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What to do with 4 weeks and no concerts left in high school?

This week is our spring concert after which my choirs are done performing for the year. I'm finishing my first year teaching as the second choir director so I had nothing to do with the scheduling of events. Other choirs in the program have fundraising concerts but mine are finished. 
What do I do with 20 days and no pressure from an upcoming performance to keep us singing? I've picked some music to learn and I plan on requring a performance for an in-class grade. I'm considereing having the students grade themselves using our festival rubric. I'm also considering a solo/small group in-class performance requirement using our accompanist or karaoke backing tracks.
How do you all handle end of the year "down time?"
Replies (22): Threaded | Chronological
on May 5, 2013 6:43pm
Any chance of having your ensembles perform at graduation?  You could select a challenging piece that all choirs would sing en mass and spend the rest of the semester working on preparing it for graduation (or convocation if your school does that).
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 5, 2013 10:06pm
I really like your idea of doing in-class performance of solos and/or small groups.  Those who don't want to sing solos can put together small ensembles (or sign up for you to put them in one.) If you publish your rubric for grading, and do some coaching on how to use those, I think both the performing and the self-grading could be really valuable.  It's an alternative means of building their singing skills and thinking-about-singing skills.  I may steal that idea for next year.  (This year, I scheduled a performance in an all-school chapel, as well as two pieces to perform at the 8th grade graduation.  I'm letting them off the hook for the HS grad, however.)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 4:42am
I like to take a day or two to discuss future repertoire with the students.  I pick out a variety of pieces and we listen to and discuss them.  Then I give the students an opportunity to pick between various choices for next year's concerts.  Someone had recently suggested having students research their own choices for songs using various choral publishing websites.  That could also be a fund end-of-year activity.
I also like to show performances from the current as well as past years to compare and to see how much they've learn and grown.  Your festival rubric could come in handy doing that.
I give my students a singing and written final, so we spend our last few weeks reviewing for the final.  
I also allow a senior-pick day, when seniors can choose music from their past 4 years to sing through one more time.  They love it!  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 4:58am
I pick a combined piece that I'm planning for the following year and start to teach it to all. Then I wrap that into their final exam performance too so there's still motivation to do well!
on May 6, 2013 5:44am
In addition to the solo and/or ensemble thing, I had a band director in jr. high and high school who would offer the option to select a piece from the past year's repertoire and conduct it. The students choosing this option would be given a crash course in meter patterns while the others were practicing. This was a lot of fun, and probably the actual start of what led to a 39 year part time career in choral conducting for me.
Phil Michéal 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 5:53am
I noticed you stated "I had nothing to do with the scheduling of events."  Your lead director may well be wiser on this than you realize.  Plan a concert the last week or two of school, and suddenly you will find yourself on an island when trying to demand students show up at a dress rehearsal or concert in the midst of final exams, graduation practices (and parties), Baccalaureate services, End-of-Course tests, etc.  Best not to compete with such things, believe me.
Great time to get your choir library in order!  :-)  Or have the students do a YouTube project: assign certain composers or countries and have the students dig up something new and different and present it to the class along with a report of their opinion/reaction whatever.  There is so much out there for them to see and hear!  (A Georgian men's choir singing in Rydal cave) (An Estonian girl's choir doing a Tormis piece at a competition)  (Ellerhein Girls' Choir doing another Tormis piece) (Incheon City Chorale from Korea at 2009 ACDA National)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 5:55am
You could work on sight-reading . . .
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 5:57am
Those four weeks are a great time to listen to some wonderful music.  As musicians, we enjoy making music, but, as teachers, we often forget the joy of LISTENING to great music.  I use the time to study "Phantom of the Opera", or "Les Mis".  I get a copy of the libretto for the students, we listen to the CD, we discuss the story line, staging,acting,motives,relationships,why,whatwouldyoudo, and all other kinds of things to discuss.  I think the key is to listen to the CD, not watch the movie.  Get their imaginations going. And LISTEN to some wonderful music.  Help them fall in love with something they will want to experience outside of your classroom. I also have them choose previous literature that they have enjoyed singing from the past.  WE sing it for fun.  It is a great sight reading exercise for the new ones in the group, and it is alsways interesting to see what literature they choose.  It brings back lots of memories.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2013 8:37am
When I was teaching high school, I had my upper level choir students prepare and perform solos from the 24 Italian Songs (Schirmer) or 26 Italian Songs (Paton) books. This had the added benefit of preparing them for the following year's honor choir auditions in our area.
