In this episode, I reflect on the psychology of gratitude, and on the importance of helping our students develop a healthy relationship with their own mistakes, and even flaws and weaknesses. Not because we don’t care about high achieving ensembles, but precisely for this reason.
“Who am I being that my children’s eyes are not shining?”
This week I had the honor and privilege visiting with ACDA members in Alabama at their state Conference. We must turn the mirror on ourselves to ensure that we are WORTHY to stand in front of our students. After all, we have some level of control over whether or not we are a part of their school. They have almost none. So I say, it’s on ME to make sure that their experience in my class is enriching, engaging and life affirming. In this discussion, we will discuss the importance of the teacher’s “mind, body and spirit” health. We also discuss the concepts of Anti-Fragility, and Cognitive Distortions that lead to unhappiness and professional ineffectiveness, as well as the wisdom of “The First Days of School” by Harry Wong. This is a jam packed hour full of challenges and ideas for you to consider before you begin your school year. The slides for this presentation are available on Patreon.
Straight out of the archives! Most of my live presentations are reserved for Patreon Subscribers, but I felt so strongly about the ideas in this presentation, I decided to air it out for everybody. It is my belief that when we talk about building choral programs, or any program for that matter, we do WAY too much playing from behind and not enough building for the long haul. Are the numbers too low? Then surely we have to recruit! Well, we do, but if we are focused every year, every day on RETENTION, then we are saving for a rainy day. We become squirrels storing the nuts.
So, what are the The Missing Elements?
Your overall curriculum
Concert season goals
Team building ethos
Gradual, competent, comfort zone expansion
Now, you’re ready for choosing the right rep… but that’s it’s own podcast
Well, it is if you are thinking that there is a quick and easy pill to swallow in order to get to that next level in your career. You know, the one where you simply, issue wisdom, wave your arms, say inspirational things, and the choir just SINGS! In reality, we all dream of this, but getting there isn’t easy. That’s why I can’t pull the trigger on selling the “Choralosophy Method” even though many have asked for it. I just don’t know if that would be ethical. Because fundamentally, we master our craft one tiny victory and defeat at a time. I truly believe that finding your groove in the classroom has more to do with the work you do on you than the method that you choose. It is the refinement and reinvention of our philosophies and practices that can make each year better than the one before.
In this episode, I will attempt to distill down what could be called the “Choralosophy Method” if I were to choose to sell it…and then let you listen for free. All of the episodes mentioned are linked below.
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.
Dr. Braeden Ayres is a teacher, conductor and composer with a passion point related to concepts of masculinity in choral music. What stereotypes are we stuck too, what challenges to we face when discussing it, and what are the best ways to engage young adolescent boys in our school choral programs? We discussed some of the findings from his dissertation research on this topic as well as brainstorming ways to recruit and retain boys, without pandering to pre-conceived ideas of masculinity. Join us for this important discussion, and add your own thoughts on the Choralosophers Facebook page.
Dr. Braeden Ayres (“Bray-den Airz”) is a composer, conductor, and music educator who believes that music and singing are for all people. Dr. Ayres currently teaches music at Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois, and is the choir director at First Christian Church in Macomb, Illinois. As an artist, teacher, and conductor, his mission is to empower people, explore the human experience, and celebrate the human voice as a tool for self-expression. As a composer, his works vary widely in style, with pieces written especially for changing voices, high school choirs, and collegiate, community, and professional ensembles. Dr. Ayres frequently writes original texts for his work as well.
Dr. Ayres’s music has been performed at national and state-level ACDA honor choirs, all-states, and at local choir concerts across the United States. His music is published with MusicSpoke, Carl Fischer, Hal Leonard Music, and Augsburg Fortress. In 2021, he was named the winner of the “Emily Crocker Emerging Composer Competition,” sponsored by the Texas Choral Director’s Association and Hal Leonard Music. Dr. Ayres holds a Ph.D. in Choral Music Education from Florida State University, where his doctoral dissertation studied the history and repertoire of choral compositions for changing male voices. Dr. Ayres also holds a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Northern Colorado and a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Baylor University.
Before completing his doctorate, Dr. Ayres served on the vocal faculty at Discovery Canyon Campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, teaching 6-12 grade students with a team of exceptional educators. In his time at DCC, the campus’s choral program tripled to over 500 students; over 100 singers were accepted into various Middle School All-State, High School All-State, and ACDA National Honor Choirs; and the Performing Arts Department was a finalist for the “Thomas S. Crawford Team of the Year Award.” Dr. Ayres also served as the Assistant Artistic Director of “Out Loud: The Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus” and was an inaugural board member of the Colorado Middle School All-State Choir. Dr. Ayres is proud to bring his passion for education into his work as a composer and choral clinician.
Teaching students to be literate requires teachers who are trained for it.
The episode you have been asking for for over a year is finally here! It is jam packed full of ideas and solutions. The music literacy guru herself, Carol Krueger and I discuss the crisis facing music education that few are talking about. We have a serious scaffolding problem regarding literacy in music education. Carol calls it a “spiral” of concepts that are not being layered on for students consistently. Students are arriving to study music at the collegiate level in startling numbers deficient in rudiments, like pitch matching, pitch memory, keeping a steady beat, a developed sense of audiation, or ability to write down what they hear. Carol even makes me improvise on solfege!
“Many of our students are arriving in college, illiterate in music. They may have sung a ton of songs, but they can’t hear a sound and tell you what they heard, because we didn’t label it for them.”
