January 31, 2015…A very valuable resource – no matter where you are on the Choral Education journey..


When I served on the Board of Directors for NJ-ACDA, I was a contributor to a Choral Directors Handbook which can be found on the NJ-ACDA website.

Regardless of where you are on your teaching journey, it may be worth a few minutes to breeze through it and read the many contributions that brought the final compilation to life.  Always a good idea to review the basics…

Thanks for reading.


Happy New Year! January 24, 2015

Happy New Year – 2015!

Greetings…and a Happy New Year to all, albeit a bit late.  We are nearly out of January and I feel like I was unable to catch a breath during the last three weeks of school.  The Christmas break was a long and relaxing one with overnights spent in NYC seeing shows (The Rockettes and It’s Only a Play with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick), five movies (Wild, Unbroken, Into the Woods, A Night at the Museum and A Theory of Everything) and attending a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education called Road Trip America where we, as a class, prepared Shrimp and Grits, Maine Lobster Rolls, Beignets, Philly Cheese Steaks, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Hushpuppies, five-way Chili, Fish Tacos and Gooey Butter Cake. (Yes, we rolled out of that class in need of a long NYC walk!)                                 The time away did not make for a rush back to work!

But, return to work, I did.  Once back in the Choir Room, we started immediately preparing for our Concert Choir Broadway CABARET which is created, produced and performed by my 93-voice SATB Concert Choir during period 8.  The format of the all-student production is two acts – the opener and closer of each act involves everyone in the class (All Cast).  Students have chosen “guy” numbers and “girl” numbers (two each) and the remainder of the show is solos and small group numbers that were auditioned for class choice with rubric scoring (Open Call).  I do not choose anything.  I only monitor and sometimes veto choices.  (“No, you CAN NOT do the Cell Block Tango from Chicago!”)  Students are permitted to audition with one solo and one other number.  The music was due in to our accompanist during the second week of December and we rehearsed with each of the Open Call numbers on Monday January 5th – after school from 2:30 – 8:30p  (jumping right back in!!!).

During the entire second week of January we ran Open Call auditions in class.  We get through nine songs in a class period.  Students are asked (not required) to vote using the nine-column rubric below:

                                                                 Please score using whole numbers only.  No .5’s!
Pitch Breathing Dynamics Diction Style/Character Tone Quality Comfort on Stage Costuming Evidence of
Intonation Phrasing Volume Clarity Personality Vowels Stage Presence Preparation
Projection Poise/Confidence

We use the same number system as All-State scoring; 1-9.  If a student is performing, they must give me a 1-3 sentence description of their selection so that everyone in the class will understand the context of their song in the show or movie.  I put that info under their name, show/movie and song title on the rubric.  I create wireless lapel MIC assignments for them and our Sound guy.  Auditions are held in the PAC.  I averaged between 54-59 students voting every day.

I take the scores sheets from each day and enter them into an EXCEL spreadsheet for averaging.  At the close of the fifth day, I sort all the scores low to high and announce the top 21 scores as those chosen to appear in the actual performance.  Those who did not make the cut are then given priority in the smaller solos we have in the All Cast, Guys and Girls numbers.  The final audition for the class is the coveted CABARET solo – open to any girl in the class and programmed just before the Curtain Calls.  The diversity of song choices this year is great!  Once I have created the program I will attach it to a future blog.

Now that we are back in the Choir Room, we are learning the music for the all class numbers.  (I am also teaching this music in Choir Sectionals – excusing those students in Sectionals who are not in the Period 8 class).  Again, with suggestions shared by the students and through an on-line Google Doc multiple choice in-class vote, we will open Act One with WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and close Act One with YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT.  We will  open Act Two with FOR GOOD and close with THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS which is also our All Cast Curtain Call.  The guy’s numbers are GREASED LIGHTNING and OFFICER KRUPKE (which we do every year).  The girl’s numbers are MAMA, I’M A BIG GIRL NOW and BELLA’S FINALS (with a few word changes).  Student Choreography will begin in class on Monday.

The set for CABARET is twenty-five 4×8 decks in three heights (8”, 16” and 24”).  They are set five-in-a-row and I have ten 4x8x24, ten 4x8x16 and five 4x8x8.  This all fits in my Choir Room so we are practicing on the decks right from the start.

CABARET has previously been scheduled for the Thursday before Memorial Day as we have a professional day that Friday and Memorial Day Monday off.  We previously learned most of the Spring Concert rep from January to mid-March when we would hold Open Call auditions and then run CABARET stuff in class until the end of May; bringing back the Spring rep immediately after for the Spring Concert on the second Tuesday of June.

Well, looking at the PARCC testing schedule at our high school changed that.  We will begin PARCC testing on March 16 with eight consecutive delayed opening days for testing – leaving us to teach in 21-25 minute time blocks per period.  Can’t create a choreographed show with a schedule like that.  Initially, I just thought I would bag the whole CABARET project, (IT’S A LOT OF WORK!!!) but my Section Leaders and Officers became admirably pro-active in choosing dates and recommending solutions – the best of which was to schedule it before PARCC testing began and to choose more familiar all-cast songs for quick learning and memorization.

So, in addition to finishing marking period two on Wednesday this week and starting marking period 3 on Thursday (are you kidding me?), we are learning CABARET music in Concert Choir; my Chorale girls are filming five-minute commercial/recruiting videos to share with the eighth graders who will come to our Monday night rehearsal on the 26th; the A Cappella Choir has started Spring Competition rep and are also learning all of the Carmina Burana choruses to perform with the NJ Festival Orchestra at the end of May.  I just ordered the GUYS NITE OUT music, which is a recruiting program, now in its seventh year, which is accompanied by an outstanding elementary school choral director in our district who loves reconnecting with her kids in high school after having sent them off to the middle school from 5th grade.  We invite guys in grades 6-12, Dads, Grads and Grand-Dads, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbors…and over the past few years, we have averaged 65 guys on-stage for the Spring Concert!  There are five Monday night rehearsals which begin after Spring Break from 6-6:45p (right before my Monday night A Cappella rehearsal time).  I put the rep on-line with PDF’s and learning tracks so they can come ready to sing for the first rehearsal and my A Cappella guys learn the GNO music well in advance of the first rehearsal so there is a core of guys who already know the music for the first rehearsal.  It is great fun and it has produced the forty-three guys I currently have singing in the program!  (Thirty-eight who are in class every day!)

So, on this snowy Saturday, I still need to enter marking period 2 grades, finish a few Sibelius charts for my Men’s choir and choose some optional rep for eight singers who want to continue singing Madrigal music in the Spring.  Much like your world, there is always something left to do!

Hope your New Year is off to a strong start.

Thanks for reading!