Anxiety from within is normal. The belief that students can’t overcome the anxiety can often come from the teacher’s approach. It is critically important to normalize “singing without fear.”
In this car thoughts conversation, we reflect on starting the first “normal” school year in three years. This is a significant opportunity to return normalcy to our students of all levels. I also offer ideas for teachers to consider when thinking about the first days of school, as well ways to structure the first rehearsal’s priorities. How do we set up the expectations that lead to a successful school year?
Also included are ideas about back to school retreats, the CDC’s relaxation of Covid caution recommendations, and the importance of “normal.”
A hybrid episode! We run the risk of oversimplifying educational concepts, packaging them in seminars and professional development sessions for sale, and actually HARMING students. Or at least not helping them. Educational theories often carry precious little evidence, but we as educators frequently feel ill equipped to question them. Often times these oversimplifications are simply Utopian visions of education. One of the buzzwords that gets this treatment in my view is “Belonging.” I have been reading a book called “Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity” by Cobb and Krownapple. In that journey, as well as in my conversations on the show, in real life, and online it has become clear to me that there are many questions still to be ASKED about this topic before we can even begin to have enough hubris to think we can answer it.
Last week I had the incredible honor to headline at CMEA in Colorado Springs. I was able to introduce the A Cappella rehearsal (no piano played while singing, and without hearing the piece first.) This is the first part of my concept that I proposed for my rejected National ACDA session. So I did it…
When you perform, it’s your job to go out there and save a life. Deke Sharon This week, I welcome the “Father of Contemporary A Cappella,” Deke Sharon onto the show. We discuss the origins of the modern “A Cappella” genre as well as the “family tree” of other types of A Cappella vocal music…
“Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.” Jen York-Barr In this special car thoughts I will not only DESCRIBE how I use sectionals in rehearsal, I will show you! (Video recommended) I am a big believer in student ownership, and there are few better ways to accomplish this than building a culture of…
I did a live episode recently on Teacher Burnout, and another one in December about teacher burnout leading up the Holiday Break, but STUDENT burn out is a thing too. Call it senioritis, or apathy, or “checked out.” Regardless of what you name it, it must be fought intentionally through the culture built in the rehearsal space from day one. So, in the death match between Senioritis and that LAST concert…
Who will win? It is not a lost cause. So, I went for a walk and recorded some thoughts about this phenomenon and how it has changed a bit due to the pandemic and collective trauma of the last two years. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there is no “cure” for end of the year apathy, but the effects can be mitigated by student buy in, leadership and empowerment. Are they pushing to the finish WITH you? Or are they being pushed BY you? The latter will lead to burn out for students and teachers alike.
This episode was recorded while I was walking outside on Spring Break. Please pardon the roosters and trucks. ACDA webinar I mentioned in the episode is linked below.
Audiences NEED us this Holiday season. Our singers need to perform. Children need to see smiles. We inject so much joy into the world when we perform. In this short episode I discuss a few topics briefly that I felt the need to get off my chest. Including the critical nature of performance, of choral music as an art form, as well as the value of seeing faces. We have had good reason over the last couple of years to rationalize these things down the scale of importance, but it’s time to reevaluate that.
I also talk about my thoughts related to teacher burnout that are a bit outside of the mainstream discourse. “Moral Injury” is a relatively new term that I believe applies to many teachers over the last year. Tune in to join the conversation.
By the way, I am back at it with a full concert season, and it feels great! I’m even giving performances with mostly unmasked choirs! I am excited about this, and am looking forward to the connections we will make as a result.
Introducing the Resonance 95!
The Resonance-95 mask is made of three layers, and includes a middle layer of non-woven polypropylene filtration fabric through out the mask. The Resonance-95 mask filters aerosols down to 0.2 microns with a 98-99% efficiency, and meets or exceeds the new ASTM F3502-21 standards for Barrier Face Coverings. It also meets the Respirator N95 Precertification Tests for NIOSH which we will continue to pursue as we have to submit samples from several production lots before final certification is assigned. We have had this mask tested at Nelson Labs in Utah and provide the test results in these images.
In addition to filtration efficiency, mask “fit” is very important for protection. Our mask holds snugly to the face, extends under the chin, and seals completely across the cheeks and nose with a bead of silicone beneath the extended malleable wire. This helps with fogging glasses, but also “proves” the seal helps contain exhaled aerosol particles (which carry viral particles if the person is infected or asymptomatically carrying the disease). The Resonance-95 mask is hand-washable and hang-to-dry.