How do we solve this problem? There is not a quick fix. We must start students at the beginning of their music education, scaffolding sounds and LABELS for the sounds from the elementary level. There are many barriers making this difficult for us. But it is so critical. Neurologically, music literacy is the SAME as linguistic literacy, and developing advancing skills in all types of literacy carry lasting benefits that all of our students deserve.
Dr. Krueger formerly served as the Director of Choral Activities at Valdosta State University, Emporia State University, and Florida Southern. She also served as the Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of South Carolina and the University of Montevallo. A native of Wisconsin, Krueger received her bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and both an M.M. and D.M.A. in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami.
An active clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor, Krueger has most recently conducted festivals and honor choirs at the collegiate, high school and middle school levels in Maryland, Arkansas, South Dakota, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Kansas, New York, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, North Dakota, Indiana  and Kentucky . In addition, Dr. Krueger served as the guest conductor of the North-North Central ACDA Middle School Treble Choir (Milwaukee, 2020) of Vivaldi’s Gloria in Carnegie Hall (2010), the Adult Chancel Choir and Chamber Singers at Montreat Presbyterian Association of Musicians Conference (2010), and multiple performances of Epcot’s Candlelight Processional and Massed Choir Program (2005).
Krueger has presented interest sessions at the American Choral Directors National Convention in New York, the OAKE (Kodaly) National Convention in Charlotte, the ACDA Southern Division Conventions in Mobile, Nashville and Louisville, the Southern Division MENC Convention in Charleston, the North Central Division ACDA in Madison, the Eastern Division ACDA in Providence, the Eastern Division NAfME in Hartford, as well as interest sessions or workshops in twenty-eight states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia), Australia and England. Krueger is also widely recognized for her work with music literacy. Oxford University Press publishes her book, Progressive Sight Singing.
Teacher morale has reached a crisis point. If you’ve ever felt the crisis or seen the crisis, this episode is for you. In this Livestream episode I got input from some of my Patreon supporters, as well as people listening on Facebook which was fun, and kept the conversation spinning to topics of teacher pay, our attitudes toward our job, the role of having a “good boss” who treats the teacher as the expert and many other “usual suspects” that lead to burnout. In addition, I suggested that we look at two causes that almost no one mentions: Anxiety Contagion and Moral Injury.
Special thanks to Nathan Connell, Jeff Wall, John Sargent and Christopher Boemler for chiming in their ideas via Patreon.
One of the most COMMON questions to pop up, almost weekly, on choir director Facebook groups is “what do I do to help these (usually boys, not always) match pitch?!” It is usually a panic induced, “I’ve tried everything” kind of post. This short episode brings in the expert, Donald Brinegar, choral director, professor and author of the book “Pitch Perfect: a Theory and Practice of Choral Intonation. There is a lot of mythology surrounding this topic, so take 20 minutes and demystify! Tune in for an explanation of Rainbow Ears, Frozen Vocal Folds and audiation with their “young child” voice, and more.
A Back to School Special From Choralosophy Podcast
Listen in, or watch on YouTube for the complete presentation focusing on the practices, philosophies and RESULTS made possible by Sight Reading Factory. I discuss the “first day of school” reading activity, the way I rip off the bandaid by removing all keyboard assistance for note reading, signs for how your students are ready to move on to something harder, as well as the importance of establishing good vocal habits on day one to make literacy acquisition easier. In addition, the audience provides lots of great questions, leading to other great discussion topics. Enjoy!
A Back to School Special from the Choralosophy Podcast
This time, we have William Bennett of Cane Bay High School in the hot seat to reflect on Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” research and practice as well as its implication in the choral rehearsal setting. Warning: sportsball metaphors are used gratuitously. In this short discussion, we will impart on you several activities, descriptions and philosophies to help you incorporate this important psychological insight into your teaching.
William J. Bennett is the Director of Choirs at Cane Bay High School and the Director of Music at Summerville Presbyterian Church. He was selected as one of 10 finalists for the 2015 GRAMMY Music Educator Award, and was the 2009-2010 Cane Bay High School Teacher of the Year. He has led clinics on leadership in a music classroom, choral techniques, and sight singing, and has served as a choral clinician for multiple middle and high school clinics. He served as the SC ACDA President (2017 – 2019) and served on the South Carolina Department of Education’s Visual and Performing Arts Standards Revision Committee revising the SC High School Choral Music Curriculum Guide. Previous appointments include: Conductor of the University Chorus and Adjunct Professor of Music at the College of Charleston; Assistant Conductor of the Taylor Festival Choir; and Associate Director of Choirs at Wando High School. Choirs under his direction have performed featured concerts at the ACDA Southern Division Conference, SC ACDA and SCMEA Conferences, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and at the Washington National Cathedral.He holds a Masters Degree in Music: Choral and Orchestral Conducting from Louisiana State University and a BA in Music: Vocal Performance from the College of Charleston
A Back to School Special from Choralosophy Podcast
Zach Singer weighed in on the main page of Choralosophy.com with an idea to share with us. He calls it being a “cultural custodian.” As we get back to being busy, I thought you might enjoy a few bite sized episodes with some practical, usable ideas. Tune in to hear Zach’s thoughts about bridging cultural divides in the classroom in order to find a shared classroom culture through music.
For the Midsummer installment of the show, I am encouraging you to take a professional development break from your summer fun, not to “do work,” but to begin thinking ahead. To start hoping, dreaming, and scheming for your BEST academic year yet. In fact, I believe that in order to be a a”professional educator,” the summer must include this type of reflection AND planning. I know we’re off the clock, but if your goal is to be the absolute best for your students and singers, this time spent is crucial. Trust me, I am all for unplugging and unwinding, in fact, I am doing that right now as I type this drinking coffee in a cabin in the Black Hills.
