Car Thoughts: Elite without elitism, merit without meritocracy

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We can expect “Excellence” and be inclusive of all ability levels at the same time!

That’s it. That’s the Blog.

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Car Thoughts on the topic

Just kidding. There’s more.

On the Choralosophy Podcast over the last several years, I have presented my thoughts on choral music curriculum in several episodes. From grading policies, to literacy instruction, as well a the philosophy of grading on growth rather than arbitrary standards based grading. I believe that a school choir program can be BOTH incredibly rigorous and open to beginners at the same time. A high school choir CAN achieve college level or beyond literacy skills, a professional rehearsal atmosphere that is fun and engaging, all while remaining productive and continuously striving for excellence. One can accept that “perfection” in all human endeavors does not exist, without abandoning the constant march towards it. Below is an example from the beginning of last school year, where our prior literacy, independence and rigor saved our school year due to the challenges presented by masks, social distancing, and reduced rehearsal time. (Scroll to the bottom for episodes on my literacy method.)

An example of an “advanced” rehearsal in my program. Demonstrating the power of high levels of literacy training prior to 11th-12th grade.

What is Excellence? Who gets to define it?

I do. For my classroom. You do for yours. It’s pretty simple really. The line in the sand that I draw is that everyone has to have some definition of this word, or people will not take the choir seriously. It does not matter if excellence is centered around concepts of intonation, rhythmic precision, resonance and expressive line like mine is, or centered around facial expression, choreography, story telling like a great show choir. The priorities can be completely different and they could both be excellent. Maybe your definition of excellence is centered around the way humans FEEL in your rehearsals. Centered around an informal rubric of community, acceptance and love. That’s ok too. You are an excellent choir when you achieve your choir’s goals. This doesn’t have to be an argument. The tent of choral music is large enough for an infinite number of “Excellence models” but you must choose a definition and strive for it relentlessly.

Grading on Growth

This concept is important in my program because it demonstrates the possible duality between “rigor” and “inclusivity.” I believe that rigorous curricula can be inclusive of all levels of learner if we grade on growth. Put simply, “I don’t care where you start. You can get better, and that’s how you will earn an A.” We have a difficult balance to maintain in school music. We must be a “real class” in the eyes of the community and administration while also accepting students into our programs with WIDELY ranging levels of prior knowledge and skill. I outline my attempt at this balance in the two episodes below.

Episodes 18, 52 and 69 will get you started on a new literacy journey! For episode 69 I highly recommend the video version so you can watch the individual sight singing assessments happen!
Example of work with Sight Reading Factory with 10th grade students. We call this our “intermediate” level class.

Car Thoughts Live: What is Expertise in Choral Music?

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Expertise Cannot Be Earned as a student. We must test our academic ideas in the real world.

I recently had a lot of time to think and reflect while driving home from the convention circuit, so I went LIVE in the Choralsophers FB group to discuss some reactions to audience feedback from the Success Rubrics episode. One of the ideas that drew the most attention, is that the primacy of the “degree” as a success marker may not be the best way for us to structure our professional spaces and organizations. So, with comments coming in to the chat while driving, (do not try this at home, I am a trained professional) I reflected further on this issue. As always, let’s keep the conversation going!

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The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.

Car Thoughts: The Conductor is ALWAYS Right?

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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…

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Car Thoughts

Changing Your Mind on Intelligence Squared

The absolute cutting edge in helping students understand resonance. visit http://www.vocevista.com/choralosophy to download VoceVista Video for a free 30 day trial. When you purchase, enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com

Car Thoughts: Is Social Media Steering or Reflecting Choir Conversations?

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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.

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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.

Recent Full Epiosde

Car Thoughts: How To Get Choirs to “Sing Louder”

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Spoiler- Don’t Ask Them To Sing Louder

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.

Car Thoughts
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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:

www.sightreadingfactory.com is the best literacy tool on the market today. Enter Choralosophy at checkout to get 10% off memberships for you AND your students!
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
10th Graders Applying Concepts of Resonance during Sight Reading AND rehearsal
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
For an example of masked and distanced rehearsal with advanced kids who are well versed in these ideas.

Thoughts on What ‘Elitism” Means in Choral Music

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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!

A Car-less episode of Car Thoughts!
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Some possible areas that draw this type of critique:

www.sightreadingfactory.com is the best literacy tool on the market today. Enter Choralosophy at checkout to get 10% off memberships for you AND your students!
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com

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

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A modified Car Thoughts Episode
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com

Car Thoughts: I Think We Dis the Super Bowl Music Because We’re Jealous

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I said what I said.

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?

Maybe. But it could also be that we’re just jealous…

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Car Thoughts

Car Thoughts: Why Conversations Online End Badly

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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!

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Car Thoughts: Feb 5
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.

Car Thoughts: The Performance is still critical.

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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.

Find the TOP of the line Resonance Singers mask as well as all of your choir folders, choir supplies as well as choir robes at MyChoirRobes.com. Use Choralosophy at checkout to get a 5% coupon every time you shop!
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/choralosophy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/the-performance-is-critical.mp3
Receive 10% Discount on your orders at http://www.graphitepublishing.com where you will find the works of Jocelyn Hagen, Eric Barnum, Timothy C. Takach,
Paul Rudoi and MANY more.
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