Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tis the season...

Greetings and Happy Holidays from the ICC!

Tis the season to be... Well, you can fill in the blank. For the average person in the world, this time of year becomes more chaotic due to extra gatherings with family and friends, shopping for gifts, baking, and all of the traditions that come with the holiday season. However, when you are a musician, and more importantly a music teacher, you then add to the list extra bookings in the community, extra rehearsals and the dress rehearsal, and the actual performances just to mention a few of the other activities. However, even though we seem to be going 24 / 7, I would not change it for anything! I love this time of year. The music is so up lifting and brings a smile to anyone who listens.

Our singers look forward to singing pieces like the Bach Ave Maria to The Christmas Song by Mel Torme. In one season we can span every musical time period and expose our audiences to new and interesting music that they may not normally listen to. We are invited out into our communities to share our love of music and demonstrate the power of choral music. We are able to go out and change lives.

Tonight I have a booking with one of the ICC choirs at a shelter for children. It is one of my favorite performances all year. We collect socks, pajamas, and coats for them to help make their holiday a little brighter. The choir will go into the performance as they do any other performance, but leave a very different ensemble that will carry something special in their hearts this holiday season that will change their sound for the rest of the year.

Tis the season to reach out and touch hearts and change lives. I wish you all the very best as you prepare for your upcoming performances and I look forward to a very exciting New Year!

Thank you all for your work with young people and sharing your joy and passion for music with them. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What I didn't learn in school

I am sure by the title you know where I am going with this post. I am going to discuss all of those things that were not covered in any of my music education courses or in any of my masters classes. Over the past two weeks I have had the privileged to speak with some of the fine music educators in central Indiana. The goal of my meetings was simple. It was to help find ways to improve ICC's regional programs and better support the work of the music teachers in those communities. What I walked away with was some wonderful insight into the communities that surround Indianapolis and how they work. I also walked away with the the reminder that there is a lot that they did not teach me in school.

Recruitment 101. I wish there had been a class about recruitment in school. Yes, we discussed it in secondary methods and all the ways we could get people to sign up for our class. Become a coach, eat with the kids at lunch, and so many more. But what about someone who has a community choir? This past year I went to a workshop on recruitment and walked away with more questions than answers. I think that is why they don't offer a class in this. There is no one solution. It is a combination of so many ideas that create a great recruitment plan. The key is to have a plan!

Artistic Quality. This week I realized that we are all in the numbers game. We want everyone to be able to sing and experience the joy of singing. However, does that compromise our artistic quality? I think not. If a student is very talented and works hard then then progress up the ranks into the top ensembles. Those students that just enjoy singing can still take part, but can choose to stay in a less advanced choir. One of the proudest accomplishments I had while teaching public school was that the choir at my school was a non auditioned ensemble and I took everyone that wanted to sing. I think that is why we all became educators. Specifically music educators, because everyone can have a place to belong. A place that can match their ability and commitment level. I don't think that being inclusive should effect our artistic quality. No matter the level, the singers that are there want to be their best and to be challenged.

Never assume. This week I was reminded that you should never assume. I was speaking with new teachers at the IMEA Beginning Teacher Workshop and we discussed several issues they were having in their classrooms and most of the issues boiled down to assuming to much. Too often we think our students have made connections that have not been made and we need to stop and fill in the blanks. When I met with teachers from around the area I found that we were treating each community like another and we were not meeting the needs of those families. Never assume!

Its all about PEOPLE! When we are in school, everything revolves around the music. It is all about the music and the product. However, once you leave school, there is a shift from all music to a combination of music and people. Our job is to work with our colleagues and fine young students and still create great music. We have to be administrators, collaborators, cheerleaders, coaches, motivator, comedian, teacher, and musician. It is all about the connection we make with the people. We need a PEOPLE 101 course.

So here were just some of the things I realized that I did not learn in school and that I need to work at mastering. Life is a journey full of lessons and I am enjoying the learning experience.

Here is to always learning and growing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Another season.. or is it?

Greetings Fellow Music Educators!