In this post, I have curated several discussions from the last 2 and half years, and almost 110 Choralosophy Podcast episodes that I think can contribute to every choral director’s professional development and improvement for next year. The foundation of what we do every day rests upon our mastery of the fundamentals, and our ability to convey these concepts to our students. Please browse the library below, and enjoy your summer!
Another really important conversation regarding the science of our job is the vocal ped conversation. Choir directors are often thought to have an insufficient education in this area, often times leading to some assumptions and oversimplifications being taught to students in a choral setting. For this conversation, I will point you toward a session delivered at the Choralosophy Convention in Atlanta back in April. This session by Beth Munce, my FAVORITE voice teacher specializing in introducing adolescent voices to classical technique, was revolutionary for those in attendance, and we had a lot of great conversations about “Things Choir Teachers Shouldn’t Say” about the voice. The full session can be accessed on the Choralosophy Patreon feed for subscribers only. (normal episodes are always free.)
In Episode 44, Dr. Andrew Crane and Dr. Jami Rhodes joined me for another voice science and pedagogy conversation that is a MUST listen for any director wanting to avoid the pitfall of teaching a diverse group of voice types and body shapes etc by using “one size fits all bandaids.”
Most recently, I did a short “Car Thoughts” video with some easy to try tips related to achieving resonance from young singers WITHOUT asking them to “sing louder.”
Literacy Starts on the First Day of School
Students at any place along the learning curve CAN be taught to read music, and can be taught to do it WITHOUT notes being played simultaneously. This begins of course, with rote training. They must have an aural picture in their mind for pitch relationships, and they must have at least a beginning level of confidence making noises. This can be developed AND connected to literacy concepts on the first day of school. From there, it’s just about consistency, and holding students accountable with logical, growth oriented grading systems. ALL students can learn to be literate.
Want your singers to make less mistakes while sight reading?
In this episode I outline some approaches, philosophies and even a rubric. But first, one obvious tip, and one counterintuitive one:
Obvious: SRF assignments, quizzes and most importantly daily class work, and test EACH kid individually at the level appropriate for their current aptitude.
Not obvious: don’t reduce grade for mistakes, or count off “points” for mistakes. Instead, make the rubric about independence and problem solving. Let them fix their mistakes. After all, isn’t that how we use literacy in rehearsal?
Might seem less “rigorous,” but this model has helped reduce test taking and sight reading anxiety for us big time, and his lead to MORE accurate, fluent music reading.
When we evaluate literacy progress, often times we do this be thinking of sight singing as a game of guitar hero. This does not translate to real world music making. In this episode I offer a different approach complete with two student demonstrations!
The Rubric is very basic-
2- Student is able to sing the entire exercise correctly and independently with no teacher help or instruction
1-Student is able to sing the entire exercise correctly and independently, but needs teacher help or instruction
0-Student is not able to sing all or part of the exercise correctly and independently
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:
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.
Your TeacherGram can’t be your main focus. Make sure your kids remain at the center of everything you’re doing.
We are now in a time in which the line between our day to lives and our social media lives are becoming ever harder to keep separate. Almost like a living business card, we are curating public personas that for some people are the closest they will come to knowing the “real” person. As teachers, we are citizens of the world and are not immune to this rapidly changing landscape. The pandemic has only increased the amount of time we spend on social media. Katherine Rosenfeld has been winning this game as far as I can tell. She has managed to create a truly positive, professional and FUN web persona. As a new teacher, she is seeking ways to stay connected with her students whether in or out of the classroom.
Katherine Rosenfeld graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2019 with a degree in choral music education. Her time at NAU was marked by leadership roles including serving as the President for both the NAU chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and the Shrine of the Ages Choir. After finishing her student teaching in December of 2019, Katherine accepted a position teaching 7th and 8th grade choir at Arizona School for the Arts, a charter performing arts school in downtown Phoenix, where she currently teaches. Since the majority of Katherine’s teaching career has been online thus far, she seeks creative and innovative ways to connect with her students including her presence on social media. In addition to teaching, Katherine sings in church choirs and professional ensembles in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona and runs a private voice studio.
I was recently introduced to the Enneagram, so I cannot claim any expertise on it, so I called in a knowledgable friend! I invited Kailin Kane to come explain the Enneagram in a way that can enhance the context for those that know about it already, or as an introduction to noobs like me. As a music educator, she also has some really interesting ideas for using Enneagram as lens through which a director could view our students, singers or players. If we have groups of any size in front of us, it is safe to say that we have each of the nine distinct points of view operating within our rehearsal. Understanding these human truths can help us create an environment of empathy and compassion in our rehearsal spaces.
Kailin Kane has taught oboe and faculty development courses at the U.S. Army and U.S. Naval Schools of Music as well as coaches student chamber groups. She enlisted in the Army in 2007 and has served with the U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, U.S. Army Europe Band & Chorus, and the 323d Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own,” and has been a guest musician with U.S. Military Academy Band. A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, she earned her Bachelor’s of Music in Oboe Performance from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is currently seeking certification and training to teach the Enneagram.
Discuss (let kids chime in as much as possible) the examples of simple musical instruments. Why does a piano sound like a piano, or guitar like a guitar etc. (I recommend having your computer ready with some simple instrument sounds mp3s that can be imported and shone in Voce Vista.)