My beginning choir students would work on a music reading project. I selected several short folk or children's songs. The kids worked in small groups to teach themselves one of the songs, with guidance from myself and our accompanist. I created a grading rubric and a progress checklist of tasks like identifying the key signature and meter, writing in solfege syllables and counts, etc. If your students are more advanced, the project could be tailored accordingly. I could dig up my old worksheets and upload them to, if you're interested.
on May 6, 2013 10:47am
I would love to have this info if you're willing to share!  I'm in the same dilemma with my middle schoolers - We are singing at graduation but they have learned the piece and now we are just polishing up a bit every day.  Not enough to fill 47 minutes!
Claudia Corriere
on May 8, 2013 7:29am
Will do! I probably can't get to it till next week, but I've made a reminder for myself, and I'll post here again once the files have been uploaded. :-)
on May 27, 2013 8:45am
Sorry that took longer than I planned. Here's the link:
I usually selected music from elementary music textbooks or Kodaly method books, maybe 8 to 16 mm long.
on May 6, 2013 8:40am
Three suggestions... (1) Arrange performances as a part of graduation exercises, if admin. will allow; (2) Sightread through a bunch of music, ostensibly for next year; and (3) Assign a final "culminating activity" where students must get together in varying ensemble configurations to perform a piece of their choosing. This piece must be practiced, can either be with accompaniment (piano or other appropriate means) or a cappella, and they must provide a copy of the lyrics or score at their "performance" in class. 
Ron Isaacson 
Germantown, Md. 
on May 6, 2013 9:15am
How abou taking one of the pieces that they have already performed and creating a music video using either a recording from the concert or recording it again and then video taping not just a performance but a variety of vignettes of the students throughout the community or even within the school. Some of it might need to be done after school, but they wiould be motivated to do it.
on May 6, 2013 10:15am
Find a retirement facility and prepare a short performance for them- the audience will be welcoming, they will show their appreciation to your students. Involve the singers in selecting a program- perhaps even include an old song that the audience maight a community sing with the choir.
Or sing for a school nearby, like a middle school or elementary school!
Best wishes,
Carl Smith
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 6, 2013 4:26pm
I have them do a performance term project the last week/2 weeks of the term.  They all are required to sing, but not alone.  I have a rubric that goes as follows:  1. May be in groups of 1-4.  2. Song must be 2-4 minutes in length.  3.  Songs must be memorized.  4.  Songs must be appropriate (I have them turn in a copy of their lyrics for approval).  5.  Songs must have accompaniment of some sort (piano, guitar, karaoke track, etc.)
It's a very simple rubric and it fills the final hours.  On the final, final days of school we do reflective days on favorite pieces, not so favorite pieces, silly award shows, etc.
on May 7, 2013 7:25am
I had performances by the class members but they were much more casual than Lori's interesting formula. Students were allowed to sing ANYthing, but were required to bring a copy of the sheet music to me at a previous class meeting so that I could accompany them and plan the "program."  They invited family and faculty for their performance, stood before the class to introduce it, and told us something about the composer and what they liked about the song -- using specific elements of music in their answer. Or their performance could be instrumental.  I actually enjoyed these sessions!
Ruth McKendree Treen
on May 28, 2013 6:41am
This is not a complete solution, not will it be easy to grade. In addition you must have someone, perhaps yourself (or a talented student), that is willing to do a little composing. 
If your librarian would go along with this, could you have a portion of your students:
1) research information regarding composers whose music you plan to perform the following year. They could write the program notes themselves.
2) Have a contingent of students research and select a few poems that would work well in a choral composition. The class could vote for the one they like best. You or a student composer could take the summer to compose a setting of that poem. You could tie in a group discussion regarding musical attributes which would pair well with the poetry, giving yourself or a student a little bit more of a musical path to follow. The piece would the. Be premiered the following year.
I like the ideas mentioned above and I think you could give your students a choice for their last activity.
on May 29, 2013 6:26am
I had my concert on May 16th, and still had a week to go afterwards. I knew that my crazy choirs would be completely out of control if I didn't have something planned, so I had each class do a project. They were asked to brainstorm about what they wanted to do. Here's what they came up with. My 2nd hour class decided to make a music video of the song "Titanium". This is an all girls class, so they had a lot of fun with this. My 6th hour choir wanted to do a flash mob in the locker area after their class, so we did "Dynamite" for this. Both of them were awesome. The students were charged with coming up with the choreography for everything. My flash mob was harder, so they split into 4 groups, and each group had either a verse or the chorus to plan out. THen they "took over" when their part came up, but everyone did the chorus part. It was quite a hit in school, even the teachers enjoyed it. Several asked me to do this every quarter, just because it was so much fun.
This was pretty spur of the moment, so just think what can be planned in 4 weeks! WOW!
Hope this helps you out, perhaps for another year. I know this is late. If you want to see the videos, they are on my facebook wall.
Geneva Whitmire
on May 30, 2013 8:35pm
I think many of us have experienced your dilemma; I have.   I'm grateful and impressed that you came to this community and that there are so many good responses!
However, your question , and particularly this part of it, set me thinking (as I did when I taught school) about our basic role.  "What do I do with 20 days and no pressure from an upcoming performance to keep us singing?"
Sometimes, is it possible that our concept is in reverse...we're putting the "chicken before the egg/cart before the horse" ?   We teach skills - and then  share them in a performance situation.
We call oursleves "Choral Directors" - yes, we are that.  We are also teachers.  The  lesson-plan formats required of us in Ga. included a behavioral objective.  (And I'm not necessarily touting lesson plans - at times, I hate the word! ;)  But some of my best mentors taught me how valuable the "behavioral objective" on those lesson plans can be.  (At first, I struggled with developing and writing this concept to their satisfaction.  Not just, "We will study 6/8 rhythm."  Even "Students will explore 6/8 rhythm" is not necessarily a complete behavioral objective - because they may walk out of our classroom having "explored' it, but still not understand and use it.  "The student will demonstrate knowledge and skill in 6/8 rhythm by clapping [or singing] several examples chosen by the teacher."  Their progress is being measured by something they actually can do - skill - that they couldn't before.
Skill-building fosters readiness, allows peer tutoring (freeing you to work with another group, monitor you library-straighteners, meet w/officers to plan next year's fund-raisers, etc.), builds self-esteem, and  makes your future rehearsals so much more efficient.   The proponents in this conversation of sight-reading, fundamentals, and vocal technique have said as much.
I developed a list of skills, written in fairly simple language, that students/groups can work on individually.  We discuss how, when they've completed this list, they are competent choral singers, and wil be desired by choral groups.  There is also a list of Skill Builders - ways they can help each other and help themselves.  (For example: Get with a partner.  Play/sing two differnt notes near each other.  Have your partner sing them back.  [later] the response would be to ID the interval, write the notes, etc.)  I recorded when they started and where they ended.  They were graded not on the level they acheived (we all know choristers come  with varied background/skill level/natural ability), but the distance between their entrance skill and what they could ultimately demo in the classroom.  In other words, How many skills did they gain?
I have  heard, more than once, good programs criticized - especially magnet schools or programs with a high focus on performance - in ways like this:  "They are so busy getting ready for the next show that they didn't take time to really learn skills."
I realize, and appreciate, that many of us incorporate this skill-teaching into our rehearsal direction.  I just thought it might be good to speak of balance...and how our constant awareness is key.
I hope your year-end was fruitful and fun for all!
on May 31, 2013 7:04am
I had a similar situation two years ago.  Six days were added to the end of the year because of snow.  So, I decided to use this time to integrate technology and promote project-based learning.  I allowed the students to get into groups of 2 or 3 and had them brainstorm 5-10 musical artists or groups from any genre or era.  I used their list to assign a topic to each group so there were no repeats.  Using Google Docs, the students created presentations on their artist including biographical information, important works, influences, etc.  On the last two days of class, students were very excited to teach each other about their favorite artists. 
Although the students stuck mostly to pop, rock, rap, and country, I was excited to see the students apply terms we had learned together in choir towards their favorite musicians.  The students were excited about their work, we learned from each other, and they drew upon skills they gained in many different disciplines. 
After that experience, I don't believe I'll ever schedule a concert for the end of the year.  This happy accident proved too valuable to abandon in the future.
on June 10, 2013 2:15pm
I know your year is probably over by now, but I had about 3 weeks (6 rehearsals) left after concerts were over.  If you have the simple technology, I find that going through the recording process is a really awesome way to keep their attention, and potentially do some good for your program.
You'd need a space to perform, hopefully a friendly acoustical environment, and a recording set up.  (I used a mixer, a usb interface, my computer with old recording software installed on it, and two fairly decent shure condensers.)
Pick your two best songs, and re-work them for the recording.  The groups should hopefully be super focused given the fact that the recording will be for all time!  Bonus if you get some good cuts of the group, you've got the start to a demo CD that you could hand out to interested 8th graders/families.
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