Episode 22: The VOCES8 Philosophy with Paul Smith

For this episode, I sat down (twice… long story) with Paul Smith, co-founder and CEO of VOCES8 and the VOCES8 Foundation while he was in Kansas City. We had a lot of great conversations about the state of music education in the U.K. and the U.S. and the role of VOCES8 and other performing ensembles in sparking a passion for choral music in young singers. The talk ranged from discussions of disparity of music education quality regionally all the way to the interesting differences between the preferred “British” choral sound vs. that preferred by most American Choral Directors.

Paul Smith- CEO of VOCES8
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Paul Smith is an innovative and creative performer, conductor, composer, an inspirational educator and an empowering public speaker. As co-founder of VOCES8, author of The VOCES8 Method and CEO of the VOCES8 Foundation, his annual programme sees him working globally in prestigious concert venues, festivals, schools and universities.

Paul is passionate about the impact singing and the arts can have in the widest possible context – from academic improvement to social skills and building more cohesive communities. He uses that passion to design and deliver unique, inclusive and uplifting performance projects.

In the 2019-20 season, highlights will include: leading the ‘Singing Brussels’ massed choir project with BOZAR in Brussels; touringhis new album and concert programme titled ‘Reflections’; a series of concerts and workshops at the VOCES8 Centre in the City of London; leading his family concert ‘The Winter House’ programme with the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; conducting the Orchestra of Avignon in a series of concerts for families and young people; conducting the Orchestre D’Auvergne in a new concert for students; leading the Israeli Vocal Ensemble for a series of concerts in Israel; leading a series of concerts across France with VOCES8 and Apollo5, supported by Vivendi,and concerts and workshops in Germany, the USA, New Zealand and Japan. Paul will be continuing his work at the University of Cambridge in 2019.

The VOCES8 Method, written by Paul, is published by Edition Peters in four languages, and is now being used in thousands of schools in numerous countries around the world. The Method is designed to link specific music-making activities with academic improvement in numeracy, literacy and linguistics.

 – Paul’s new setting of the Nunc Dimittis. There’s a link to the sheet music on the video blurb.

https://youtu.be/kSZubXsjUmI – New arrangement of the Edo Lullaby, a Japanese traditional song. Again, sheet music links are in the video blurb.

Our new VOCES8 digital release:https://music.apple.com/us/album/after-silence-i-remembrance/1484535596

The full album referenced in podcast, Reflectionshttps://music.apple.com/us/album/reflections/1467740424

Episode 21: Anyone can get an A in Choir…

Is choir a real class? Can the group goals be balanced with the individual academic accountability that we owe to our students? I think the answer to all of this is yes. You can grade your students INDIVIDUALLY in sight singing to ensure that no one falls through the cracks, and stick to a rehearsal rubric that can nearly eliminate classroom management issues. The secret? It’s how we grade.

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Episode 21
Anyone can get an A in choir…

Let’s talk about assessment. One of the biggest challenges as I see it facing our field is the fact that many in education don’t see our content as an academic subject. How many of you are governed under the “Activities” umbrella in your school or state? Yet, you can get a PhD in Choral Music, but you can’t get a PhD in Football…Choral music is an academic field of study for good reason. It is rigorous. It requires research, practice, and individual skill development to learn it and understand it. I believe that one of the reasons our Education colleagues don’t see us as a subject on par with theirs is the way that we grade. They see our students getting almost all A’s with very little individual accountability due to the “group” nature of our performance goals. 

The Sequel! Everyone CAN Get an A, But Not Everyone Will
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In this episode, I will walk through some systems that have worked well for me to balance the group performance goals with the educational IMPERATIVE to hold each student accountable as well as to hold ME accountable to teach each student.

We will talk about daily rehearsal grades and why I DON’T grade on participation. We will talk about grading kids on the QUALITY of their singing both alone and in small groups. We will also talk about moving past “showing up is enough” at concerts. 

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By increasing the rigor, and accountability in your classroom you may experience a backlash at first. It will take time to adjust and you might lose a student who doesn’t want to do the work. However, if you frame it the right way, they will give it a chance. In my experience, this type of rigor only makes kids feel more pride in their work in our classroom. The reality is that a student who is riding on the coattails of stronger singers in the section, but still getting an A, KNOWS they are not earning that grade. Humans will usually accept the unearned, but it takes a toll on the self esteem. 

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Episode 20: Choral Appropriation? Or Cultural Sharing with Brandon Boyd

One of the hottest topics of discussion online in the last few weeks in the choral world has been the topic of cultural appropriation. Who should be allowed to perform, compose or arrange which kinds of music? Where do we draw the line? Does intent matter? What should a conductor do if they are worried about how a performance will be interpreted? In our chat, Brandon and I make no attempt to define what is or is not appropriation. That is not our focus. Instead we center on the WAY we should communicate about this important topic as professionals and as fellow human beings.

Brandon Boyd
Ep 20: Choral Appropriation?
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Dr. Brandon A. Boyd is the Assistant Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Missouri, where he conducts the Concert Chorale Men’s Ensemble. In addition to his conducting duties, he teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in conducting, choral arranging, and choral music education. He appears regularly as a conductor, clinician, composer in residence, collaborative pianist, and lecturer for conferences, conventions, collegiate choirs, church choirs, choral festivals, and workshops.

As a proponent of choral singing to help build community, his research interests include organizing choirs for the homeless, social and physical effects of choral singing on seniors and field experience for music therapy and choral music education students. For three years, he co-directed three community choral partnerships: The Tallahassee Senior Choir, RAA Middle School Chorus, and the MTC Women’s Prison Glee Club. He was recently invited by the Santa Fe Desert Chorale to serve as the composer in residence and community engagement lead for their Giving Voice to the Voiceless program. The Chorale premiered his commissioned work, “I Search,” during their 35th Anniversary Summer Justice Concert series where he served as assistant conductor, pre-concert lecturer, and guest pianist.  Boyd used a text written by “Poet V,” a participant in the Voces de Libertad program at the Santa Fe County Youth Development Center, to set to music. His duties also included organizing and conducting the Interfaith Community Shelter Street Choir, creating a safe place for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness within the Santa Fe community.

An active composer and arranger, his music is sung regularly by ensembles throughout the United States and abroad. In 2018, the “Brandon Boyd Choral Series” was launched as a division of Hinshaw Publishing Company. His music also appears in GIA Publications’ catalog.

He holds a Ph.D. in choral music education and M.M. in choral conducting from Florida State University, where he studied with Drs. André J. Thomas and Judy S. Bowers. He earned a B.S. in music education (emphasis in piano) from Tennessee State University. He is a proud member of the American Choral Directors’ Association (ACDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), American Guild of Organists (AGO), and Chorus America.

October Edition!