Help–I’m a “band person” in a choir job!!

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!

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Categories: School Choral, Teacher Materials, Vocal Music

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. I fall into this category rather hard. In college and high school, I was a band guy through and through. I was never going to teach Choir, General Music, or (God forbid) Middle School. I happened to fall into my current position as Director of Vocal Studies and General Music for grades 5-12 at a small school district in Champaign County. I felt overwhelmed my first day of class and thought I knew nothing about choral music. Figuring out warm-ups was the most stressful because you can’t just say “Bb scale on whole notes” right? I took time to practice and learn to play them on the piano and it really helps for you to become successful. I also have ZERO piano skills, so this was a bit of a challenge, but simple 1-5 warm-ups are easy enough for enough the most piano playing challenged person. I use Sibelius in a way that is similar to SmartMusic to do my rehearsals. It takes some time of putting the music in, but it works wonderfully.

    I was straight up and honest with my kids about my lack of experience. Some of them hated me, many of them embraced me. The haters (who happened to all be seniors) are gone and I have a program that has gone from 100 my first year to over 170 this current school year.

    My thoughts on this would be to let your kids have fun. Chances are, if you are a band guy teaching choir somewhere, you’re not at an elite school that has 7 choirs with over 70 kids in each group. So why try to be? Don’t get me wrong here, you still want to present them with some standard choral literature, but why not sing “Silly 60’s” for the concert? The kids loved it and the parents enjoy watching their kid have fun more than they do listening to them. Don’t be afraid to sing songs your kids will enjoy. We are there to make music fun for them (at least this is my philosophy).

    I use Cindy at Stanton’s as my contact. she has proven time and time again to be knowledgeable about the music they sell. just tell her what you are looking for and she will give you the hook up.

    Excuse me, as I just received a mailing from her with about 50 songs (it looks like) to look through. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or need advice on what to do. I feel that I have been successful with this and would like to see more of us Band people getting involved with choral music.

  2. Paul,

    You are an amazing example of someone who has chosen to embrace a difficult situation and turn it into a smashing success. Thank you for sharing your story and words of encouragement with other band director/choir teachers!

  3. It’s very reassuring to know there are others out there that went from the band world to the choir world. Like Paul I too went through high school and college wanting to teach band. I have been out of college the last two years and due to lack of teaching “experience” and the very tough job market kept getting passed by in interviews for band jobs. When 100 plus applicants apply for one position that can be daunting. I recently was offered a high school choir position in a district with a very established and successful band program already. The choir program had much success in the past but due to change over in directors over the years is much smaller now about 60 total in the two choirs. I was quite honestly shocked when offered the job knowing “choir” people had applied. I have purchased the “I Know Sousa, Not Soprano” book after my cooperating teacher recommended when they had to start teaching choir and band. I also was told by the choir teachers in my district to check out the James Jordan series. I have used Stanton’s in the past to purchase scores and other instrumental music and I look forward to their guidance in this new world I’m about to enter. Being my first teaching job, in an area I am not so familiar with. The great thing about teaching music is most of the students want to be there. Unlike a math or science class that they have to be there for. Like Paul said music should be fun for them and I am whole heartedly going to embrace that idea. In the end we are MUSIC teachers not just band or choir teachers and with that in mind no matter whether a student learns music on an instrument or with their voice if they learn to appreciate music as I’m sure we all do, we will have succeeded. All the best in the new year.

  4. Hi Paul,

    My name is Marcel,originally from Romania.I am looking for a chance to get some music sheets for free,especialy in English language but in other foreign languages as Italian,French or Spanish,too.I am an instrumentalist as well and I am struggling to build my abilities on this new choir experience…So,do you have any idea for me about any site to get choir songs for 2-3 voices at least?
    Thank you a lot and waiting for your replay.

    Marcel Bache

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