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Choral Caffeine: Jam Sessions and Choirs

Choral music probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the term “Jam Session.”  Being a bass player, one has played in a lot of jam sessions.  In one’s school days, they were a rich training ground for learning to listen, to play with (and off of) others, and to improvise.  Of course, in the choral world, jam sessions are a rarity.
 
In his article, “Jam Sessions: Informal Music-Making that Can Enrich Your Choral Program” (Southern Harmony, Vol.29, No.1), Craig Denison shares ways in which jam sessions can be valuable to singers.
 
Our jam sessions produced a number of benefits. First, they strengthened bonds between the boys immensely. They created their own Facebook group, gave themselves a name, and began posting their summer music projects and endeavors for each other. Second, jam sessions gave each boy a chance to express what was meaningful to him as a musician. Some wanted to play percussion; others worked on vocal jazz or doo wop.
 
Remember, almost any object can be made into an instrument. Google junk bands, and you will see what I mean. Once jam sessions are under way, a drum kit and auxiliary percussion are ideal. Have boys bring their own instruments if possible. The only requisite instrument for me was a keyboard. Since our ensemble consists of choirboys, having a keyboard was normal,
a fine teaching tool among other things.
 
Perhaps most interesting was the fact that the jam sessions revealed new possibilities for choir repertoire and concert programming that connected with our audiences and benefactors as well as engaged the imagination of other choirboys.
 
(For additional articles on a dazzling array of choral topics, visit ChorTeach.)