It is that time of year again, the start of another season... or is it? I know we all have these questions that run through our head as the first rehearsal approaches. Will the choir be able to achieve the tone that is in my head? Did I pick the correct repertoire for them? Will the choir get along and become a family?

There are so many emotions that run through us as directors. I was talking with my wife about all of these concerns as we drove to the ICC retreat and she turned to me and said, "It really is silly to worry about all of these things because each year you have a new choir and each choir is different. As long as you and the singers do your personal best then you will be fine." WOW! You have to love when your spouse really helps put life into perspective. I was worrying about so many unknowns. Unknowns that, for the most part, I cannot control.

So, we had our first rehearsal that kicked off our annual retreat and my fears melted away. As the retreat continued, the singers were bonding before my eyes! I saw them coming together and enjoying each other's company. It didn't hurt that we had hayrides, folk dancing, and a dance party with Mr. Pedde and Mr. Leck!

Our retreat also had a leadership workshop with Fran Kick, and it was well worth every penny! At this workshop they were stunned to hear Fran say he was not going to tell them they needed to be leaders or why they needed to do things. Instead, he spoke to them about life and that being a leader is not the person that you think is in charge, but rather someone who does the right thing. He told them that you only get out of life what you put into it. The truth is always the truth no matter if you like it or not. If you pay attention, respond appropriately, and put in what you want out of life, you will go far.

We closed the retreat by talking as a choir and setting our goals as a group. I was impressed by their goals and how they wanted exactly what I was worrying about on the drive to the first rehearsal. They wanted to have the tone that I had in my head. They wanted to push the envelope and take the ensemble to a new level. It made my day!

I left the retreat energized and ready for a year of great music making with a new group of wonderful singers! Here is to another year that will be unlike any year before! Here is to another great adventure in the world of choral music!

Have a great season everyone!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Conference Time

It is that time of year, time for our annual conferences and conventions and let's not forget the snow! This year seems to be even more packed with these gatherings that usual. However, each one of these events offers a unique opportunity to learn, collaborate, and network.

The first event that I attended was the ACDA Children's and Community Youth Choir Conductor's Retreat. It was jam packed with useful sessions ranging from recruitment to Exploring American Folk songs! It was a great time to talk to colleagues and find out what is happening all across the US.

The next conference that I attended was the Indiana Music Educator's Conference. This was another great opportunity to hear some great sessions and concerts. I attended a demonstration by Brad Holmes and the Millikin Choir. It was amazing. Their tone was magnificent and their attention to detail was very evident. I also attended a performance by the Butler University Chorale. Another fabulous performance. However, I must say that I am partial because Butler is my alma mater. The session that opened a whole new world to me was a session presented by Kelly Clifford on google tools in the music classroom! If you are unfamiliar with these tools, check them out. Below is Kelly's website that has instructions for each tool. It is a great resource!

My final conference comes in March with the ACDA Central Division Conference. I know this will be a great time to learn and hear some amazing choirs. I hope to see many of you there!

Stay warm and dry this month and enjoy all of the conferences!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are Times Changing?

Last weekend I was able to attend a wonderful concert where I heard Chanticleer. If you are unfamiliar with this group, it is an all male ensemble consisting of only 12 voices. They have been called "an orchestra of voice," and they truly are. Sitting in the concert was an amazing feast for the ears. The harmonies produced by only 12 men was amazing. Many times you could hear lush harmonies that were so thick and complex that you wondered how they could ever tune the chord.

As an audience member you should know that Chanticleer is a group of classical singers and they do a wide range of music from Renaissance and Classical to Gospel and Contemporary. However, this group is the direct opposite of the Straight No Chaser. The first half of the concert that I attended was full of wonderful classical music and the second half was filled with classic holiday favorites. Overall a wonderful mixture for any lover of choral music.

