Reflection, recognition, tradition, and transition

Where I teach, on Long Island, we still have 15 more rehearsals. While many high school directors across the country may already be done, this blog post might be helpful in self-reflecting our approach to how we run our final rehearsals.

Many of use the last day(s) of class for yearbook signing, collecting missing music, and allowing free periods with lots of selfies. Sure, those things may need to happen, but making the final day(s) meaningful is so important for building tradition within our program.

The final rehearsal, especially, can be really special. It can sum up the entire year and leave an imprint on graduating seniors, future choir leaders, and the youngest members of the choir.

Star-Spangled Banner (SAB –  Unaccompanied) –  learn before Memorial Day!

Leading up to the final rehearsal

At my high school, our final concert is 5 days before the final rehearsal of the school year; we created this “late concert” structure with the purpose of keeping our students engaged and vested until the very end of the school year. When our Spring choral concert is over, our final five rehearsals offer an opportunity for reflection, recognition, tradition, and transition.

The day after our concert, Wednesday, we discuss all aspects of the concert. A meaningful discussion takes place, where I serve as the facilitator. Ryan Guth’s Choir Ninja Podcast has a great episode on how to facilitate a great post-concert discussion.

Choral Music for SSA(A) and SATB– INSTANT DOWNLOAD (hear recordings) 

On Thursday, we have our next-year officer candidate speeches followed by qualitative voting; the process of choosing officers is far more elaborate than an election, but this is the day that all potential officers need to engage their classmates. On Friday, we will discuss and prepare for our evening Choir Formal, where we will be giving each senior an award; the formal takes place at an outside venue. In class on Friday, I also give some preparation prior to the announcement of the officer, regarding how I made my final decisions. In addition, we will share one final discussions about the year as a whole. What were the highlights? What specific positive memories have been imprinted in their heart? Our reminiscing as a choir family will bring our ensemble together as we can jointly appreciate our shared experiences.

Free Qualitative Officer Election Ballot

On Saturday Morning, right after many students finished taking the ACTS, we will post the officer positions for next year on facebook and send out on remindme, and email. The purpose of doing this is to allow each student to react on their own time in their own personal space.

Choir Officer Application – how to choose the best choir officers

The FINAL Rehearsal

The final rehearsal is the last opportunity we have to plant our seed; by planting our seed, I mean keeping the graduating seniors vested in the program beyond graduation while inspiring the continuing students to return with excitement and motivation.

There are several goals that I try to accomplish each and every year at my very last rehearsal:

1. Recognize the current officers for their leadership and contribution

It’s important to note that recognizing the senior officers is important, but recognizing the underclass officers is equally important. In some cases, underclass officers will not be continuing as officers; this is a great opportunity to recognize them for this year’s contributions. By recognizing the above-and-beyond service of our leaders and role models, we will inspire future leaders and role models to come forward.

Post Concert Self-Assessment – have your students assess their concert

2. Give the top leaders of the Choir the opportunity to speak

Our chosen officers have been building the group’s morale all year; they have problem-solved, made countless impactful decisions and organized concerts and events. They deserve an opportunity to say their goodbyes and show their appreciation for serving our ensemble.

Self-Assessment Rehearsal Participation Rubric(s)

3. Ensure all chosen officers for next year wish to accept their position

All officers for next year must sign a contract stating they want the position they are being offered, and they understand their job is to be a role model and to fulfill their job to the best of their ability. This situation happens for about 10 minutes as yearbooks are being signed and last-minute music collection is being handled. (Any students who wish to further discuss their offered positions, or want to understand my rationale for not receiving a position can meet privately at a later time.)

4. Share my final words with the choir

Every year is special. Every choir is unique. Bringing closure to the year allows me to reflect on our collective experience and also reinforces the many beautiful moments we’ve shared from my perspective.

Alternative Concert Assignment – for singers who missed the concert

5. The seniors sing “A Parting Blessing” to the Choir

The traditional “two minute” arrangement that we perform is also sung at graduation by our seniors. Our student vocal director assembles the seniors with less than 4 minutes left in the period as our departing choir members sing this emotional sendoff with next year’s leaders looking on. This experience is quite moving for everyone in the room.

What does this last rehearsal accomplish?

We have essentially passed the leadership torch from one year of seniors to the next. We have recognized our current leaders (since we have already recognized our individual seniors the previous Friday). Our leaders have shown their appreciation for the choir as they passed on their words of wisdom. Next year’s officers have accepted their commitment to step up and fill the shoes of our graduates. The choir program, as a whole, has witnessed the well-organized transition from the 2017-2018 into the 2018-2019 choir, which begins the moment that “A Parting Blessing” is over.

Most importantly, the choir as a whole, especially the younger students, witnessed empowered seniors who cared deeply about the choir and each other. The younger students watched their role models say their goodbyes as they begin to imagine the new, potential role models who will be stepping up.

The year has ended, and the cycle continues. One more group of alumni who spread the joy of singing and one more summer will begin where hope springs eternal as all current high school students take one giant leap forward within our program.