Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Entertainment: Why is it not part of the school music curriculum?

I teach middle school choir in a Midwestern suburban school district in a very conservative area of the country.

If there is one thing my choirs do better than most, it's that they ENTERTAIN!  Why?  Because we ROCK!  And, we MOVE!

Parents, have you ever been to a school choir concert where you were not entertained?  Have you ever thought, "shouldn't this be fun and uplifting?  Shouldn't this be entertaining?"  If you've ever wondered why a school concert wasn't entertaining, I'll tell you why.

It's because there is absolutely no mention of the word Entertainment in any of the state music benchmarks or curricula.  If there are parts of the country that have entertainment as an included element, I am not aware of them.  I've been to choir concerts where the audience was forced to watch the director rearrange chairs on stage during the concert.  In the Entertainment Industry, this is called "Dead Air," and is one of the most embarrassing things for any entertainer.  In the TV or Radio industries, if you are the cause of Dead Air, it can cost you your job!

At the time of this writing (August of 2019) the Detroit Youth Chorus is in the semifinals of the TV show, America's Got Talent.  The DYC is a choir that is inspirational to the kids in my choir program becasue they perform similar music while utilizing similar choreography.  The music is mostly Pop, Rock and R&B (Contemporary Commercial Music).

I can pretty confidently state that the majority of school choir directors are, sadly, not fans of this awesomely energetic performing group.  Why, you ask?  Because they are not singing in the great Western European canon of choral music tradition.  They're signing modern music in the way it is supposed to be sung; with bright vowels.  Something that is generally discouraged in Classical Music and all traditional Choral Music. This choir, who is one vote away from the FINALS on a hugely successful American TV show, would likely not receive a First Division rating at an adjudicated Choral Festival event in Michigan (the state in which I also teach)!

Statistics show that within the next few years, the population of white students in the K-12 education system in the US will fall below 50% for the first time in the history of this country.  To think that it's still acceptable to only utilize the Western European choral tradition as the standard by which choral music is taught and evaluated is patently wrong and horribly outdated.  It's doing a cultural disservice to the (soon to be) majority of our students!

Additionally, studies now show that greater than 80% of all paying gigs (jobs) for singers are those singing CCM (pop/rock/R&B) styles. Yet, 90% (or more) of the Universities in the US only offer Classical/Opera or Jazz as options for voice majors.

It's time the US moved into the 21st Century in the area of Choral and Vocal Music Education!  The number of voice majors at the university level has dropped significantly in the last ten years.  We need to modernize our practices or our field risks going the way of the Dodo bird!

In an added attempt to not be misleading, I feel I need to state the following:  I am NOT a proponent of only having school music groups perform Pop/Rock or modern, contemporary sounding music.  If the above comments have anyone thinking that is my stance, it is not. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

What Exactly Do You Do in the Summer?


Big sigh of relief because school year number Twenty-Three is in the books for me!

As my Spring Choir Concerts have become larger and larger events with bigger and better production values, the last month (or two) of the school year has become an immensely busy time for me!  I'm generally working until 11:00 pm pretty much every night.

I do take breaks though.  How else would I be able to post my ramblings on Facebook?!?!?  😜

This June I've been asked this question more times than in past years, it seems.  Which is odd because I assume people who know me would  already know these answers, but I guess not everyone does and I suppose it's silly for me to think they would.

What do you do in the summer???

Answer #1:  I SLEEP!

In May I average about 5-6 hours of sleep per night, which for me is not enough.  In June, I average at least nine hours per night!  It's needed for recovery.  The past two years our Holiday Break has been shorter than two weeks and I'll tell you... it makes a difference in the way I feel in January.  I'm looking forward to a full two week break this year as it's important to recharge.  Your children deserve to have teachers at their best!

Answer #2:  I CLEAN!

This time around it has mostly been (so far) focused on the garage due to Zachary's HS graduation open house.  Lots of cleaning and painting.  I found it relaxing actually and even said to my brother, "I think when I retire from teaching, I'm going to become a tinkerer and a cleaner."  Now, to tackle that master bathroom sometime soon!  Oh, and I also need to attempt to get on top of the mole situation we have going on.  ugh...


We try to schedule all my Doctor, Dentist and Eye Doctor appointments in the summer.  And when the kids were younger, theirs too.  That way nobody has to take time off work.  Trust me, it's much easier to NOT get a substitute teacher than it is to get a substitute teacher (even though lately I've been utilizing the same one and she's great - and she knows I appreciate her).

Answer #4:  I TEACH!

In addition to my teaching job at school, I also teach private lessons.  I typically have about 6-8 students that come in either after school or on the weekends during the school year for 30 minute lessons.  In the summer, I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my client load usually goes up to around 12-16.  Currently I have mostly voice students but also two guitar students and two young ladies working on songwriting in addition to voice.  I enjoy every minute of that type of teaching because I never have to monitor, manage or correct bad behavior which cannot be said about what it takes to teach a choir class of 65 thirteen year olds.  I also teach and present at the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework™ at Baldwin Wallace University in the Cleveland area every July.  It's a nine day conference/workshop for Voice Teachers, Choir Directors, Singers and Speech Language Pathologists.  This July marks my eleventh year attending and my sixth year as being part of the faculty.  I'm also the sound engineer for the entire conference, which is a joy and an honor for me.

Answer #5:  I WRITE!

Although not nearly enough.  I need to write more blog entries (I have sticky notes with about three more solid ideas, currently).  I also need to write more music/songs!  As our children are now older, my summer duties no longer include things like changing diapers and preparing breakfast and lunch every day.  I need to replace that time with more writing time!