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10 Reasons Why I’ve Created A Choir Senior Solo Recital

A solo recital within any choral program is usually a great idea; this first-ever senior recital is a culminating experience that will further enhance the vision I’ve been clarifying with each passing year.

In my choral program, the overwhelming majority of students who enter as freshmen continue for all 4 years. As part of our choir curriculum, all students learn solo repertoire. Since all singers are viewed as soloists, they all individually gain confidence and learn to sing out. While the top singers gain great solo repertoire for college auditions, it’s the average and below-average singers who truly gain the most from the “solo” experience; many of them “find their voice” as a result of becoming soloists.

As a result of teaching solo repertoire in class and in weekly group lessons, most students choose to participate in our state’s annual solo adjudication festival. While students develop intrinsic motivation as they work toward their festival performance, many also experience extrinsic motivation: students can be selected for All-county, All-State, All-Eastern, and even All-National based on their performance scores. Over the course of their first three years in our choral program, just about every student is selected once or twice for All-County, if not an even greater opportunity.

This excitement continues for Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year, as the performance of one year dictates the additional enriching opportunities/rewards for the following year. But when theses students reach their senior year, they rarely choose to perform at the festival because they’ve already experienced the exact same thing 3 times in a row, and there is no extrinsic reward for their performance grade. As a result, the seniors, instead of preparing for the festival again, now coach the younger students on their solos as well as adjudicate/coach them on their sight-singing.

After many years of building this successful program where everyone sings solo repertoire, and just about everyone performs at the annual state festival, I realized one final component was missing:

What if the seniors sang at a solo recital? How would this impact my program? How much additional work would be required of these seniors who already have one foot out the door, and how much extra work would it be for me?

I had been talking about this concept for several years and finally pulled the trigger. It’s here, this coming Saturday!

So what are the benefits of this Senior Solo Recital?

The benefits to this Senior Solo Recital are far-reaching and will clarify my long-term vision even further.


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Here are The 10 Reasons Why I’ve Created A Choir Senior Solo Recital:

1. The seniors now have a solo opportunity that means something to them

The state-wide festival has far less meaning for seniors. This is voluntary, just like the adjudication festivals, and since it’s only open to the seniors, it has a unique value.


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2. Students will sing to sing a solo in an acoustically favorable performance venue

Unlike the statewide competition where they sing in academic classrooms with a few desks pushed to the side, this performance will take place in a beautiful church with great acoustics.


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3. Parents can watch their children perform

Each year, most parents would bring their students to state adjudication festival, tell their child to “break a leg”, and then stand outside the classroom door, hoping to hear their voice cut into the hallway. As I converse with the parents of the 75+ students who participate, I usually hear comments such as, “my child will never sing their solo in front of me”, or “I only hear them when they are in the shower”.  These students who have invested so much time in perfecting their craft have never given their parents the opportunity to hear them. This is a perfect opportunity for parents to take pride in their children’s solo.

4. Seniors do not need to learn new repertoire

While I offered the opportunity to teach new repertoire, most students had 3 pieces that they had previously taken to festival along with an additional 5-10 pieces that they had learned to a near-performance level. As a result, all 15 seniors who chose to perform this year will be singing a unique piece; all pieces performed were learned in our program.

5. The younger choir members can be inspired

I have strongly encouraged all members of the choral program (grades 9-11) to attend the performance. Not only will they see their friends/role models perform, they will likely become inspired by their performances. It will invigorate their desire to perform.

6. The younger choir members will experience classical repertoire that they may want to learn

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a live performance is worth even more. Younger students who are planning on participating in this year’s state adjudication festival will observe high-quality, successfully-performed repertoire performed by their peers; this, I believe, will motivate them toward learning and singing new repertoire.


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7. Seniors will experience a big picture performance, as opposed to an evaluative one

For the previous years leading up to each adjudication festivals, our singers used rubrics to raise the level of their solo performances; students gained awareness of their body alignment, breath control, tone, vowels, consonants, phrase shape, etc, all in preparation for the festival where they were going to be evaluated. Now, similar to a college audition, students are giving a performance where they primary goal is to connect with their audience. Yes, all performances should first and foremost be about conveying meaning, but an added breath, flat high note, or missed word becomes the difference between a 100 and 99 in an adjudication festival. At a regular performance or even a college audition, minor mistakes will have no bearing on a successful performance.

8. Underclassmen will envision themselves up there which will guide their long-term experience in choir

In my self-selected choral program, my main goal is for students to see opportunities for growth ahead of them; this leads them into viewing the choral program as a 4-year program. In most cases, they initially commit to going to festival in their first year as well. This senior recital will be the “icing on the cake” to their 4-year experience. The freshmen, sophomore, and junior audience who are preparing for festival now will immediately think about themselves standing up there in the future and singing one of their 3 festival songs.


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9. The community gets to experience solo classical repertoire 

When high school singers sing classical pieces in languages such as French, Latin, German, and Italian, by composers such as Faure, Handel, Mozart, Puccini, and Schumann, and Strauss, the community is enriched; Beautiful music sung by high school talented and well-prepared students in a beautiful venue makes for an experience that will enrich our community.


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10. It raises money for our choral program

We are asking for a suggested $10 donation for parents and community members (we are not charging members of our choral program to attend). Right now, we are leaning toward using it to help fund a few small senior scholarships.


Please join the Choral Clarity Facebook Community in order to converse together and share your vision!


 

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 20-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla.

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