Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kodaly in the Choral Classroom Workshop- Auditions and 1st Rehearsal

Wow, what a wonderful 3 days of singing I just had.  This past week (ok, it was a few weeks ago...) I had the pleasure of attending a workshop given by the Director of the Kodaly Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music in Hungary, Dr. Laszlo Norbert Nemes. 

In celebration of the Kodaly Program at Capital University in Columbus being established 35 years ago, Dr. Nemes came to give a workshop at the start of Kodaly Levels this year.  Even though I completed my elementary levels a few years ago, I had to go back for this workshop.  Having worked with Dr. Nemes in Hungary in 2013 (he was the choir conductor for the Kodaly courses) I knew it would be amazing, and it sure was.   I was a little nervous going into the workshop, as my chorus is only 5th and 6th grade and I wasn't sure what level the workshop would be aimed at (elementary? secondary? post-secondary?) but I was not disappointed. We learned so much about every aspect of choral music teaching and conducting (as well as a few games that I will definitely be using in both chorus and general music this year).

Right at the start of the workshop we jumped right into singing.  Throughout the whole workshop he used many tried and true teaching activities such as pair and share, learning by doing, mock lessons, etc.   After a fun warm-up activity where Dr. Nemes taught us a song and then added an ostinato, first with body percussion and then open 5th harmony, we talked about Auditions and the First Rehearsal. 

The first question he asked was "What is the Ideal Chorus Member."  Obviously with everyone from different teaching backgrounds all of our answers were a little different.  My answers were
1. The chorus member has to want to learn and grow. 
2. The chorus member has to be willing to work hard.

For an entry level chorus I think WANTING to be there is a VERY important thing. Chorus rehearsals can be tough when you have kids who we re strongly encouraged to join by parents rather than because they truly want to sing as part of a group.

Your ideals may be different but if you go into your auditions/ a first hearing knowing what YOU want and need for your chorus.  Have your goals for your chorus year established before you hear anyone sing and forming your group will be that much easier.  It is not always about who is the best singer or best sight-reader (though these things are important), but rather singing personalities, tone, confidence, etc.

With my chorus, there is no "audition" per-say as anyone who wants to be in chorus can be, but when I do a first hearing I am still looking for who should stand next to who, putting leaders next to those who may struggle, mixing voices so that confident singers are spread throughout the group AND clashing personalities (or best-buds) are also spread throughout the group.  During my first hearing I try to make students as comfortable as possible.  One gem from the workshop was ask the to SHARE what they can do, not SHOW.  Students just sing a simple song for me that I know they know (usually a favorite folk song from the year prior) and some warm-ups. 

Now, with my chorus, the first rehearsal is actually BEFORE the "first hearing" because at my school ALL 5th and 6th graders come to the first rehearsal for their grade and we sing, move AND hear about what the upcoming year will be like.  The following week they then get to choose if they want to join chorus or not.  For this reason, I love for my first rehearsal to really leave the students wanting more (which I try for all year, but I feel it is really important to hook them right from the get-go!).  Last year as my super fun warm-up I taught them "la-ti-do-ti-la" and the hand motions and then was able to add cups when the group was a little smaller (though I still had a HUGE chorus last year-yay!).  Check out this BLOG POST for how to play the cup game! This year I plan on stealing the first activity from Dr. Nemes. 

He taught us Kye Kye Kule (a Ghanan Children's song) in stages. If you don't know the song there is background and some videos here- my favorites are the 1st and 3rd.  I plan on splitting the stages up over the course of a few rehearsals. 
1. Call and response (just like the videos).  Dr. Nemes would sing a phrase with motions and we repeated.  He started with the phrases in order, but then moved to random for each step.
2. Teacher HUMs a line with motions and students sing and do
3. Teacher just does motions and students sing and do
4. T. claps the rhythm of a phrase, students pat phrase
5. Show rhythm cards to put song together

If you have a group that is reluctant to sing right away- Dr. Nemes recommends getting them used to you first either by just rhythm activities that evolve into a dance, partner clapping activities, etc.  AND then add the song.  By the time they realize they are singing, you already have them hooked! (We did movement and games to so many folk songs it will take another post to describe them all so stay tuned!)

After he had us hooked with the first activity we moved seamlessly into warm-ups which were very intentional (Part 2 of this blog series) and finally into pieces we would be singing/ performing for our mini concert we gave at the end of the workshop.  Throughout the ENTIRE first rehearsal there was so much singing (of course!), movement, smiling, games, laughter and more. 

For my first rehearsal this year I plan on doing the same.  We will start with Kye Kye Kule and then move into true warm-ups which relate to the pieces we will sing.  The Veterans Day Concert is always the first performance of the year so we will be working on The Star-Spangled Banner, the songs of the Branches of the Armed Forces, and more TBD (I am debating between a few pieces to add to the program).  Students will also get a rundown of the whole year- when Concerts/ National Anthem performances are, when the musical is (though you don't have to be in chorus to be in the musical) and more. 

Over all I hope to make chorus this year much more ACTIVE after taking this workshop and using a lot more folk music. Everything in the workshop flowed seamlessly and each part of the rehearsals was so intentional.  It is my goal to be that intentional with EVERY chorus rehearsal this year.

Check out parts 2, 3 and 4 of this workshop series (there was so much info)! Part 2 is on intentional warm-ups, Part 3 give tips for teaching new songs (which relates A LOT to the intentional warm-ups), Part 4 is on picking your repertoire and preparing for the rehearsals :)  Happy Back to School!

Thanks to The TLC Shop for the border in my picture above! 

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