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INTRODUCTION PURPOSE AS CONDUCTORS AND EXPERIENCED performers, we often take our hard- earned musical reading skills for granted. We rely on our training to aid us in getting to the printed score quickly, and we value members of our ensembles who can do the same through their own training. Yet in choral education, we have a conundrum, While we respect music lit- eracy in our singers, they often come to us with little or no music reading skills. How, as educators, do we teach the extensive body of concert repertoire in lim- ited time while simultaneously imparting reading skills? Conductors should own their roles as teachers. We teach our singers by se- quencing melodic and rhythmic elements, creating lesson plans, and excerpting short examples from the repertoire that we work on in rehearsals. These efforts save precious time, teach our members how to read, provide our singers with tools for their future involvement in choral ensembles, as well as continuing the development of the current performance repertoire. We can and should teach musical interpretation and expression as well as music literacy in the choral rehearsal. We will best serve our students by en- abling them to gain valuable music reading skills as we move away from a sole rote teaching approach. This is the goal of the approach in this book. MUSIC AS A LANGUAGE Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), the great Hungarian composer, educator, ethno- musicologist, and philosopher, once said the most effective approach to musical reading training is to mimic the way we learned our native language. As young children, we learned to speak syllables that lead to words. As we grew, we learned to form those words into sentences, statements, and questions. We began holding conversations. We first learned what our language sounded like before we learned how to read and construct it. Once we knew the sounds of language, teachers began to show us what the symbols of those sounds looked like in writing, alittle at a time and in a very logical sequence. We began to study these symbols by reading simple words: Introduction dog, cat, Dad, Mom. As our intellectual capacities grew, we learned longer words. and began to write them and form them into larger sentences and paragraphs. Eventually, a teacher asked us to write short true stories, for example stories about what we did during summer vacation. Finally, our teachers asked us to write stories from our own imaginations We entered the realm of synthesis, the highest level of learning, the act of taking what we knew and creating our own stories. When we achieved this level of learning, creativity became part of us, part of our knowledge and skills. ‘This is the same process Kodaly and other music educators embrace for the teaching of musical language. With younger singers we use quite a bit of rote learning at first. Older singers experience less rote learning since they are able to intellectualize more. As we begin the process of teaching our students how to read music, we have to be careful that we don’t try to teach too much all at once. In math we all want our students to be able to understand and perform long division. But first they must learn addition and subtraction with much practice and reinforcement. ‘Taking one step at a time in a logical and sequenced manner leads to success. HOW TO USE THIS BOOK Organization of the Rehearsal I recommend teaching the music reading procedures in the “ear” portion of your choral warm-up session. Since it is at the beginning of the rehearsal, your singers will be more receptive and energized. ‘Their retention of the concepts will be better when the instruction is placed at the beginning of the rehearsal and not at the end when they may be more fatigued. ‘The following progression is an effective way to organize the warm-up: Body Posture, stretching, and relaxation activities Breath Exercises focusing on breathing technique and diaphragm activation Voice Vocalization, sighing, and proper production Ear, or Ear-Training Brief and meaninaful activities that practice music literacy skills Organization of the Melodic and Rhythmic Concepts You will notice that melodic and rhythmic elements accompanied by suggested teaching procedures are interspersed throughout this text. ‘This is due to the reality that we as teachers have to layer the concepts logically so that our singers quickly learn to put them together. After all, the goal is that our singers should be able to read melody and rhythm together. Take your time and make sure you do not try to do too much at once. ‘The order of the lessons is only a suggested sequence since the repertoire you have selected for your chorus will ultimately decide what you teach and when. Therefore, you should arrange the lessons in the order that makes the best sense for you and the repertoire you have chosen. Make sure that however you order the sequence, the concepts flow logically out of what your singers already know. Each lesson begins with the overall idea and a summary of the melodic and rhythmic topic you will teach. You will also find an example of a folk song, a vocal warm-up, or an excerpt from a choral score to go with the lesson. Use the suggested example if it happens to be in your ensembles repertoire, or find an- other that is similar. Important: It is much easier to teach new melodic tones and rhythms if the singers already know how to sing the music that you use to teach the concepts. Many of the lessons contain a reinforcement activity or sight-reading lesson to show you how to move the new knowledge into the level of application. Fi- nally, each lesson ends with a list of additional choral compositions that you can substitute for the ones already presented. The lesson plans are written in two formats: narrative and descriptive. The narrative lessons provide specific questions and statements to lead the choris- ters through the learning process. The descriptive lessons provide the steps but require you to formulate your own questions and statements to the singers. For both formats, make sure to use your own logic and creativity in teaching to make the lesson as clear as possible to you and your ensemble. Feel free to change the language of the narrative lessons to “sound like you” and to fit your own creative teaching style. One of the major goals of this type of instruction is to teach singers to read melody and rhythm from their own scores independently. Therefore, it is cru- cial that each procedure end with asking the singers to find and read the new clement from their own printed music. Be sure to observe the ensemble so that you can inconspicuously help choristers who may have difficulty following the notation or who may be performing from memory and not actually reading the score, It should be your goal to sing the words of the composition at the end of the instructive procedure. Always return to the text of the song. Making music as soon as possible should always be the goal of our teaching. Keeping this in mind makes our teaching more interesting for our singers and satisfying to us as musicians. Purpose