Show Choir theme is “Faith in Musicals” – I will be choosing selections from Godspell, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and other classic musicals that also happen to have a strong religious theme. I am already excited for this show, and I hope the students will be, too! We will be doing a little bit of fundraising throughout the year in the hopes of raising enough money to bring back the band from last year’s performance – the kids were great singers but I know the band was a big hit, too!
I’ve also got a very unique opportunity I hope to share with both groups this spring. As a private music instructor, I belong to the Mid-Adlantic Music Teachers Guild. Each year we host a huge competition in Whippany, NJ. There is no choir competition category *yet* but there is an Ensemble Showcase event where students get to perform and will also be critiqued by a panel of music professionals. Every chance to perform is a learning experience, but this one is especially so, and the environment is always so supportive and exciting! I will need 100% participation from the students in each group, and it will require a high level of dedication to make sure we are prepared to perform. The event is held the weekend of April 1, 2017, and information can be found at mamtg.org.
As always, I look forward to any feedback, questions, and comments from my choir parents. With their support, and their awesome children, I look forward to accomplishing quite a lot of musical awesomeness this year!