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I get a new choir room! What do I NEED?

I am fortunate to be in a school where the music department is getting an upgrade. We (the orchestra director, band director, theater directer, and myself, the choir director) have been asked our input and get to meet weekly with the architect until it is finalized. Our rooms are being moved into larger rooms that will get renovated in whatever way we ask. So, community of experience, what do I need in this room? Already on the floorplan is a SMARTboard, non-carpeted floors, a mirrored wall with curtain, platforms, chairs, 2 practice rooms and plenty of storage. What else do I need? I currently have a "soundboard" that needs an upgrade, and I would like some sound equipment installed in the room to record the students during rehearsals. Suggestions on this? Also, I'm sure I'm missing something major (or even minor - it can't hurt to ask!)
Also, in a meeting I did bring up that in an ideal world we'd have a fully-equipped Mac MIDI-lab with 24 workstations. It is now on the blueprints! I'm ready to ask away!
Thank you for your input,
Mrs. Emily McDuffee
Choir Director
Southport High School
Indianapolis, IN
on February 20, 2012 1:10pm
Here is a related ChoralNet resource.
on February 20, 2012 1:45pm
Congratulations!   Some thoughts for your rehearsal room:  a couple of computer stations with music notation software (I prefer Sibelius), music theory software, ear training software, choral music library software (you can use Microsoft Access and design your own--it's not difficult to set up and it's searchable).  If you have a say at all, you need to tell your admins the size of your largest chorus and then be sure your room has enough cubic feet of space to handle the sound.  Wenger riser company has excellent people and materials to help you get the room the best size for your largest chorus (and add an orchestra if you'll be having choral/orchestral  works rehearsing in this space).  I was able to design my own choral rehearsal space and after 4-5 years, it happened.  Amazing.   It's best if you have a two-story ceiling and certain types of sound surfaces that handle your particular needs.  We hired an acoustical engineer from the Denver area.  He was a horn player and understood how musicians have specific needs.  If you use movement in your rehearsal, that will impact the amount of floor space also.   Sliding white boards on the walls that are magnetic are great, too.
on February 20, 2012 2:12pm
I would break the "storage" into a costume storage room, music library, equipment storage room--each lockable....teacher's office...drinking fountain....bulletin board...choral folio cabinets...make sure the practice rooms have a window on them so you can monitor what's going on inside the practice rooms at all you offer piano lab at your school??? - you might also ask for a separate piano lab with a key note visualizer at the front for the instructor...I also found a key note visualizer useful in the choral classroom when teaching half steps in sightreading.  Just a few ideas off the top of my head.  Congratulations, good luck and enjoy the journey!
on February 20, 2012 5:14pm
Congratulations on quite a coup in these days of shrinking support!
I would also recommend a flat floor rather than anything with built in seated risers. I know that a lot of folks like the risers, but I have found that a big room with a flat floor makes for much more flexibility. If you want to do anything with Dalcroze, you've got some room. If you want to arrange the choir in a circle so they can easily see and hear one another, you can do that. If you want each section to be able to form their own circle, you can do that. If you want to set up standing risers, you can do that. The built-in, tiered-level room, while it seems like a good idea, is extremely limiting, and assumes that you will always want your choir to be configured in just about the same way. In fact, it pretty much guarantees that you will always have your choir configured in the same way, regardless of whether that is what you might want or not.
Good luck!
on February 20, 2012 6:21pm
Emily:  Two things occur to me.  Since you mention a mirror wall, I assume that you have a show choir or some kind of ensemble that uses choreography.  Consider a (movable) barr or two for dance warmups (or fixed ones on another wall).  And see whether you can get a wooden floor for dancing, and not tile on concrete.   Even wood over tile can save injuries.
For regular choir rehearsals some kind of seated risers can be awfully handy, and if you use regular 4' x 8' or 3' x 6' staging sections they can be movable to clear space out.  With my show ensemble the room I inherited had carpeted staging risers at one end of the room for rehearsing and for the Showband, while we had a built wooden stage the size of our minimum requirement, and we built a permanent model of our touring stage set with similar mic positions on the other end.  But the more convertible you can make things, but better.
