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14 Mistakes Choral Directors Make in their “Demo” Lesson

If you’ve made it past the interview round, there’s a good chance you may be asked to give a demo lesson. With so many unknown variables, running a demo rehearsal can be super hard to plan for:

Who will be observing in the room?

How are the students expected to behave?

How prepared with the music will the students be?

What does the current teacher expect from the students during a typical rehearsal?


Listed below are traps that brand new choral directors, and even seasoned directors, make when auditioning for a new choral job.


Here are 14 Mistakes Choral Directors Make in their “Demo” Lesson:

1. Delaying the start of the rehearsal

A prompt start shows you are ready to lead an effective rehearsal. Even if just 3 students are seated, start immediately. “If you build it, they will come!”

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2. Beginning the rehearsal without giving a proper introduction

An introduction should take 1 minute or less and should include your full name, how you wish to be addressed, and a brief background. This introduction would be enhanced with your name, or nickname, written on the board. If your singers don’t know who you are and how to properly address you, how are they going to feel comfortable with you? (This is covered in detail in the free 6-page handout)

3. Letting the bell dictate the end of your rehearsal

You need to be in charge of when the rehearsal ends. Know exactly when your time is going to be up. Whether you are synced up to the clock or have a stopwatch in front of you, ensure a clear way to end the rehearsal.

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4. Running out of rehearsal time

Know the length of time you intend to spend on each activity. A well-designed lesson plan, all outlined in the free 6-page handout, will show you how to plan a lesson that will prevent this from happening. 

5. Allowing talking in the classroom

By no means do I recommend reprimanding students in your demo lesson , but I do recommend being aware of and acknowledge student disruptions. When students are speaking, look in their direction, smile, and wait for them to stop talking. You should never speak when they are speaking.

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6. Being overly creative with demo lesson activities

Save this for when you have the job. Keep a sound, simple structure with activities that are effective and engaging.

7. Allowing students to call out

When you ask a question, begin by saying “Who can raise their hand and tell the class…….”

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8. Stopping them too often

We may think that the more we correct their mistakes, the better we look. I would argue that the more they sing and you improve their musicality, the better you will look.

9. Focusing on one section at a time

When focusing on one section for more than 30 seconds, it is likely to cause disengagement from all other students; unless you have mastered the art of keeping all students involved while working with one group of students, I recommend keeping all students singing together. While you are working with one section, the administrators will be watching all of the disengaged singers. If one section needs help, have all singers sing their part.


10. Talking too much

Keep your words to a minimum, and make sure every direction is clear and concise.

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11. Overlooking the power of complimenting/thanking students

Only compliment when deserved, but create numerous moments and opportunities to do so. “Thank you for raising your hand, thank you for watching me at the fermata, thank you for sitting properly, great job showing dynamic contrast, etc”. Compliments should be specific.

12. Overlooking your singers as people first

We teach people, not music. We must smile, engage, and connect with our singers. How they feel in our presence will greatly affect how they perform and how administrators view the effectiveness of our lesson.

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13. Failing to provide our observers with a printed lesson plan

Your observers should see a fundamental plan of what you plan to accomplish. The lesson plan that you provide should show the structure of the lesson, not the minute-by-minute details. (This is covered in detail in the free 6-page handout)

14. Lacking a conclusion/recap to the lesson

There needs to be a musical and personal conclusion to the lesson. (This is covered in detail in the free 6-page handout)


Downloading the 17 Tips for Giving A “Killer” Demo Lessonnto could be the difference-maker in getting your very first (or next) job!

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By | 2020-03-08T10:23:44-04:00 March 3rd, 2019|Demo lessons, New teacher|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 21-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, and son, Nolan.

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