The Collaborative Choral Classroom
One of the biggest parts of creating a choir culture is creating a community – not just of musicians, but as a family who loves and creates music together. Creating that community in the classroom can be difficult, especially as students come from so many different backgrounds and have different ability levels. The first few weeks of school are a critical time in establishing a collaborative, inviting environment. Events such as teambuilding, creating opportunities for taking risks, and celebrating both successes and failures can help to build the foundations for a collaborative choral classroom. As students begin to trust, aim to set micro-level collaborative goals such as: “today, how far can we get through this piece of music successfully?” Guide them in the direction of best success and celebrate those successes, as they will lay the groundwork for more long-term goals. This extension of your own hand as director helps to enable and empower the students in the classroom to feel like drivers in their own performance and learning, rather than as passengers.
The collaborative choral rehearsal also must include numerous engaging moments for all kinds of learners. As you are planning your lessons, have you thought about ways to reach students aurally, visually, and kinesthetically? Multi-modal rehearsals are modeled after the world in which we live today…many distractions, many needs. With these rehearsals, we can better connect to where kids are now and take them to a more distraction-free environment that is better suited for the more advanced choral music octavos.
It must be said that kids are not going to simply jump on board with whatever we say and do in the classroom. Instead, we must meet them where they are, understand their musical and learning motivations, and guide them to where we want them to go. This collaborative, empowered approach isn’t the approach of least resistance, but it sure leads to truly outstanding results. Make it about the “we,” and your kids will think less of “me.”