How is the human voice different? It’s way more complicated than a piano. Why? The human voice is complicated because the air speed, vocal fold proximation, and almost infinite number of shapes created by the resonating cavity allows for infinite numbers of sounds and timbres. Show this video https://youtu.be/au92XTLm_SU You could also ask kids to make goofy noises into the meet one at a time to prove the point.
Define pitch vs. noise (Show live examples in Voce Vista)
Discuss spoken language. “Why can we understand each other? Our brains are able to detect the subtle changes of overtones that occur when a person is moving their mouth. Show in Voce Vista, and be sure to point out that we speak in pitch. Without pitch our brain would not be able to detect the overtone patterns.
Then move into singing sounds. Demonstrate some clearly sung, resonant examples of the 5 major vowels live into Voce Vista. Point out the singers formant up around 3500 hz, and point out the shifting overtone pattern as your mouth changed shape. Optional video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N5q85G3ydk
This is a good chance to explain the importance of blend in a choir.
Next, I “imitated” young singers in a loving way… “The breathy kid,” “Kid who’s too cool to open his mouth” and any other funny ones you come up with. Recorded these live in Voce Vista and showed the kids some of the lack in overtone clarity that happens with those types of singing errors in technique. Always good to put good examples up for comparison. A nice review of concepts here: https://youtu.be/PKengo7y28U
On the last day I gave the kids 3-4 minutes to record and send their own sound sample for analysis. I imported and shared them all and let the kids see the “pictures of their sound” which they got a kick out of. It also gave us a chance to address the issue of “I don’t like the sound of my voice. I sound weird on recordings.” Well, yes Sally, that’s because you hear your own voice before the RESONANCE is complete. Ties things together nicely.
visit vocevista.com/choralosophy to download the software for a free 30 day trial. If you chose to purchase it, you will get 10% off when you enter Choralosophy checkout!
When you do music from a culture that is not your own, it is like you are holding someone else’s dreams and past in your hands.
In this touching and vulnerable conversation, Dr. Galván and I discuss the very important issue of programming and preparing to perform music from an ever growing number of traditions and cultures. This can be an overwhelming topic to approach in many ways. Partly due to the sheer number of styles and performance practices that exist. None of us can master them all, and that’s ok! Downstream from this problem is whether or not we give ourselves and our colleagues grace when they make mistakes. Do we shame the conductor who presents an inauthentic performance or do offer help and resources?
This episode is structured as a help and a resource. Dr. Galván has done a tremendous amount of work in the trenches on this topic in her storied career. That experience has left her with some very solid practices and procedures for each of us to use when we approach a new style of music to introduce to our ensembles.
Dr. Janet Galván, Director of Choral Activities at Ithaca College, was recognized by her New York colleagues for her contribution to choral music when she received the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) New York Outstanding Choral Director Award. Dr. Galván was awarded the Ithaca College Faculty Excellence Award for teaching, scholarship, and service in 2018. Galván was presented the 3rd Distinguished Alumni Award in Music Education and Choral Music from the University of North Carolina in 2016.
Sought after as a guest conductor of choral and orchestral ensembles, she has conducted professional and university orchestras including Virtuosi Pragenses, the Madrid Chamber Orchestra, and the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra in choral/orchestral performances. She has conducted national, divisional, and state choruses throughout the United States for ACDA, the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME),and the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE. She has conducted choruses and orchestras in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington’s Constitution Hall, Minneapolis’ Symphony Hall, Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, and Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. She has conducted her own choral ensembles in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall as well as in concert halls in Ireland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, Canada, and Spain. Galván was the sixth national honor choir conductor for ACDA, and was the conductor of the North American Children’s Choir which performed annually in Carnegie Hall. She was also a guest conductor for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Galván has been a guest conductor and clinician in the United Kingdom, Ireland, throughout Europe, Canada and in Brazil as well as at national music conferences and the World Symposium on Choral Music. She was on the faculty for the Carnegie Hall Choral Institute, the Transient Glory Symposium and the Oberlin Conducting Institute.
“To stimulate thinking you must ask questions. The instant you give YOUR philosophy, the thinking stops. What you want is for them to think for themselves.”
Dr. Eph Ehly
It’s difficult to describe the impact that Eph Ehly has had on the choral profession. In fact, it may be impossible to quantify. He has cultivated the passion to teach and conduct in multiple generations of young teachers. He has impacted thousands upon thousands of singers in honor choirs, and in his own choirs. Perhaps I can only illustrate this with an anecdote. He was my teachers in the late 1990s, but also inspired my mother to become choir director while directing the South Dakota All-State choir in the 1970s. He is truly an intergenerational choral legend. Meanwhile, in Idaho, he came to work with my wife’s collegiate ensemble where he inspired Beth to come to Kansas City for her Masters. Where she and I then met! So, when I say I owe this man a lot, I mean a lot.
In this episode, Dr. Ehly and I discuss the changes he has seen in the choral profession over the decades as well as what has stayed the same. We discuss his philosophy of education, and where he sees music fitting into that philosophy. We also discuss the concept of teachers being models of curiosity rather than the source of answers.
Named “one of the most sought-after choral conductors/clinicians” by The American Choral Directors Journal, Eph Ehly is renowned as a conductor, author, and lecturer. Ehly has appeared in 48 states, as well as Canada, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and several countries throughout Europe, and presented on more than 100 college and university campuses. DCINY’s Maestro Jonathan Griffith—the recent winner of the 2014 American Prize in Conducting—comments: “Dr. Eph Ehly has been a major influence in my life, not only musically but also personally. Much of who I am today as a conductor goes back to the early days of my doctoral studies at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and specifically with my daily contact with Dr. Ehly. It is a sincere privilege to honor this wonderful and giving musician and human being.”
