We hear it every fall: desperate pleas for assistance from self-proclaimed “band directors” who have taken positions teaching choir (or as our band department calls it, “Holler Band”). They feel disoriented and unprepared, and don’t really know where to start. If you are one of these people, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your struggle (because misery loves company, right?) and know that the choral department here at Stanton’s can empathize with you–some of us have even been in your situation before. We’ll try to help you in whatever way we can.
One of the major concerns you might have is rehearsal accompaniment. If you’re not a strong pianist, there are some resources at your disposal. The publisher Carl Fischer, who also distributes BriLee, offers piano accompaniment tracks to many of their choral arrangements which are FREE to download from their website. They also offer full performance tracks (so that you and your students can hear what the piece should sound like) AND part-dominant rehearsal tracks, which are a performance of one part on its own, to help with sectionals. Most of the other major publishers also offer performance and accompaniment tracks for purchase (it is usually listed on the front of the choral piece if a CD is available, but we’d be happy to help you figure it out if you’re not sure).
To get started with warm-ups, “Building Beautiful Voices” by Paul Nesheim and Weston Noble contains more than 60 different exercises and will help you find the right warm-ups to improve specific weaknesses in your choral sound. Another standard warm-up resource is “The Complete Choral Warm-Up Book” by Russell Robinson and Jay Althouse, which includes more than 200 exercises for your choir.
If you have time for reading some “how to” texts—and you might, now that your Friday nights are free—we would recommend “I Know Sousa, Not Sopranos!” by Russell Robinson. It is written by a choral expert who was once in your shoes, and who helps point out how you can use many of your strengths as an instrumentalist to achieve results in the choral classroom. Another great resource is “Sing 6-7-8” by Roger Emerson. Written in a conversational, question and answer format, this book offers practical solutions to common choral problems. It focuses primarily on issues of the middle school grades, but is definitely applicable to high school as well.
Please contact the choral department if you need any further help or suggestions—we can send you our recommendations on 21-Day Trial. We want for you to be successful in your new position, and we’re here to support you. Remember, music is music, be it instrumental or vocal; you’re not nearly as clueless as you think you are.
If any of our readers have other good suggestions for new choir teachers, please leave your comments on this post. Shop Stanton’s for all your sheet music needs!