Episode 11: The [Sequential] Path is Never Straight with Anne Mileski of @anacrusic
March 22nd, 2019
MPA. Festival. Assessment.
So many things to call it, depending on where you live.
In NC we call it MPA and if you're unfamiliar with what MPA is, it's like the End of Grade testing for choirs. Except it's in late February/ early March.
This year I took our entire choral department as one choir for a myriad of reasons:
1. When completing student leadership interviews two years ago one of the questions I asked students was "What do you want most from the choir department?" I was shocked to read that most of them answered along the lines of more unity among the three choirs. I could not have expected this even if I'd tried to. So I'm really glad I asked the question. I've instituted several things to help bridge community within the program (Pillars, Coffee Choir) but haven't had a huge musical experience yet. Therefore this year I felt that taking the entire choir program to sing for adjudication (scoring) would be a huge opportunity for everyone to come together.
2. Our school has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus every winter concert and to be honest, I stink at teaching it. It's not that I can't, it's because it's I've studied the piece and sung the piece and taught the piece for so many years, I just want to work on the performance style and not teach it. And, the piece is really above the literacy levels of a lot of my students. Don't argue with me about "forgetting the tradition" that's not going to happen and I don't hate the tradition at all. So, I've been thinking of ways to break down teaching the chorus into achievable steps. In order to practice this I wanted to pick another piece from the Messiah to test some things.
Overall: I am so glad we went as an entire program. Was it a lot? Yes. We only had super, super minimal rehearsal time together. We only ran it through with our accompanist right before getting on stage. We'd never practiced all together on risers before with each other.
BUT, I drilled into these singers from the beginning that this was an opportunity to show their musicianship. So many times we don't get to rehearse 25 times together before going out there and performing. It's imperative that we practice performing with minimal rehearsal experience.
The result? Success, not perfection. Listening back to the judges comments you can hear things to fix. But y'all. These students were put under high pressure succeed and. they. did. Some of these kids struggle with testing anxiety. Some of these kids have major performance anxiety. Some of these kids have only just started singing in a choir. Some of these kids are pros at this. Regardless of where each singer started as a musician at the beginning of the school year, we all did this together and learned so much through the process.
I highly encourage you to consider how you're changing things up in your program, how you're changing things up in your life. We are capable of far more than we ever thought possible if we just take the first step.
Here are some pictures and videos of the day! I'll also include a link to our performance and audio with the adjudicator's reflections.