After 27 years of service – and conducting over 80 All-State Choirs, and over 600 festival ensembles – Dr. Ehly retired from the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also served an Interim Professorship at the University of Oklahoma in 2006-07. More than 90 Doctorate and 100 Masters Degree students have graduated under his supervision. He imparts a lifetime of wisdom and expertise in his popular memoir, “Hogey’s Journey,” published by Heritage Press, and Hal Leonard Publishing Company released a series of video master classes which feature Dr. Ehly’s philosophies in conducting and rehearsal techniques. He has received numerous important teaching awards and fellowships.
Dr. Weber, in my mind, is one of the legends of the choral profession due to the contribution of her body of work over many years and at all levels of teaching. I find the combination of her high level of music making, along with her experience in classrooms with young kids and everything in between to be a fascinating model to which we can all aspire. I can’t think of a better person to guide us through our thinking about concepts related to ownership and professionalism within our ensembles.
Is it possible for us as conductors to “let go” of some of the control? What would that look like? Could our choirs actually improve by us getting out of the way? How would our egos handle that…? In this refreshing episode Dr. Weber and I tackle these and many more questions. Be sure to tune in!
Dr. Betsy Cook Weber is a Madison Endowed Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. She teaches a full load of coursework, oversees the large and varied choral area at the Moores School, and is also highly active internationally as a conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and lecturer.
The University of Houston Moores School Concert Chorale, which she directs, has established a reputation as one of the world’s finest collegiate choirs and has been a featured choir at multiple state (2002, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017) and national conventions (ACDA 2007, 2017, NCCO 2017). Internationally, Chorale has received acclaim at six prestigious competitions, winning or placing in every category in which they were entered. These include the Eisteddfod in Wales, Florilége Vocal in Tours, France, International Chamber Choir Competition in Marktoberdorf, Germany, the Grand Prix of Nations in Magdeburg, Germany, the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition in Hungary, and the European Grand Prix in Arezzo, Italy. Judges’ comments include “de luxe singing, eliciting admiration and gratitude,” “wonderfully elegant and humorous,” “sophisticated choir — expertly prepared and with a finely-tuned corporate ear.” In 2015, Musica mundi, in its ranking of the top 1000 choirs in the world, placed UH Concert Chorale #1 in its age category and #3 among all choirs worldwide.
In addition to her work at the University of Houston, Dr. Weber serves as director of the Houston Symphony Chorus. Under Weber’s leadership, the Houston Symphony Chorus has performed over 200 concerts consisting of repertoire as varied as Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and Video Games Live. She is privileged to collaborate with some of the world’s best conductors, including Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Jane Glover, Christoph Eschenbach, and Nicholas McKegan. She has led the HSC and HS Chamber Singers on two European tours to the Czech Republic in 2017 and in Poland and Germany in 2019, including a performance at the world-renowned Bachfest in Leipzig.
In the coming year, in addition to her return to work once again with the Arkansas All-State, Dr. Weber looks forward to engagements in California, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Germany.
At the end of the year the students should be better singers. Not better CHORAL singers. Better SINGERS.
Dr. Jami Rhodes
This special episode is a tag team. Dr. Andrew Crane of Brigham Young University and Dr. Jami Rhodes of East Carolina University join me to discuss some common myths, misconceptions and vocal pedagogy practices that many of us undertake in a choral rehearsal that cause us more work in the long run. Need to fix the intonation? Have you fixed the technique first? Or are you talking to the singers about their “ears.” Trying to achieve blend? Maybe a unified technical approach to healthy vocal production can do all of the heavy lifting for us. This episode had SO MANY good one liners and quotes, that I had trouble choosing them for the promo materials. Don’t miss this one.
This conversation is not only informative, but practical and flat out fun! Tune in and bring your note pad! You will want to try a lot of these ideas in your rehearsal tomorrow!
Andrew Crane was named Associate Professor of Choral Conducting and conductor of the Brigham Young University Singers in 2015. Previous to this appointment, he served for four years as Director of Choral Activities at East Carolina University, and six years in the same position at California State University, San Bernardino. He is also the former choral director at Provo High School.
Choirs under his direction have appeared by invitation at multiple conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO). Recent such performances include the 2017 NCCO biennial conference in Baton Rouge, and the 2019 ACDA national conference in Kansas City.
On the international stage, in 2015 Dr. Crane led the East Carolina University Chamber Singers to a first place finish in the 13th Maribor (Slovenia) International Choral Competition Gallus, the only American choir to win in the history of the contest. He has also appeared as a guest conductor and lecturer at the Conservatory of Italian Switzerland, the Military University of Culture and Arts in Vietnam, the Choral Musicians Association of Hunan Province (China), and the Indonesian Institute of the Arts.
Jami Rhodes, mezzo-soprano, appears regularly in recital, opera, and concert works throughout the United States. Dr. Rhodes is currently Associate Professor of Voice at East Carolina University where she teaches applied voice, serves as coordinator of vocal pedagogy, and conducts ECU’s treble ensemble, the ECU Concert Choir. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal performance and pedagogy from Louisiana State University, a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Music in music education from East Carolina University. Dr. Rhodes is the 2018 ECU recipient of the NC Board of Governors award for Excellence in Teaching.
