#21 Model The Path
practiceperfectMy student teacher landed in my classroom the second semester. She saw a well-oiled-machine.  The technique time had very littler verbal instruction.  I was communicating with hand gestures. To her it seemed almost telepathic. Hand gestures for the primary vowels, tone placement, rules of transfer, and dynamics. All maticulously taught the 1st semmester. 

I have learned over time how to develop my choir rehearsal routine so that it works for me and my students.  I guess you could say; they know my style. I think it was way back at a Kansas Choral Directors Convention that Henry Leck explained how he created and taught concepts as anchor points. Points that the choir had absolute clarity in understanding and precision in execution.  They were starting points for advanced technique and for specialized techniques for specific pieces.  Perfect Practice refers to them as triggers.

Power of Routine
“When you become great at your job, you often make it look easy.”  A good teacher makes it look easy because of classroom routines.  In the choral rehearsal, routines are getting your folders, having a water bottle and pencil, getting in seat before bell rings, being enganged in the warm-up/technique time, marking music, and end of rehearsal routines.

Rehearsal Is Where I Have The Most Fun
I know that sounds weird. Not long ago, was visiting with one our outstanding saxophone players at HHS.This student has exceptional chops for her age.  We were tralking about practicing. And she said, “I love to practice.”  There is the key to her success.  If you are going to be above average, even great, you have to fall in love with practice.
Here is a good very short excerpt from an American Choral Director post called  Rehearsal Equals Performance. Check it out!

Author’s Summary:

  • Model the process as well as the product to ensure that people have a clear picture of how to get to the end goal.

# 22 Get Ready For Your Close-Up
When you model, things happen and sometimes to the point that it was not effective. When you model live, “you can’t control the outcome.”  Fire drills seem to always happen at the wrong time. Homecoming week is filled with interuptions. Sometimes, my choir is Dug. You know Dug, the talking dog, in the movie UP! Dug is listening intensley and suddenly, “Squirrel.”  There we are, in the rehearsal zone, a spontanious teaching moment and the choir is right there and then “squirrel.”  Need a laugh, watch Dug, the talking dog.

Controling the Message
You can’t control everything. If I could control the climate in my choir room, the piano would not go out of tune as quickly. The authors suggest that if you want to control the message, the best way is to provide a strong model via video. There are certain concepts that  if I have short clip that illustrates exactly what we want it can be very effective.  This applies to audio examples as well.  I use both video and audio. An example can be played illustrating the tone, the articulation, the diction, the body involvement, the facial expressions, etc. I will often cut and only play the part that focuses on the concept or technique needed.

After I have explained the concept, worked it for clear understanding, played the clip and processed, I then reuse it over and over as a launching pad to the rehearsal.  I have found this to be particulary effective early in the rehearsal process to create an “audio” or “visual”  trigger.  I then give it a break and play it again in the final rehearsal before the performance wtih some added freshness and focus.

Every year before the choir sings at graduation, I play a clip from the 2010 graduation video. My choir has come to expect it and if I seem to forget it they remind me. The choir is front and center during the first ten minutes or so of the ceremony and are seen on the video that is made for the graduate, shown on the local TV station, and well, you get the idea. We talk about proper behavior on the risers — then I show the video of this young man on the risers. He scratches his nose (perhaps it was a pick) a lot, fixes his shirt a lot, looks at the ceilkng a lot, and yawns a lot.  Since I showed the video, the choir acts and performs like angels.

Author’s Summary:

  • Use video as an easy way for you or others to capture models that you can analyze, use, and reuse. 

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Johnny Matlock 217 West 24th Street Hays, Kansas 67601 Phone: 785-623-1412 Email: