What should music teachers consider when starting a beginner choir?

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

Now that restrictions are starting to ease back up this is a great time to consider starting a choir programme for the next school year. Whether you are teaching in a primary or secondary school or planning to lead an after-school choir, having a choral programme is amazingly good fun and loved by students.

If you are starting a choir for the first time or not a confident vocalist – don’t worry! These 10 tips will help you on your way to create a choir that everyone loves coming to!

  1. Sing in class

The best way to get students to join any extra-curricular choir is to sing in general music classes. It is a chance for students to gain some confidence in singing, for you to identify any potential awesome singers but more importantly for the students to gain a flavour of what singing in a choir with you would be like. Remember, if students are going to give up a lunch-time or after-school to do extra school work they are either joining because their friends love it or because they like your style of teaching!

2. Create a positive environment

Although our focus for the choir is to have it sounding amazing, we do need to ensure that we make the rehearsals a safe environment for attending. Students are conscious of singing aloud in front of their peers, so the more fun and safe you make it – the more confident your students will feel.

3. Planning the rehearsals

Schools are busy places, so try to schedule your choir rehearsals away from popular activities or sports that are going to attract the same students. To be honest, our most musical students are generally the students that attend everything. So be kind when they can’t come to a rehearsal due to a clash – they really don’t want to disappoint you. Encourage them to be honest when there is a clash and praise forward planning. This way you will keep your numbers.

4. Start simple – unison and 2-part mixed voice pieces

Again, we would all love to have those amazing 4-part SATB choirs in our schools but in truth it takes a little while to establish this, especially in a school with a limited tradition of choral singing. So, start with unison singing and simple 2-part mixed voice pieces to help students grow in confidence before splitting to complicated part singing.

5. Sing with your students

It really doesn’t matter if you are an awesome singer or not – singing with your students is beneficial to them and you! Your students will gain great confidence from you singing with them, especially in the early years of your new choir. Also, you will start to identify complex parts that need more work, difficult interval jumps or harmony parts that are difficult to find without the help of the accompanist. This means you can fix and support your choir to be even more successful.

6. Melody in the accompaniment

Often you will find the accompaniment doesn’t have the melody in it. For new choirs and students not having weekly singing lessons this can be a challenge. So try to include the melodic line wherever possible to start with and then work to drop it out in places once the choir is more confident. Encourage your accompanist to remember that the choir members are not professionally trained singers yet and the melodic line is more important than the fancy piano part.

7. Be consistent

Be consistent with your choir programme and ensure you turn up to rehearsals on time and prepared every week. You are role modelling to your students your expectations of them.

8. Perform

The choir needs an end goal to work to in the same way that sports teams have in your school environment. You don’t have to do mammoth concerts in those early months – just simple, low-pressured performance opportunities. The choir will grow quickly from successful experiences.

9. Student Voice

Students have great ideas and wonderful musical taste. Encourage them to have an input into the repertoire and to take on student leadership roles within the choir.

10. Do the Admin!

When you run an ensemble there is always admin to do. Keep on top of it, create a system that works for you and ensure good communication. Although it will take a bit of time, the work you do will ensure your programme is a great success.

Need help in learning how to manage the admin element without burning out? We offer coaching on this topic so why not book a session.

Want to know more? Check out my Youtube video on this topic:

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