Social Media is an amazing tool to grow and learn as people and as choir lovers. But if we're not careful, consuming social media can begin to consume you. Feelings of imposter syndrome, failure, inadequacy and more are all incredibly real things.
This episode is to remind you if you experience this, you are not alone. I provide stories of times I've felt the same. I also share tips to overcome these feelings so that you can ultimately grow and share without negativity.
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.
Choir Baton - Episode 4
Fun in the Choir Rehearsal with Ashton Humphrey
Ashton is a 4th year teacher at Croatan High School on the coast of North Carolina. Just imagine a picturesque town of where a Nicholas Sparks book is written.
Ashton teaches both theater and chorus and is an amazing example of how to keep fun at the core of each rehearsal. .Tune in to hear Ashton's story and tips to ensuring you don't lose your spark!
March 05th, 2019
Conversations from ACDA - the American Choral Directors' Association Conference was hosted in Kansas City this past February. Tune into conversations I had throughout the conference!
Choir Baton: Episode 3 - 2 Parts
If you've talked about music literacy in the last 5 years, you've head the name Dr. Carol Krueger. Tune into this week's 2 part episode with Dr. Krueger or "Mama K" as we discuss her journey to music and music literacy and her work to continue teaching others things she wish she had known from the beginning. We talked about so much I used did different episodes to bring you all of her amazing wisdom!.
Dr. Krueger revolutionized my way of teaching and thinking about music - I know she will do the same for you!
Choir Baton: Episode 2
Check out my interview with 2 music education student teachers about what led them to singing and an ultimate decision to major in choral music education.
Nyi Nyi and Lamar are students at Wingate University and awesome examples of students who are passionate about teaching others to sing.
Launch of Choir Baton
My dear friends,
I'm so excited to share with you the launch of CHOIR BATON - a podcast designed to engage with choir enthusiasts about life and choir.
Check out the introductory first episode below.
December 21st, 2018
So excited tonight to be leading an informal "Christmas Choir" at a local brewery. Above is the carol list we'll be using and digital copies of the traditional pieces we'll be singing. Looking forward to playing this by ear and seeing how it goes!
One of my passions is having more people sing and gain empowerment through the activity. What better time of the year to try this than Christmas where more people are willing and wanting to sing and there is a shared repertoire!
Friends, now is the time. Many of you participated in #MusicTeacherGratitude or focused on gratitude throughout this past week. Now is the time to keep that ball rolling. As someone who struggles with anxiety, my heart broke for my students struggling with school related anxiety the first several weeks of the year. And those were just the ones I knew about.
I’d been in the practice of writing down things I was grateful for but didn’t feel totally moved by the practice. Until, I learned a game changing component @rachelhollis this summer. Write down gratitudes SPECIFIC TO THAT DAY. Like, the little things. Find the gratitude in those. She elaborated the importance of this practice- if you recognize gratitude in your life, there is less for you to be anxious about.
I KNEW this was the ticket to helping my students. But I also knew that I couldn’t throw this practice at them without first modeling to them how. So I started taking the last 5 minutes of rehearsal for us to come up with 10 things we’re grateful for in rehearsal that day. I forget some days. But the days I forget remind me of the importance of it. And we do it the next. I even off handedly mentioned we needed a theme song - and the next day a STUDENT MADE ONE FOR US. It’s amazing.
So folks, I encourage you to consider adopting this practice into your life first and foremost and secondly, if you’re a choir director (or a leader of any people) bring it into your rehearsals. I think it could change your students’ lives, but it will definitely change yours.
A couple reminders:
I just attended my first choral conducting symposium and learned so much about myself, about my peers and teachers, and about this craft of conducting/ music/ teaching. I could expound on much of this for days, but here are three mindsets I worked through during the experience and will take into my next symposium. And I will do another one, because the opportunity to be a student on this level again was incredibly powerful.
1. Be Teachable
I asked for advice from a graduate school professor before attending and he said something to the effect of, "don't compare yourself to others; focus on personal growth"
I thought this was incredibly wise and so thus I attacked this experience with that mindset. Because I was focused on taking every ounce of personal learning, from everything said, I really believe it helped my teachability. Was I willing to listen to what was being said and/ or taught and take everything I could from it? Was I willing to let go of what I wanted to learn for what I was being told I needed to be improved on? And ultimately, was I communicating that with my body lanugage?
I believe being teachable isn't about being taught what you want to learn. Also, and this goes to the advice my professor gave me, no one is perfect. Don't compare yourself to others throughout this process. If you're too busy comparing yourself to other conductors you are missing teachable moments.
2. No Disclaimers
I stole this from a new friend I made at the conference. She explained how her high school English teacher used it in her classes. You were supposed to turn in an assignment and don't have it? No disclaimers. You just don't have it.
You'll see in this video I'm posting below there's a point where I get called on not observing the conversation between the upper strings in one section. I knew exactly where she was talking about because I turned the page too soon and missed reading that double system on the page. I knew the reason why I missed it and could've said something, but would it have changed the fact that I turned the page too soon? Nope. No disclaimers.
3. Have Fun
I want to attend or create or lead a conducting workshop where nothing about your gesture is specifically critiqued. Instead, the psychology and the mindset is explored. What mantra can you say to yourself before you get on that podium? How can you manifest a clearer gestures, a more confident demeanor, a relaxed arm movement? As I watched my colleagues I wanted to shout, "tell yourself YOU ARE CONFIDENT; YOU KNOW THE MUSIC; RELAX; YOU CAN DO THIS" just to see if that would change any of the specific gestures we typically address.
That said, I truly tried to focus on just having fun throughout this experience. We sometimes take ourselves and our craft so seriously. And while I believe what we do is incredibily important, sometimes I forget how fun it can actually be. I felt as though I conducted my best at the last session of the symposium. Perhaps it was because I felt comfortable in my surroundings by this point or because I thrive on doing instrumental/ choral music, but I also believe it was because I finally felt I was able to focus on having fun. Part of the reason I was able to have is because I had put in the work, but that's another lengthy post, perhaps, "preparation for a conducting symposium."