When the concert was over, I had to rush out before the encore in order to get home to relieve the babysitter. This allowed me to walk out with an interesting group of people. I could tell that they went to frequent concerts and were very well educated individuals. However what happened next caught me off guard. When we entered the elevator they asked me if I enjoyed the concert and I said, Yes. They immediately said how disappointed they were with the concert. I could feel my jaw drop! WHAT! They concert was amazing. Not one note out of place. How could they feel this way? The conversation continued. "I thought this was suppose to be a holiday concert!" one man said. Another said, "They could have at least done something with the lighting." Yet another said, "I wanted more pieces that I knew. What about Jingle Bells and others like that."

Once I got to my car I started to think about all of their comments. Did they have a legitimate point or did they not know what kind of concert they were going too? I have come to the conclusion that it is a mixture of both. They were not too familiar with what kind of group Chanticleer was and since it was on the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts Holiday Concert series, they expected more holiday favorites.

In a world on instant gratification, fast paced media, and shows like Glee, The Sing Off, and The Voice where do we fit in? Is choral music being left behind or is it time to do a little face lift on choral music? Is it wrong to have some interesting staging and to change the lighting to highlight different pieces or to change the mood? As directors we also need to remember who our audience is and sometimes a piece of cake after eating the vegetables is not so bad.

I feel very torn on the subject. But as we look to the future of choral music I think a face lift may be just what we need to help keep it alive and interesting to the next generation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Choral Community

So how many of you have seen the virtual choir? Were you amazed or petrified? The project was the idea of composer / conductor Eric Whitacre. He took singers from all over the world, had them audition, learn the music, and then record themselves singing it. He then mixed all of their recordings together and created a virtual choir. Not only did he do this once, he did it twice.

My first thought was, WOW! This is really cool. Then I got very nervous. You may be asking yourselves why this would make someone nervous. The reason is simple. It took away the one element that makes music making so wonderful, personal connection. The virtual choir members had no interaction with one another. However, is this a wonderful project that bring so many people together from many different countries? Yes. But with the world of virtual schools, skype, texting, e-mail, video games, and so much more, we need to make sure that our children do not lose the ability to socialize with others and the skills needed to interact with others.

It reminded me of the movie WALL-E. In the movie you see how the human race has lost its ability to interact with one another without the assistance of electronics. It went so far as to portray humans losing the ability to walk. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when two people are talking to each other, but they are doing it through a television screen and they are floating (they can’t stand) right next to each other.

As we move farther into the 21st century and the next generations become more reliant on technology, let’s make sure we keep our rich choral heritage alive. Choirs have always been a haven where people come not only to make great music, but also to have fellowship. I see it before and after every rehearsal. I see singers who want to be together and share with one another.

Here’s to keeping human interaction alive!!

P.S. Here is the link to the video if you would like to watch it.



Monday, August 23, 2010

At Times Like This...

Well, here we are. We are back to work after a summer of unrest. Many of our school districts went through major budget cuts and faced tough decisions. We have fought for and are possibly still fighting for referendums. We also are looking at the possibility of losing collective bargaining and going to a salary that is unbelievable. So here we are. What do we do?
The answer is simple, WE TEACH! We do what we love and have been trained to do. We show our communities that what we do is valuable and adds much more to these students’ lives than many of them will ever know.
It is as if in the past few years we seem to sit at a crossroad. We always seem to be faced with a new obstacle every year and it seems like it will never end. Yes, teaching in this state will not be the same. It will be very different from the past and may never return. However, every time we have seen these changes we have overcome. Why? It is because we all share the basic fundamental belief in making a difference in children’s lives and in the power of music. I am sure each of us can name that one teacher that changed us. I can remember that I wanted to be a pastor, but then I met my middle school band director, Jon Milleman (He is currently the Principal at Hamilton Southeastern High School). I fell in love with music. I had always loved it, but now it was different. I had a passion for it. I knew that I wanted to create music as a teacher with children. Who would have guessed that I would change from band to choir and then choose elementary music and children’s choir? I did, and I know I have found what I love to do most.
I am sure you also have a story. A story that gives you the drive each day to do what you do. Don’t lose sight of that and why we are here. No matter what happens in these coming months, what you do each day is priceless! Keep up the great work! Keep promoting what we do in our school by talking to administration, parents, and the community. But most importantly, know that you are not in this alone, because we are all in this together!
Have a great school year!