Choral Collaboration – Wednesday April 29, 2015

I have a very fortunate teaching situation. I have Choir Sectionals every day of the week during lunch periods/study halls. Almost every member of my SATB Concert Choir (guys grades 9-12 and 11th & 12th grade girls) takes two 25-minute sectionals a week and my grade 9-10 SSAA Chorale meets for Sectionals on Wednesdays. With the exception of approx. 20 singers in both ensembles, everyone is also in a five-day ensemble class.

Couple this with an unusual ability to pace quickly, my choirs are pretty ready for their June 9th concert. But it is the end of April. What to do with another 6 weeks other than introduce new literature (which I am currently doing)?

My Chorale class will learn to transpose. We have been working with identifying the notes on a keyboard and have done worksheets on half and whole steps. I will introduce the intervals of major and minor seconds and thirds as well as octave markings (8va and 8vb) and then I will have them transpose the Star Spangled Banner from C major down to Ab major. My Chorale class is a strong group of young singers and they are going to be fierce as they move into their sophomore and junior years. I want them to have as many marketable tools as singers as I can give them.

My Concert Choir has been divided into 18 groups of 5 (or 6) and the groups are working on videoing their responses to the following:


  1. Why did you join choir?
  2. How has choir/Mrs. Retzko helped build your confidence as a musician?
  3. How does Mrs. Retzko foster a sense of community within the choir?
  4. Briefly complete this statement: “A musician should be able to____________________
  5. How has being in choir contributed to your overall high school experience? Studies say the best students are in music/the arts.


  1. What will be your biggest “take away” from choir? (i.e. a skill, a memorable experience / be succinct in your response)
  2. What skills have you learned in choir and how do you see yourself applying these skills later in life?

These questions came from a new teacher in a neighboring town who came to observe our program. He asked my singers a few of these questions at the end of their respective rehearsals but time did not permit a full exploration of answers. I was intrigued by the students who did choose to respond. Hence, I created this project around those questions.

Each group has been asked to determine a medium by which they will present their 10-12 minute video. So far, they are proposing:

  1. A Red Carpet Interview
  2. The Ellen Show
  3. Therapy Group Session – Choirholics Anonymous
  4. A Gameshow
  5. A skit where we pretend to be on a bus heading to our high school reunion
  6. CSI – Choir
  7. A scavenger hunt
  8. An interview/parody

They have also been asked to provide written responses to the following:


(12 Point Font 1.15 spacing – fully, detailed paragraphs, not bulleted answers)

  1. Complete the sentence…I didn’t expect to____________________from choir.
  2. State your current grade. How could you have made each year in choir better?
  3. Seniors/Juniors…What advice would you have given your first-year-choir-member-self?
  4. Sophomores/Freshman… What advice would you give the incoming class of ninth graders?
  5. What would you want RETZ to know that she didn’t know? I wish my teacher knew _______

They have a timeline for completion and I have decided to REWARD THEM on their rubric by giving them an “A” if the written responses were turned in well in advance of the May 1st deadline.” They will get a “B” for turning it in on time and a “C” once it becomes a day late.

I am THRILLED with the response to this! FOUR DAYS EARLY, I received dozens of papers…more appeared this morning! Rather than punish them by dropping grades, they are buying into the idea of being proactive and not procrastinating! (At least some of them are!) They are also asking me to “tell my other teachers about this”. So, I’m telling you!

And, taken from an article that circled on FaceBook, their responses to the fifth question have been poignant and heartfelt.

Were there only time to really converse with every kid that walks into my room. I understand that my job title is Choral Director and not ever Counselor or Therapist or Friend. They pay me to teach kids to sing. But, it is so critical to tapping into the emotions of each of them to generate the best experience we can in rehearsal. Sometimes a fine line, but always worth the investment.

So, if you need an end of the year activity, here’s one that is working for me.

I created my rubrics using


Thanks for reading.