Repertoire suggestions requested
Date: August 22, 2011
I teach at a middle school in Charlotte with the following demographic: approx. 70% black, 25% white, 5% Latino or other. I have difficulty getting my kids interested in most of the educationally sound choral literature that's out there. Inevitably, a few weeks into the semester, a hand will go up and a kid will say dismissively, "These songs you pick--they're so boring." Mind you, I choose songs that I have heard middle school choirs sing to great success, with the kids clearly enjoying. I try to vary the rep from folk songs, to spirituals, to gospel, to pop, but for so many of my kids the only music of any worth is hip hop and r & b. I have tried having each class to choose a song, with the only rule being appropriate lyrics for school. This has had some success in that the kids like singing their chosen song, but then they start insisting on that song every rehearsal, and it has not helped them to be any more open minded about trying new things.
Two questions: If any of you teach in a similar demographic, what songs have you had success in getting the kids to enjoy? Also, when you're trying to expand their horizons, say by teaching a classical piece, or a folk song, or just a really cool contemporary choral octavo with great poetic lyrics, how have you gotten the kids to buy in? I have a very time preventing the negative attitudes some kids bring from becoming contagious.
Thanks for your thoughts.