Nov 13, 2014

Taking Your Middle School Choir To The Next Level

When I first started teaching, I knew what success was. I knew I wanted my choirs to sing the correct notes and rhythms, to receive superior ratings at choral festivals, and to learn some beginning music reading skills. If I could accomplish those goals, I could be successful as a middle school choir teacher.


Well, maybe not wrong, but certainly there’s more to it.

What happens after you reach these goals?

Raise your standards, sure. Good answer. Now you take all your choirs to choral festivals instead of just your “best” one and have them all receive superior and excellent ratings. You take trips with your choirs and perform for judges from around the country.  You finally get the daily schedule you’ve always wanted. You teach them more complicated music, involving more complex rhythms, harmonies, phrasing, etc.  You get better at programing and establish a reputation for your program. Great!

Now what?

I’ve been musing over this idea for a while now trying to come up with an answer. How can we measure success in something so subjective? Every school is different, every teacher is different, every class is different. I’ve come up with some ideas:
  • Dig deeper into the curriculum. Take the students as far as they will go. If they can read rhythms at their “grade level”, help them go above and beyond. If they can handle 4 parts and have the range for more, give them more.Collaborate. Allow your students the opportunity to rehearse and perform with students from other programs. Let them form musical memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Bring in professionals. Let your students work with other teachers, college professors, and singers in the area. This makes them appreciate your skills and also gives them new perspectives on the music they’re learning.
  • Engage the community. Perform at local events. Perform for charities. Perform at churches. Perform at nursing homes. Get your kids involved in community projects and services. People love a good middle school choir!
  • Apply for conference performances. You never know if you don’t try! 
  • Record. Bring in some professionals to record your students at a concert or just on a regular school day. If you can only afford a little at a time, make a compilation cd over several years. You can give free copies out to recruit for your program and you can sell the rest to make some money for your program. Win, win.
  • Help other teachers. Once you’ve become successful in an area, show others what you’ve done so that they can get there, too. Present at conferences, speak at district meetings, be a mentor.

    Once you have reached your initial goals for success, what do you do to keep your program flourishing?
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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