Recent and upcoming appearances include Anita in Bernstein’s West Side Story and mezzo-soprano soloist in Corigliano’s Fern Hill, Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Mozart’s Requiem, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio, Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil, Durufle’s Requiem, Forrest’s Jubilate Deo, Arnessen’s Tuvayhun, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s, Symphony No. 3, and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater. She can be heard as the Baroness von Krakenfeldt on the Ohio Light Opera’s recording of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Grand Duke released by Albany Records in 2003. Her recording of Dinos Constantinides’ Marche de Galvez with the Louisiana Sinfonietta and Schola Cantorum was released by Centaur Records in February of 2008.
As we all look forward to an uncertain future in our choral rehearsals, we might also turn our attention to what was an already RAPIDLY changing market for choral sheet music. For a conversation on this topic I reached out to Susan LaBarr, composer and editor for Walton Music. Our conversation was wide ranging from the changes that have occurred over the last 10 years, to her prognostications of things to come. We also discussed common myths about copyright law and the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self publishing.
Rules related to performance and recording rights.
Changes in the industry pre-covid
What could the future look like due to increasing use of technology and increased online music learning.
What does “educational use” ACTUALLY mean…
Susan LaBarr (b. 1981) is a composer and choral editor living and working in Springfield, Missouri. Her compositions are published by Walton Music, Morningstar Music, and Santa Barbara Music Publishing. Susan has completed commissions for choirs worldwide, most notably Seraphic Fire, the National ACDA Women’s Choir Consortium, and the Texas Choral Director’s Association’s Director’s Chorus. She served as the Missouri Composer Laureate for 2012 and 2013. Her arrangement of Quem pastores laudavere appeared on New York Polyphony’s 2014 Grammy- nominated album, Sing Thee Nowell. Her work for mezzo soprano and piano, Little Black Book, was premiered at Carnegie Hall in October 2019.
Central to Susan’s musical vocabulary is the knowledge she gained from studying with Alice Parker at her home in Hawley, Massachusetts, where she attended the Composer’s Workshop and Melody Studies Workshop. Susan attended Missouri State University in Springfield, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in music and a Master of Music in music theory. Susan, her husband Cameron, and their son Elliott reside in Springfield, Missouri, where Cameron is the Director of Choral Studies at Missouri State University and Susan works as Editor of Walton Music.
Speech Pathologist, Singing Voice Specialist and Classical Soprano
I have notice during my time working from home that my voice felt fresher, freer and more resonant than ever. I immediately began noticing other teachers mentioning this online as well, so I sought out an expert on the physiology and function of the voice who also has an intimate knowledge of the wear and tear that singers and music teachers put on their voices through her clinical practice.
Our conversation is wide ranging from the phenomenon of rest we are all experiencing, to practical tips for staying in shape while not leading choirs, thoughts about how how to “reset” your voice for an even healthier return to school in the fall, as well as common vocal myths or misdiagnoses.
LORI L. SONNENBERG is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Voice Specialist. In her clinical work, she combines her passion for treating injured voices with her extensive background as a singer and voice teacher. She has achieved remarkable results in working with her own students and patients as well as in assisting some of the country’s most respected voice teachers and clinicians. This blend of talents and skills makes Ms. Sonnenberg a formidable asset to the clinical and singing voice worlds.
Ms. Sonnenberg works exclusively with voice and breathing disorders and specializes in helping singers overcome voice injuries, post-operative voice struggles, and problematic technical voice issues. She is a certified member of the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) holding the Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC-SLP) and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). She is a former Speech Pathologist with Bastian Voice Institute in Downers Grove, IL, and has been teaching private voice since 1998.
And other musings about my plans to take choir online.
This is a strange time to be posting about choir in a Podcast right now. Considering that choirs are being sidelined all around the world. Of course, we might be the worst kind of activity right now. Sitting in crowded rooms deep breathing… But sadly, we might be one of the most NEEDED activities right now. So how do we keep the social interaction of a choral rehearsal alive and well during this public health crisis?
I will also share my thoughts about how I like to run a “final” rehearsal before a big performance.
Are your final rehearsals before big events frantic and stressful? Does it affect your singers negatively?
How do we spend our final hour with a group before an important performance where the details really matter? I present this to you, not as the CORRECT approach, but as MY approach philosophically. I truly hope it helps.
1. It won’t be perfect. So chill. Instill chill. 2. Your stress will be magnified in your singers. 3. The final rehearsal should be focused on SINGER directed final detail fixes as much as possible. Your ideas are present too, but each singer, if invested has a bunch of things they want to fix. Provide a way for them to voice it. 4. If your demeanor is calm, the singers will bring less nerves into the performance. You can show intensity of purpose while also showing a relaxed sense of calm. 5. Don’t overwhelm them with LONG list of things to fix. If it’s the day before, it’s too late… big picture, big issues only.
If you would like to see the WHOLE one hour rehearsal, I will be posting video and discussion in March on Patreon as the next patron only episode. www.patreon.com/choralosophy
I am beyond excited to show you an amazing tool that I use to introduce my students to the concept of vowels, resonance and formants! And, by extension, the concept of blend. This is a passion for me in the classroom. I love watching the students eyes and ears come alive to the power of an overtone rich sound. To that end, we provide visual aid for them to understand if they are doing it correctly. One thing we know about good teaching is that not all students learn in the same way.What if the visual learners could SEE if their vowel is correct or if the choir is tune?!
No more arguing with kids about their “O” vowel! You don’t have to be the bad guy anymore!
