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!