Jan 5, 2014

Kids appreciate real choir music

Kids appreciate real choir music.

Of course, my definition of real may differ from yours, which is one of the many ways music is so wonderful. We can all appreciate different levels, styles, ensembles, etc.

What I mean by real in this particular instance:
Text depth
Complex harmonies
Major composers
Style/Genre variance
Language variance
Multiple parts

I recently polled my 6th-8th grade students about their favorite aspects of choir. An overwhelming number mentioned learning different types of music (not popular) that they likely wouldn’t learn otherwise. They appreciate that choir introduces classics to a new generation.

I was lucky enough to come into a teaching position where real music had reigned for decades.  At the time of my arrival, the students held a feeling of entitlement about the nature of their program. They only wanted “advanced” level music and wanted it done right. I was up for some serious challenges.

I learned that these children (ages 10-14) are far more capable than I ever would have imagined. I challenged myself to teach them music they were convinced they could learn and, as it turns out, they are capable. My auditioned choir regularly performs pieces written for 5 or more parts with long phrases, complicated languages, and complicated rhythms. They enjoy texts that aren’t solely about the diverse aspects of the weather….. or spoofs of madrigals….. or any of the other hundreds of program pieces that are clearly written for “young” choirs. They like to understand the background and history of composers and of genres and cultures of music. They enjoy knowing that what they learn in choir is relevant and important. 

They are capable.

 Examples of music my choir and I have enjoyed performing:
Let Everything That Hath Breath, Gospel, Jeffrey Ames
Steal Away, Traditional Spiritual, arr. Frizzell
On Justice, Truth, and Peace by Amy Bernon
Tres Cantos Nativos, Marcos Leite
O Praise the Mighty Lord, by Handel
Silent Night With Away in a Manger, Traditional Carol, arr. Frizzell
Sanctus in D Minor by Bach

Moving forward,
Emily Frizzell, a conductor and soprano, is Director of Choirs at White Station Middle School in Memphis, TN.  She earned the Master’s in Music Education and the bachelor’s degree in Music Education from The University of Southern Mississippi. Her responsibilities at White Station Middle school currently include teaching the 6th Grade Choir, Chorale, Young Men’s Choir, and Young Women’s Choirs, totaling nearly 250 students each day.  In addition, Mrs. Frizzell teaches private voice lessons. In her third and fourth years teaching, Mrs. Frizzell was awarded TEM 5 Professional Status in Memphis City Schools.  Her choirs have received only Superior Plus, Superior, and Excellent ratings at local and national festivals in each of her four years teaching.  She is currently serving as Junior High Choral Festival Co-Chair for the 2013-14 school year. She also served as a member of the Memphis City Schools Teacher Field Test Group and Development Team, which developed the pilot evaluation method for Tennessee music teachers. Currently, she is also serving as a Peer Evaluator of this new evaluation method. In 2013, she was awarded the Outstanding Young Music Educator award by the Tennessee Music Education Association.

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