When singers can SEE if they are in tune, if they can SEE that they are singing the right vowel, it creates an amazing path toward being able to HEAR it in context.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why you CAN and SHOULD stop playing notes and making tracks for kids tomorrow.
In this episode I will take you through a topic that I believe should be CENTRAL to all of our philosophies as choral educators. Should I be the high priest in my classroom or the shepherd? The high priest is the conduit that the masses must pass through in order obtain musical knowledge. Put plainly, the student cannot learn the song without your help. Or do you want to be the shepherd who guides the class to the source of the information and then steps back to allow them to drink it in?
This really is NOT an elitist position. I know many will list the reasons it can’t work in their classrooms. I believe it can happen ANYWHERE at any level. If it CAN happen, then I think it is our job as educators to put a system in place for our students. This episode outlines my system. I hope you find something you like!
Be sure to head to the Patreon Page for the FULL powerpoint for this episode.
In this episode Marques and I discuss importance of the music of black composers that do NOT fit into categories of idiomatically black music like Gospel, Jazz and Spirituals. The conversation ranges from the social aspects at play in spreading the word about this music, all the way to what it’s like to be minority seeking to be seen. Since composers like R. Nathaniel Dett, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and others are gone, Dr. Garrett is fighting for their music to be seen AND heard. You find the Rep list referenced in episode here!
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MUSIC IN CHORAL ACTIVITIES AREA OF FOCUS: CONDUCTING, VOICE PhD, Music Education, Florida State University MM, Choral Conducting, University of North Carolina at Greensboro BA, Music, Hampton University
A Virginia native, Marques L. A. Garrett is an Assistant Professor of Music in Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Glenn Korff School of Music. Before earning his PhD in Music Education (Choral Conducting) at Florida State University, he was the Director of Choral Activities at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he holds an MM from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA from Hampton University.
An active conductor, Dr. Garrett has served as a guest conductor or clinician with several church, community, and collegiate choirs throughout the country and served as the festival conductor for the Harry T. Burleigh Spirituals Festival at Tennessee State University. At the Hampton University Choir Directors’ Organists’ Guild Workshop, he has served as the basic conducting workshop clinician. His formal conducting studies were with Dr. Andre J. Thomas, Dr. Carole J. Ott, Dr. Carl G. Harris, Jr., and Mr. Royzell Dillard.
A versatile voice that performs both as a baritone and countertenor, Dr. Garrett has sung with several community, church, and university groups as both a chorister and soloist. He was the baritone soloist for the Germantown Concert Chorus’s performance of Haydn’s Missa in Augustiis. Recently, his premiere as a countertenor in Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo served as the work’s European premiere in Limerick, Ireland. Additionally, he performed the role of Lil Lud in Bernstein’s White House Cantata with the Tallahassee Community Chorus.
Dr. Garrett is an avid composer of choral and solo-vocal music whose compositions have been performed to acclaim by high school all-state, collegiate, and professional choirs including the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Seraphic Fire. His music can be heard on recordings by the National Lutheran Choir, Winston-Salem State University Choir, and Missouri State University Concert Chorale. GIA Publications, Walton Music, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Hinshaw Music, G. Schirmer, Beckenhorst Press, and Carus-Verlag have published several of his compositions.
Dr. Garrett holds membership in the American Choral Directors Association; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; National Association for Music Education; National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc.; National Collegiate Choral Organization; and Pi Kappa Lambda.
In this episode we parse our way through a Choral Journal Article from December of 2018 called “What is Written on our Choral Welcome Mats” with the author, Dr. John Perkins of Butler University. In the article, Dr. Perkins seeks to tie the tendency toward valuing a performance standard and competition in choral culture to racial and cultural prioritization. As the reader I found myself bouncing back and forth between agreement and disagreement with the premise. While I do see the pernicious influence of COMPETITIVENESS in choir (ie. choir is NOT a sport…), I do not share his view that this can be tied in any way to race or culture. So, I just HAD to talk to him about this and he graciously accepted the invitation to parse out the particulars in the article. The end result was a civil and productive conversation that left me a greater understanding of his view on this topic. I hope you find it informative.
Be sure to take the time to read the whole article here for context discussed in the episode.
Dr. John Perkins owes his professional career to his loving partner, Emily, and children, Lili Amna, and Noah Ameen. He is the Associate Director of Choral Activities and an Associate Professor of Music at Butler University. Instruction at Butler includes the Butler University Choir (SATB ensemble) and Spectra (SSAA ensemble), Aural Skills I, and Conducting (undergraduate), and Graduate Choral Conducting Seminar. Combining with Nassim Al Saba Choir (United Arab Emirates), Sao Vicente Acapella (Brazil), and five local high school choirs, Dr. Perkins created a transnational course in Spring 2016, entitled “Peacebuilding through Choral Singing.” The course focused on social justice dialogue, relationship-building, and community leadership through choral singing. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Perkins will lead a similar course with partners in Malaysia, entitled “Musicking Futures.” Recently, the Butler University Choir has partnered with Eastern Star Church, Fishers campus, to encourage dialogue between predominantly Black and White communities. He practices choral-dialoguing with his ensembles and in the community as a way to more deeply engage in justice learning.Outside of Butler’s campus, Dr. Perkins is the Director of Music at Castleton United Methodist Church, a Fellow at the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Justice, and Global Reconciliation, and an Advisory Board Member for Euro Mediterranean Music Academy (EMMA) for Peace, and a member of the American Choral Directors Association Diversity Initiatives sub-committee.