And other silly traps we fall in to due to the nature of our job and its subsequent ego pitfalls. Tune in for this short reflection on the overbearing conductor stereotype. I think it’s possible that we don’t appreciate what constantly having our job evaluated in front of people does to our Psyche…
I say it’s steering them. And I think that’s bad news. I believe that Social Media has a tremendous upside and potential for good. But only if it is reflective of the common humanity that we experience when we are in person. My concern is that this has been reversed. That, as we begin to return to in person activities, we will have centered our social media conversations as the “Conversation of Record” in our professional space. For healthy balance to be restored, we will need to get to work to reverse this.
See below a recent post on the Choralosophers FB Page.
Colleagues- we can’t let Facebook steer the ship in our profession. The errors of cognitive processing below are so much easier to avoid in person and/or if you know how to look for them. I’m working on a non-music specific Choralosophy Podcast blog and episode complete with expert guest Dr. Erec Smith on the subsequent changes to our communication habits (which spill into our classrooms as well as broader life…) This post is intended to provide some choir specific context.
Just a few of many Human Psychological processes that social media apps actively manipulate:
1. Availability heuristic- if you see the bad thing constantly on your phone, the brain places it in a category that is the same as “existential danger etc.” The thing may be very real and very bad, but it isn’t as prevalent as the phone makes it seem.
2. Anchoring bias- the first context you see something in, or the first fact you see is disproportionately hard to shake when new info arrives. (This is exploited when you rely on a small group of sources for info)
3. Audience effect- every interaction is perverted by an audience. Because the conversations are not between two people. They are between two people with an audience watching. Which means both participants in the conversation feel a very strong pull to perform. It becomes disproportionately important to us to appear to be a good member of our team. And often, the easiest way to do that is to be seen attacking the “other team.”Social media could be a powerful tool for good, and in many ways it is. But, the bad will outweigh the good if the next generation of kids is not taught how to spot and avoid these traps.
One of the most common questions I get from choir teachers is “How do I get my kids to sing louder?! I beg and I plead, but they just don’t make any noise.”
The first mistake you made was the begging and pleading. The second mistake was asking for louder. If kids aren’t singing with enough decibels for your liking, they don’t know how. Trust me. If they did, you will be spending most of your time getting them to shut up and sing softer! Once kids figure this out, they LOVE to hear their own resonance. Tune in for some ideas on my preferred approach.
Once you establish these expectations, the next step is accountability. This is where your grading system is HUGE. Once they know how to sing this way, continuing to do so becomes part of their grade. See more about this system here:
Many people use the term “elitist” to describe aspects of choral music.
The problem, as I see it is that this term means different things to different people. So in this short verbal essay, I reflect on the need to be specific when we criticize. I also discuss some places that I see Elitism in choral music. From the teacher training programs to the trenches of the profession, as well as in conversations on what it means to be a “great” choir. Should we avoid language that seeks to elevate some choral ensembles as “great” and risk creating an elitist culture? Or, is such a hierarchy a necessary outgrowth of working toward performance art related goals? *audio on this episode is not normal. I am traveling!
Some possible areas that draw this type of critique:
The concept of “what it means to be a good choir.”
How much focus gets placed on musical elements being “perfect.”
How does Academia contribute to elitism in the training of teachers?
Are there aspects of teaching “in the trenches” that are hard to see until you’re there?
Tune in via podcast platforms or on YouTube for the first volley of the conversation. Then feel free to add your thoughts in the Choralosophers facebook group or in the response form on the main page of choralosophy.com
The hot topic this week has been choir snobbery online in regards to pop music, or commercial music. I think this is an important topic, but as always, I have my own little angle that might be different than most. It could be that telling people what they must support can be just as elitist as not supporting things. I will call it “Preference Policing.” So, where is the line?
Can we express our likes and dislikes just like other consumers of music?
Or do we, as music educators need to vocally “cheerlead” all music?
Is the tendency for vocalists to nitpick the techniques or “validity” of pop singers a sign of our corruptly elitist view of singing?
Maybe. But it could also be that we’re just jealous…
I saw a few posts from colleagues recently that seemed to lament our inability to have good discussions among people who disagree online. The first problem: we aren’t actually having discussions anymore…
The best conversations I’ve ever had with colleagues have been in the bar at conventions. Or on my show!
Just a random rant in my car. As performance opportunities dwindled over the last year, we have been quick to rationalize this as a good thing. Maybe because we needed to in order to cope with the loss? Either way, maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe the performances are critical.