Dusting it Off and Restarting The Chorus Program:Reflection of a First Year Success

It has been a whirlwind of a year, projects, working on classroom management, integrating new tools into my teaching. I’m sure most people thought I was nuts when saying it was time to restart the chorus programs. Knowing I had some die hard vocalists in my classes who sat by watching the other students be disciplined and class painfully inch along made the decision easier to give them an another opportunity to be pushed musically and enjoy it.The chorus programs at both schools I teach at died out several years ago so the students I acquired for the programs had never been in a school vocal ensemble before! I also had the motive to recruit talented students for the Middle School Choir who had low numbers for their 6th grade ensemble!

Scheduling was the biggest hurdle and of course the first thing that needed to happen. I have a wonky schedule, I arrive at each school every other quarter and see each class in the school twice a week. That usually is upwards of 30 classes a week. My schedules at each school ended up with a recess time practice at one and an after school practice at another. Out of the both I’ve found the after school rehearsal seemed to be well attended, students were completely dedicated and focused. I also was able to connect with parents when they picked up their students. We also became more of a family ensemble, students from different grades that have never met before started talking and eventually became friends. The chorus that practiced during recess had large numbers at first but dropped rapidly when students realized they had to give up one recess time per week only in the quarters I was there. I think I’ll have both after school choruses next year, that way, they can’t escape! lol.

Attracting students to the program was another big kicker. I advertised and talked it up like no ones business handing out permission slips right and left just hoping to attract at least 10 dedicated students. I put out signup sheets that became filled with over 100 names, handed out at least 200 permission slips told students the songs we would be singing that there would be a performance at the end. I told everyone who signed up that they had 2 weeks to try it before I put a chain around the door knob and they were fully dedicated to the group. After 2 weeks that 100 went down to 32 completely dedicated students at one school and 23 at the other. Pretty good numbers for a first year program!

Choosing the songs was difficult. I wanted something that would be easy for them yet show them off vocally and something that they would all enjoy. Ending up with a pop concert program having them sing; Firework by Katy Perry,Dynamite by Taio Cruz, Rainbow Connection from the Muppets, and Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book. My students literally screamed at the chance to sing Dynamite and Firework which was my hook to get them into chorus. They were able to connect with the repertoire on a deeper level because they KNEW it and all of the songs sounded great when sung by a first year elementary chorus!

After everything fell into place and practices ran week after week the performance was a snap. 20 minutes of concert. Short and sweet, long enough to hold parent’s attention. I was a proud wreck before hand but just proud after. They gave me their best and that’s all that mattered. The whole program at each school was well received and supported by teachers and administrators alike with promises for more opportunities next year for us.

After surviving my first year with this program it won’t be my last. The laughter, the hugs, the silly stories, the singing, and even that proud teacher feeling in the pit of my stomach standing in the middle of 30 elementary schools singing their hearts out makes this program stand in my heart and on our stage for another year. Students felt a part of an exciting new opportunity that they can stay with until high school. It is a new safe place, a new reason to wake up and come to the school in the morning.Another reason to love and support music.

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