Before arriving in Indianapolis in Fall of 2014, he taught at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 2008-2014 and developed the country’s first music program in higher education. There, Perkins directed the university’s choral program and founded the Nassim Al Saba Choir, the first Arabic, four-part choir in the Gulf region. The ensemble, aimed at building bridges between Arab and non-Arab countries, performed extensively in the UAE and abroad in New York City, Indonesia, and Jordan.As a guest clinician, Dr. Perkins has been a resident artist and has given conducting masterclasses in the United Arab Emirates, USA, Indonesia, Oman, Lebanon, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His research and professional contributions include, presentations, articles, and arrangements concerning social justice through choral musicking, Arabic choral music, cross-cultural initiatives, the choral works of Lili Boulanger, music of the Symbolist (Belle Époque) era, conducting technique, and collaborative music projects. Perkins’s new choral-orchestral arrangement of Lili Boulanger’s Psaume 130, Du fond de l’abîme and Arabic choral arrangements have been internationally premiered.
Dr. Perkins has presented at the International Society for Music Education (Azerbaijan), Research in Music Education (United Kingdom), New Directions in Music Education, ACDA statewide and regional conferences, the Lund International Choral Festival (Sweden), Aswatuna Arabic Choral Festival (Jordan), International Symposium on Choral Music (Indonesia), and the International Musicological Conference: Marginal Figures in 20th-century Music (Russian Federation). His research is published in the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, the Choral Journal and the International Choral Bulletin.Originally hailing from Titusville, New Jersey, Perkins holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Arizona (Tucson), a master’s degree in choral conducting, from Temple University (Philadelphia), and a bachelor’s degree in theory and composition from Westminster Choir College of Rider University (Princeton). He continues to grow through many transformative moments with his students.
Voice lessons for a fourteen year old, admittedly are not the same as a lesson for a college freshman. In fact, when many high school students begin voice study, they are fresh off of puberty, or at its tail end… For many, learning just get their dang vocal folds to touch is a challenge, let alone singing Lieder in a stylistically accurate way! What then, should be their starting point, or Step 1? Are we happy if they just memorize a song? When we are fortunate enough to get our students to take voice lessons, what do we want them to learn? What is best for them? What is best for our choirs? Are all voice lessons the same? We have so many questions… and, we think, some answers for those questions! We invite you to listen and join the conversation! As always, each episode is just a conversation STARTER, so join the conversation on Facebook in the Choralosophers group!
In this episode we discuss at length the philosophy of healthy singing as a starting place for young singers. We take the position that classical training is THE route to this goal. Classical training is not just a style of repertoire, but a type of instruction. Like classical dance or theater training, it builds fundamentals and technique first. Flare, photo ops, and competition ratings MUST come second.
In this episode I share a small part of my “suck list” as well as my “not suck” list to demonstrate the healthy balance we all must have between acknowledging our struggles and giving ourselves credit where credit is due. I will also offer a short reflection on the National ACDA Convention including WHY I MISSED THE AEOLIANS concert at Helzberg Hall and the inspiration of Eph Ehly’s session at the Folly Theater, “What’s Really Important.” Finally, I will be responding to some Choralosopher responses from our Facebook page. Several listeners responded with one item from their “suck” and “not suck” lists.
I am horribly messy and unorganized.
If it is not written into my calendar, I forget it and even that is no guarantee…
In the classroom, I am not good at sticking to a plan, so I don’t even make one.
Musically, I have a MUCH better ear for pitch than I do for rhythm, so often times I struggle to hear the trickier patterns in my head. This also causes my to avoid music with those challenges…
Keyboard skills are not where I want them to be.
I am not good at reading people’s body language and recognizing their emotional needs.
I am not a good listener. Working on it… Way better than I used to be….
Bradley Ellingboe has led a wide-ranging career in the world of singing, including accomplishments as a choral conductor, soloist, composer, scholar and teacher. As a choral conductor he has led festival choruses in 35 states and 14 foreign countries. He made his operatic conducting debut in December, 2011, leading the world-premiere of Stephen Paulus’s opera Shoes for the Santo Niño in a joint production by the Santa Fe Opera and the University of New Mexico. As a bass-baritone soloist he has sung under such conductors as Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, and Sir David Willcocks. Ellingboe has over 140 pieces of music in print, including the Requiem for chorus and orchestra, which has been performed more than 300 times in this country and Europe, and his newest work, Star Song, which had its New York debut (Lincoln Center) in May of 2014, and its European debut in July of that year. For his scholarly work in making the songs of Edvard Grieg more accessible to the English-speaking public, he was knighted by the King of Norway in 1994. As a teacher, the University of New Mexico Alumni Association named him Faculty of the Year in 2008.
Bradley Ellingboe retired in 2015 after serving on the faculty of the University of New Mexico for 30 years, where he was Director of Choral Activities, Professor of Music and Regents Lecturer. During his three decades at UNM he also served at various times as Chairman of the Department of Music and Coordinator of Vocal Studies. He is a graduate of Saint Olaf College and the Eastman School of Music and has done further study at the Aspen Music Festival, the Bach Aria Festival, the University of Oslo and the Vatican.
Ellingboe has won annual awards for his choral compositions from ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Arrangers and Publishers since 2000. His choral music is widely sung and is published by Oxford, G Schirmer, Augsburg, Walton, GIA, Hal Leonard, Mark Foster, Choristers Guild, Alliance, Concordia, Selah, and particularly the Neil A. Kjos Music Company, for whom he edits two series of choral octavos. In 2017 he became Acquisitions Editor for National Music Publishing.