Art of Teaching Choral Musicians End of Year Reflection

 

Reflection for Art of Teaching Choral Musicians

Looking back at I think my philosophy is the same. However, I have a deeper feeling and understanding for this philosophy. When Mr. Evans told us that our students need to feel loved and need feel that they have a safe space they go to I was taken back. I thought it was a strange idea. Growing up conservatively, my family and school life has not provided a place where I would always be able to feel safe. It was honestly a strange idea when I first heard it. I understand clearly now what that means. I want my students to feel loved and that they have a safe space to go to. When they walk into the classroom they need to leave their problems from home, school, or with one another, at the door. People need music now than ever before. The world is scary and if they can express innocent joy through music what’s to say they can’t? My students will always have a place in my classroom to set aside their worries and turn their attention to something that uplifts them.

The aspect that I have grown the most as a teacher is learning to understand where my students are coming from and how to love them. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by trying to push your ensembles to achieve higher level of abilities and not living in the “now”. I tend to get caught up in the if’s and what’s of progressing. I have learned that you are right where you need to be. That statement on its own is hard for me to accept. I am hard on myself and that tends to bleed into my teaching. I want to loosen my grip of being hard on my students. The way in which I have learned to fix this is by loving the students I have with all their positives and disadvantages. Having said that I still need to grow away from trying to get too much out of my students. Sometimes I forget that they won’t all be music majors and that they are in it for the fun. I recently have gotten better at knowing they are mostly there for the fun of it. I need to attend those students who are their to enjoy their time making music equal amount of focus compared to those who excel within music.

As a non voice major, what was lacking in this course was not being explained certain terms like the “breaking point” or terms that are overlooked by vocalist because they are so commonly used. I did end up looking into these terms and also asking questions when I did not fully understand them. I would like to learn how to teach a kid to use healthy vocal techniques and how air flow works and just how do you sing healthily? It is relatively easy for a vocalist to understand how to warm up or what techniques there are. Therefore, I wish there was a day where we could have dived into the specifics of that. I had tried to take the Vocal Lab class but it was cancelled and I wasn’t able to take that class. That would have helped when coming to this class but that is the only complaint that I have even though I know this class is not for teaching aspects such as this.

 

Conducting Reflection

I conducted “If Music Be the Food of Love” in my Art of Teaching Choir Musicians class. This was an interesting experience for me. I like to conduct, and I want to do it more often. I think that I did well because I looked over the piano part and the vocal lines. I decided the style at which I should conduct, such as being more legato than staccato. I learned that even though I did make eye contact with everyone, I was scared to do so. Why is that? When I am in an ensemble, I like it when the conductor makes eye contact with me; it shows I am either doing well and we are connecting or that I need to make a change. It is a completely different dynamic being a conductor rather than a performer (Although the conductor is definitely performing also I think it’s safe to say most of those who attend music concerts go to watch the musicians rather than the conductor).

A struggle that I continue to have is that I bend my wrist to much and I give a slight prep beat to my prep beat. This could lead to the ensemble not knowing where the beat is and/or coming in on a different beat than written because I prepped awkwardly. This is something that I need to work in front of a mirror with and learn to get out of the habit of doing.

Other than my wrist bending too much and giving some awkward prep beats that may or may not have been noticed, I think my conducting is relatively strong. I am excited to conduct all sorts of ensembles and experience different kinds of music.

Micro-Teaching Lesson 3 Sight Singing


Reflection: 

I feel that I am gradually getting better at giving lessons. This lessons was the best so far. The positives were that I went over what you should look for in sight reading like key signature, time signature, and dynamics. I had them count out load the subdivision rather than what ever point in time they were in the measure. This allowed them to stay in time instead of loosing or stretching the time because they aren’t counting between the beats. I think most people don’t think about dynamics when sight reading, however, if a student is able to notice small writings in a piece of music such as dynamics I think that shows how much they look ahead when playing something. Another positive thing I did was explain the dynamics. I used gestures while they sang to express how loud or soft they need to be to better emphasize the dynamic changes. 

A negative aspect of this was that I could have given them too much information for the dynamic changes. I am not sure what grade level I am working with so I wanted to cover all of them incase I am working with older students. This is negative for younger students because it could be an information overload for them. Another negative is that I didn’t run through the entire key before they sang. I always forget how many scales it seems singers go through to find their pitch and I need to be more considerate of that. 

Overall, I feel that this lesson went well. I was able to smoothly transition to new ideas. I could have used less or more topics to the sight reading depending on what age I’d be teaching. I need to have them run through the scale at which the piece will be sung in. I am glad I am improving.

Chapter 9 Mini-Project

Choose four published sight-singing books and write a review to see if they would work in your curriculum.  Answer the following questions about each set of material:

“You’ve Got Rhythm” A complete method for Reading Rhythms by Anna Dembska and Joan Harkness

  1.  Are the materials specific to one method of teaching?

Yes. This book is specifically speaking rhythm rather than putting specific pitches to it.

  1.  Are the materials graded for difficulty?

Yes.

  1.  Is the material scaffolded appropriately?

Yes, the book increases in difficulty.

  1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this materials?

The strength is that is connects using your words to rhythms which could help singing rhythms. However, that is also a weakness. Because you put no pitches to the rhythms there is that missed concept of learning to read leaps and pitches when sight reading.