All the best,
on February 21, 2012 8:16am
Like the sister sings in "Matchmaker", you'll " the envy of all [you] see!" :)
I give a hearty "Hear, hear!' to John's comment about wooden floors.  My sister's dance career was truncated in her early 20's, and she spent several years avoiding her students seeing her in wheelchair/on crutches...basically because of tendonitis/fibromyalgia aggravated by hard-surface floors.  Watch for the "veneer trick" - hard surfaces immediately under wood - basically just as harmful.
I was not  frustrated with lack of room for movement - we had about 15x35 feet of flat space in front of our permanent tiered floor, which was enough for most of the magnet choral department to move in.   What I found unfortunate is that they made the risers face the school hallway door, so that every time someone came in, or a student in the hallway made faces through the door window, the students saw it first ( my back was turned as I was facing them).  This made for unnecessary management challenges.  I would have much preferred to see who was coming in, (and the students would not) and monitor the timing of our response.
Any teacher usually appreciates an ajacent rest room, especially if she is pregnant!
If they do build permanent tiers, be sure that the rubber corner-protectors (or whatever material they use) are secure - I experienced a backward fall due to loose ones, as did one or two students. 
Unless you have students who never have issues, have your office, or a small conference area, nearby with a window so that you can watch your student-director lead while you deal with Issues du Jour.   One helpful thing was that our pass-through folder slots (between choral library and rehearsal room) also could be seen through.  Once or twice I had parents of extremely difficult students sit in the choral library , in the dark, (their choice) so that they could observe their student-child without their knowledge.
on February 21, 2012 11:08am
Terry mentions "enough cubic feet of space to handle the sound." This also involves ceiling height, which is often ignored in our plug-in/amp-up music world. If you really want to teach singing, your singers must be able to produce a sound which "cones up" to a height of 16-20 feet before returning to their ears for analysis. It's why people sing so well in Episcopal churches! Congratulations!
on February 21, 2012 3:09pm
Fantastic -- you've already got some great plans and our colleagues have gifted you with their wisdom . . . I would add to this list a few things:
A surround sound speaker system to allow students to hear all the way around the room.
Class computer with iTunes
maybe an ipod that will hold thousands of songs to play songs for the class . . .
A vocal enhancement sound system to allow you to communicate without yelling over the kids, which every conductor and direcor has always had to do . . . save your voice!
bigger or extra water fountain to keep the masses hydrated that don't bring a water bottle?
shelves for folders
new folders
you are already looking for microphones and cables and soundboards . . . contact someone like the Guitar Center to advise on a package that fits your needs and wishes.
Wenger for risers and steps and rails . . .
industrial humidifier
I have LOTS of ideas . . .
on April 23, 2012 4:49pm
A few thoughts (you've gotten lots of outstanding suggestions already):
I'm embarrassed I have to express my ignorance regarding all the capabilities of a SMARTboard. I assume it is Internet-ready. As I'm sure you know, there are many outstanding Internet resources for teaching music theory, sight reading, etc.

If the multiple (soundproof) spaces you are designing can accommodate, make sure each one has a very good electronic keyboard in it. My choir loves to split into sectionals, so I just throw them in rooms with a keyboard.

I love the idea of a water fountain, but ideally, you would be able to control the temperature of the water so your students aren't drinking ice cold water then trying to sing.

Congratulations, you have quite a rewarding task on your hands.


on April 24, 2012 5:05am
Do you have good filtered water...either from a system, or bottled?  Singers need water! An important consideration.  How fortunate you are to have a new choir room!  I know lots of choral teachers who do without.
on April 25, 2012 5:12am
Congrats on your good fortune. I would also consider air quality in the room! I have a chorus room that has full windows that bring in the sun 24/7. When you have several large groups of middle schoolers rehearsing one after anothe the room can get um....shall we say "fragrant" (whether it be from students who love the smell of AXE or have not yet discovered deoderant).
It might be prudent to have some type of air conditioning (careful of the noise!) and air circulation system considered.
Enjoy the planning. You should post pictures of the final product so we can all sit in our hovels and weep and moan!
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