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Teaching Choir in a Non-Choir Room Space

Dear ChoralNet Friends:
My 2 beginning choirs (6th grade) have been moved to the Auditorium to accommodate an extra band class and an extra orchestra class brought about by my district's change from JH to MS.  My older auditioned choirs still get to rehearse in my room.  So, I'll be teaching choir on the go.  I'm interested in advice in the following areas:
1.  Efficient way to maintain 2 rehearsal spaces.
2.  Management techniques most useful for 11-year-old singers rehearsing in an auditorium.
3.  Benefits of everyday rehearsal in an auditiorium.
4.  Additional equipment necessary to teach successfully in an auditorium.
Thanks for your help!
Gretchen Harrison
on August 4, 2010 9:21am
Hi Gretchen!
Imagine meeting you here!  I taught for 12 years in 2 schools - one of which met in an auditorium.  There were good things and bad things about meeting in the auditorium.  The bad part was occasionally getting "kicked out" due to a guest speaker or assembly.  I finally learned that the best way to deal with that was to be assertive.  When another group needed to use the auditorium during my classes, I learned to "require" an alternate rehearsal space - and to request that all my equipment (piano, music, folders, etc.) be moved by the group needing my space.  It didn't take long for other teachers to realize what a hassle and inconvenience that was, and to finally respect my classroom and schedule their guest speakers at an alternate time.  The concept of the choir occasionally rehearsing in an English classroom didn't go over very well either.  The other teachers quickly discovered that the choir makes "noise!" not always conducive to the quiet common in the academic hallway.
The good part about rehearsing in the auditorium is the additional space it gives you for all kinds of activities, and the fact that your group will be used to the acoustics once performance time comes around.  One of the very popular things about rehearsing in the auditorium - is that we did a lot of "surround-sound" at concerts, where the students would go out into the audience and surround the chairs as they sang.  We also did a lot of processionals or recessionals - moms and dads loved that - and rehearsal was a breeze, since we were already in the auditorium every day. 
However, since an auditorium is usually also a public space, I found that a piano keyboard lock was extremely important, as was a locking music storage cabinet - where my groups kept their choir folders.  Since this was my only classroom - I also stored my music and risers in the auditorium - so I learned to keep the music file cabinets locked also, and keep the risers out of sight.  My computer was a laptop - so that always went with me to my next school.  Even though you will have 2 classrooms in the same building, you might want to request a laptop if you don't already use one, so that your records/attendance/grades can go with you too.  I also eventually worked into 2 sets of everything (reference books, recordings, etc.) so I didn't have to worry about forgetting something at the other school - but this may be easier for you since your 2 spaces are in the same building. 
For classroom management, I found it was easier for students to focus if I turned them upstage (backs to the "audience").  I kept a portable white board on wheels so that I could move it around and write on it - or maybe you have a Smart Board - that would work too mounted on the stand with wheels.  I have one now mounted in my classroom and I absolutely love it.  Turning the students upstage during regular rehearsal helps the space to feel more like a regular classroom - the bigger the space - the bigger the distraction allure - so I found that that really helped students focus.  When it was time for the concert - we set up the risers and practiced facing the audience again.  The other thing I would recommend is that you have clear boundaries for where students are allowed to go and where they are not allowed to go.  Auditoriums always have those dark backstage spaces and out of the way corners - so establish the boundaries and the way students should enter and begin class - from the very first day.  6th graders run everywhere!  Entering the auditorium will seem like an invitation to run, so you might want to set the tone on that as well.
I hope this helps some.  Best of luck in your new situation!
Rhonda Miller
on August 9, 2010 10:26am
I have a similar situation. I teach one of my classes in a cafeteria due to lack of rehearsal rooms. In the cafeteria is a very small stage and then of course tables for lunch. In this class i have had around 30-35 students. Every day I have them get folding chairs and set them up in three rows, one on the stage and two on the floor. I typically have a few students who help make sure that they get put away correctly as well, otherwise they get put away in a mess. In that space i have a four drawer file cabinet, piano, and a speaker to plug my ipod into. Another school in town has a choir room and a auditorium to have class in. In their auditorium they have risers set up, piano, a stereo system, and a table to put their materials on. Hope this helps!
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