  1.  Are the materials based in real music or specially composed exercies?

It seems to mostly be based on specifically composed exercises.

  1.  Do the materials feature a variety of rhythmic and melodic content?

There is rhythmic materials, however there is no melodic content.

“Five Minutes to Reading Music – A Roadmap to Musical Success FIVE MINUTES SERIES” by Jerry Estes

  1.  Are the materials specific to one method of teaching?

Somewhat. They mainly use Solfege to learn how to read pitches which is a specific teaching method. The way they use that differently is that without music notes attached to the solfege they will have passages like D R M R D, instead of putting it with notes directly above it. So there are some different methods of learning the solfege and reading pitches and leaps but it is limited to using Solfege.

  1.  Are the materials graded for difficulty?

Yes

  1.  Is the material scaffolded appropriately?

I think so. These don’t advance a ton within one book, however, these exercises are meant to take up 5 minutes of your class time, so they have to be somewhat slow when increasing difficult because of the little amount of time that a person is supposed to spend with the class.

  1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this materials?

A weakness is that is only used solfege. Some individuals just dont get solfege. The strength is that it takes a short amount of time each class period. It slowly gets more difficult which makes sense with the time constraint. Another strength is that is starts with single part and turns into multiple parts.

  1.  Are the materials based in real music or specially composed exercies?

These materials are based on specifically composed exercises.

  1.  Do the materials feature a variety of rhythmic and melodic content?

There doesn’t seem to have much variety with rhythm. There are only quarter notes, eighth notes, and half notes. That is so boring! This is fine for trying to just get notes down, although, if you truly want to learn out to sight read you have to have every aspect. The melodic content become gradually different.

“The Independent Singer” by Richard Edstrom

  1.  Are the materials specific to one method of teaching?

No. There are basics that aren’t forgotten when working out of this book while still emphasizing new concepts.  

  1.  Are the materials graded for difficulty?

Yes

  1.  Is the material scaffolded appropriately?

Yes

  1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this materials?

The weakness is that this book is only for Junior high and Senior high. The strength is that there are original exercises and “fine music reading materials”.

  1.  Are the materials based in real music or specially composed exercies?

Yes, there are both real music and specially composed exercies.

  1.  Do the materials feature a variety of rhythmic and melodic content?

Yes

“One-Minute Sight Singing” by Holly Shaw-Slabbinck and Ronald Slabbinck

  1.  Are the materials specific to one method of teaching?

This uses two methods, movable “Do” solfege and Curwen hand symbols.

  1.  Are the materials graded for difficulty?

Yes

  1.  Is the material scaffolded appropriately?

Yes

  1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this materials?

The strengths are that there is theory that is introduced in this book. This also serves as a warm-up to sight reading. The weakness is that this is only a warm-up and not extensive pieces or exercises.

  1.  Are the materials based in real music or specially composed exercies?

Specially composed exercises

  1.  Do the materials feature a variety of rhythmic and melodic content?

Yes

MicroTeaching 2

Micro Teach #2


microteach2

Reflection:

Microteaching #2 could have gone better. This time around it made me realize that if you are teaching a singing group and you are sick at the same time it is difficult to sing in the first place, stay focused on the group and task at hand, and complete your warm-ups in a timely manner.

I started with stretches. I felt like this went well and it seemed to have relaxed the classmates. One thing that I would have done differently is explaining why some of these stretches apply to singing. Such as relaxing the jaw to help low notes, or adding in massaging of the face to better relax areas where higher pitches are “aimed”. Another thing I would have done different is the breathing exercise, instead of me trying to breath and not pass out while being sick and stuffed up was to just count along with their breathing out load so that it is more for the students rather than me trying to do the breathing exercise with them the entire time. I liked the singing exercises we did, however I would have liked to add buzzing of the lips, expanding the range both higher and lower, and having exercises printed out for the students to have.

All in all, I wouldn’t say this whole microteaching #2 was a failure. I think that this had more to do with not being able to focus on the teaching aspect and learning how difficult it is to be a sick teaching and run a warm-up or rehearsal when singing. I had picked good exercises, in the future, I would like the pick exercises that specifically pertain to the music that we are working on. It is a great experience seeing others microteaching and learning from their exercises that they use in warm-ups.

MicroTeaching 1

Micro Teach #1

audition-form-teaching-choral-musicians


Reflection:

This was my first interaction with anything choral related. I did not know how to warm up a student and did not realize how long choral auditions are. In my comfortable band world auditions are sometimes less than 5 minutes. I noticed when watching others run their choral auditions that some were 10+ minutes. However, this is great for the student, I feel it is unrealistic to have long auditions when you only have so much time as a teacher to run auditions. You may have the ability to have a week or a few days of auditions outside of class, although, usually you have to run this during the time of your class because students are only available at that specific time. Another point is giving your student enough time to sight read. Voice majors in class gave their students lots of time to prepare for the sight reading. For my own personal experience, I have been taught to have 30 seconds to look over a piece of music, and literally sight read it. From my impression, it is different for the choral community, however I am sure there are exceptions. This was a great learning experience and I am excited to change the way I audition choral students to more fit the audition for voice instead of instruments.