January 16, 2016 by morningcamequickly
Tis the season for getting your choirs out there to different competitions and festivals. Permissions slips to gather, funds to find, uniforms to remind them to wear. Music to learn and polishing of pieces to do. Is it all worth it?
Competitions and festivals are one of those things that you get out of it what you put into it. And that is true for both the teacher and the student. In the past month, I took two different groups to two different festivals.
The high school group I have this year is small. Only 9 singers, but they have nice voices and can put out a huge sound. However, for a lot of them, their hearts just aren’t in it. I replaced a beloved teacher and who wants someone new their senior year. I understand, I’ve lived it too.
My middle school group is 36 strong and full of students eager to sing and have come a long way since our first practice. They are the future of my program.
Their responses to the competition were completely different. The high school had a “been there, done that” attitude. The middle school thought it was an adventure and came away from the day having learned something.
So, here are 3 reasons competitions and festivals are important for you to take your groups to.
- You get out of a regular school day. Let’s face it, in April and May we all need a change of scenery. Performing on the risers in the classroom, becomes ho-hum at some point. Having students perform in a different venue keeps them on their toes and shakes things up a bit. It also gives you a chance that is longer than 35-45 minutes to really talk with your students, eat lunch with them, and not be bound by the ringing of the bell.
- You get to hear other groups. Comparing your groups to others at competition is a natural occurrence. Obviously you want to do well, but you also want to hear what other teachers can do with their students. This is a bonus for both the teacher and the student. Allowing your students to see and hear other groups makes them think of their own performance. Hearing students say, “they didn’t open their mouths” or ” their posture was horrible” or “you couldn’t hear their ending consonants” let’s me know that they are listening to things I say in class. I actually gave my students a judging packet to complete as they listened to different groups. It didn’t take long, but they had conversations with each other and me about things they liked or didn’t. They were listening!
- Your teaching is validated. If you have been doing your job well, then the comments or critiques after a performance should echo things you have been working on. For example, we’ve been working on balancing 6 baritones with 30 soprano and altos. When the judge said we had a great three-part balance, I was ecstatic. I shared this with my group and they were happy too because our work paid off. When students start to tune you out, hearing the same thing from someone else is most likely going to stick better. Don’t be offended if you have said it a million times and then the judge says it once and they do it. It was just time for it to finally click.
It can certainly be nerve-racking when all your work and preparation is on display for everyone at the festival and for administration back home. It is a public test of your job performance. Have confidence and keep teaching them well. Little by little, year by year, your groups will develop and mature. Have fun at your next festival and good luck!