February is a very busy month for my high school choral program and yet we have no choral concerts scheduled for the entire month.
I believe a successful high school or middle school choral program is established based on individual growth and community building. Those to pillars set the tone for achieving collective success.
With that said, this month is our chance to do a few unique things that strengthen our program. In fact, all three of our chosen activities have the potential to become annual traditions.
The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding ways to engage students differently throughout the year is a good way to build sustainable success.
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Here are three non-choral activities that we do in February:
1. Annual Senior Vocal Recital
This is the month where we have our 2nd annual senior solo recital. This recital puts the icing on the cake to three and a half years of training every singer as a soloist.
I spend the entire month of January teaching solo repertoire to my choir and hope to foster their desire to improve their individual solo voice. From there, most students go on to compete in our state’s solo festival (in April and May). With every year in the program, students become more invested in the state evaluation festival, as it’s rewards grow from All-County to All-State, All-Eastern, and All-National Choir.
By the time students become seniors they have likely performed 3 different solos for evaluation. As a senior, there are no extrinsic rewards left for being evaluated; I decided this would be a perfect time to end their high school experience by performing a solo for their peers, parents, and community.
On February 1st, almost every senior will choose to sing a solo in our solo recital, held at a local church. Some pieces performed by our seniors:
- Allerseelen – Strauss
- Amarilli, Mia Bella – Caccini
- Il Mio Bel Foco – Stradella
- Lascia Ch’io Pianga – Handel
- Les Berceaux – Faure
- Ombra Mai Fu – Handel
- Se Tu Ma’mi – Pergolesi
- Simple Song – Bernstein
- Widmung – Schumann
- Zeuignung – Strauss
All members of our 9th-12th grade program are expected to attend this concert for several reasons:
- They are showing support for their peers who have achieved personal success through our program and I want the seniors to serve as role models for the younger students.
- They are hearing great performances of pieces that they can choose for solo evaluation. Many of these performances will inspire our younger students to choose a specific song for their April/May solo evaluation.
- They can begin to envision themselves up there when they are seniors. A positive senior opportunity, open to all students, is an example of a way to a) eliminate senioritis and b) get singers to favorably view themselves advancing in our program.
2. Sing Strong – A-Cappella Festival
The second weekend of February, 80 students will be attending a two-day a-cappella conference. At the conference, our students will be attending varied workshops on a-cappella techniques, hearing semi-professional and professional groups, attending a high school competition, and receiving coaching sessions. We are bringing 8 student-run a-cappella groups who will all be receiving coaching sessions along with our one teacher-led group that will be participating in the high school competition.
Here are live recordings of 2 of our student-run groups from our Night of A-Cappella (January 10th). These live recording were edited and mixed by the incomparable Nicky Brenner.
The Sing Strong convention is an opportunity for students to “choose their own adventure”, picking the classes that interest them; from there, our students will return and we will engage in a large group conversation about the “wins” for each students and what they brought back to our program.
3. Valentine’s Day Flower Sale
Our choral program runs a flower sale for the school. We spread the love by selling carnations with messages that get delivered in school on Valentine’s Day. This fundraiser connects our choir to the general student population while raising a few hundred dollars of profit for the choral program.
In class, we sing the Valentine’s Day Round, that focuses on the “V”s vs the “F”s, that are often mispronounced. This simple round has become a choir tradition.
What do you do in February?
The point of this post is to share the concept that choir does not need to be all about choral music all of the time. This time of year is incredibly productive; students are actively learning, improving their singing, and finding their passions. Whether it’s an a-cappella convention, a solo recital, a flower sale, a cabaret night, Valentine’s day singing telegrams, or something else, this could be a great time to try something different. And if this month is already packed with choral concerts, perhaps there is another time of year to try something non-choral, that is equally beneficial, to building your program! And if this month is already packed with choral concerts, perhaps there is another time of year to try something non-choral, that is equally beneficial, to build your program!
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