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Gleeless

Lucerne Mottaz, writing in Choral Director magazine, got out of the Glee rat race:

So the kids proposed that we make it a class project to watch "Glee" and talk about it every other Friday, during tutorial. I thought to myself, "Sure, why not. It will be a great way to connect with the kids and a fun way to get to know them."

I returned home later that night in time to watch that week's episode. Imagine me sitting on the couch with my glass of cabernet thinking, "This will be fun." And there on the screen is the cheerleader telling her boyfriend that she is pregnant and that it happened in the hot tub when he... well, you know... and she tells him because the water is hot "they" swim faster... gulp... I thought to myself, "Oh God, I am soooo fired!!!"

These were middle school kids he's talking about, by the way. My wife had a similar experience recommending a group viewing of Glee on a week which turned out to be pretty adult-themed, but luckily in her case they were high schoolers (and not in a school setting) so it just ended up as a laugh. But continuing with Mr. Mottaz, he got disillusioned with the competitive thing after a while:

But at the end of the fourth year I realized that the program had become a monster. It was too expensive, involved too much time, and the competition to be in the class had divided not just students but entire families. If I wasn't rehearsing or teaching the other five classes, I was designing and sewing costumes or making props or cutting music or dealing with melt downs — there is a never-ending list. Did I love it? Yes — and I hated it. The more trophies that were won the more the parents wanted.

He ended up discouraging a similar experience at his next job:

That is where "Glee" comes in for me. The kids at Cal wanted to start a show choir. So we had a meeting where, using charts and graphs, I outlined the exact costs: $3,000 per student to participate, which covered materials, choreographers, custodial. The cost of the costumes and trips was additional. But the kicker was the time commitment: the students had no idea that they would be handing their lives over to this one event, which they had to do if they wanted to be competitive.

Of course competition and show choirs aren't exactly yoked together; show choirs can give performances for the enjoyment of their audience, and other types of choirs can enter competitions. But Glee has associated the two.

on October 9, 2010 6:11am
Sounds like an abuse of music & kids/parents
SIR
on October 9, 2010 9:15am
And I thought I was the only one who detests Glee!  I have to admit that I have only watched a portion of a few episodes, but thought they were very sexual in content, and just basically innane.  I'm glad someone is speaking up NOT in support of it. 
 
Trish Joyce
New Jersey Youth Chorus
on October 9, 2010 11:54am
Allen (or Lucerne, or whoever was writing the quotations):
 
Here's the other side of that rather one-sided "expose."
 
I directed show ensembles at both Indiana University and here at Virginia Tech for a number of years (4 years and 14 years repsectively).  Yes, they are expensvie to produce.  But you don't charge the expenses to the kids and their families!!!  No more than you do the costs of maintaining a varsity athletic team.  And like a varsity athletic team, your show ensemble has the potential to earn its entire operating budget and most of its production expenses by doing what it does best:  performing!  My goal here was always that membership would cost students nothing beyond the purchase of some specific items of closthing (mostly underwear and dance shoes), but that none of them should profit from it either.  We charged for our performances, and sponsors were more than happy to pay a reasonable amount for a good, clean, family-friendly show, produced to professional standards, that showed off talented, high-energy college students at their very best.
 
Did I exploit my students?  Certainly not for personal gain, not ever.  And my student leadership knew that if I asked too much from them it was their job to bring me back to reality.  That really happened only once in about 18 years, not deliberately but as a result of good performance opportunities that happened to come in during that year.  The students began to feel run ragged, they let me know in no uncertain terms, and we pulled back the following year, so my checks and balances worked.
 
And yes, there's a definite time commitment.  So?  That's true of any worthwhile activity, including clubs, including either varsity or intramural sports, including drama and musical theater, and VERY definitely including dance.  What shows like Glee seem to pass over without ever mentioning it is that yes, everyone has the "will to win," but as some famous football coach once said, not everyone has the "will to WORK to win."  My predecesor here, who founded the show ensemble, was very up front about it:  "This is your activity.  This is what you will devote your time to."  I came here out of both the professional entertainment world and a very high powered School of Music, and I was slightly more forgiving of students' time.  But yes, it's a time commitment.  My high school barbershop quartet was in great demand, and I learned that lesson at a young age, and that quartet stayed in the world of professional entertainment full time for almost 20 years before I got off the road to return to grad school.
 
So what did I expect from them?  A 10-day pre-school Workshop, with our first shows the day before classes began to welcome new students, and a touring show that was ready to go on the road (and did one year) the first weekend of classes.  (This reduced the time demands once classes began to a HUGE extent.)  Additional Workshops during the year, when new material would be developed, auditioned, and learned.  A major effort in the Spring for our annual Homeshow on campus after a season of touring.  And a total of anything from 25 to 40 shows a year, several of them on campus, and a touring schedule that amounted to an average of perhaps every other weekend during the school year.  And what did they get in return?  A profound understanding of professional expectations and standards, the best possible basic training for the small percentage who would move on into entry-level jobs in entertainment, and a terrific and memorable college experience for everyone.
 
Now my ensembles were never a requirement for anyone.  In fact some studio teachers actively discouraged their students from participating.  So I considered my retention rate to be the best measure of student approval, and it was very, very high.  And seniority was NEVER a deciding factor in assigning either leadership roles or solos, so that was not a factor.  Students perceived this demanding work and this demanding schedule as valuable and worthwhile, even when they knew that clubs, fraternities and sororities, athletic events, and yes, even social life had to take second place.  There was plenty of dating within the group, of course, and we had to keep on people about PDA, but it's interesting that the marriages that came out of that group have been MUCH more stable over the years than the average.  And I attribute that to the fact that unlike the unrealistic world of dating, they got to know each other both at their best and at their worst, and understood that life gives you both.  And while I did lose a handlful of students, there were always others in waiting, many of them working to prepare in case we needed a midyear replacement, and many of them waiting 2 years or more to make it into the troup.
 
And not ONE of my show ensembles ever got involved in competitions.  We were too busy doing what we were designed to do:  performing and entertaining audiences! 
 
Now I realize that secondary schools are a whole different world, and that there are limitations to what a director can demand of students, but I also see pretty clearly that in many cases students are not challenged enough to help them develop their potential, and that's not good either.  And again, just as in athletics, you will NEVER develop your potential unless you are challenged and tested, and that will ALWAYS involve lots of work, lots of time, and lots of blood sweat and tears.  So?
 
John
on October 9, 2010 5:13pm
I couldn't agree more with John. Excellence -- and the willingness to "WORK" for it -- is a recurring theme in all sorts of activities.
 
And whether it's their involvement in the football team, the concert choir, the marching band, the musical theatre production, or the show choir -- it's good to help kids (and parents) keep things in perspective. Maybe more importantly, it's critical that the leader maintain that perspective as well. An exceptional program doesn't have to be a monster.
 
That said, I've never been in -- or even around -- a show choir. Is it its own animal? Does its competitive and flashy essence feed the unhealthy elements of extreme competition, jealousy, and resentment? If so, I'm guessing that the leader would have to really work hard to maintain a healthy and collaborative atmosphere.
 
I hope those involved more heavily with show choir will add their thoughts to this blind conjecturing.
 
:-)
 
FWIW,
 
Tom