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How to teach singers who didn't have a good foundation

Hello all,
A little about me.  For the past 4 years, I taught band and choir at a small school. My background is this:  been an instrumentalist all my life and my degrees are both instrumental.  However, I was in choir all through college.  No voice lessons. I never thought I would teach choir.
But the moment I started teaching choir I just fell in love with it! I feel like I did a decent job despite not having a choral degree. But, this August I start at a new school and I definitely want to be the best I can be. But due to my lack of experience, there are things I just do not feel like I do well.
This school has both a junior high choir and a senior high choir.  There are about 20 singers in the junior high group and about 20-30 in the senior high group. The director before me was kind of a trainwreck and all the kdis did was sing unison, usually to karaoke tracks.  They need to be taught from scratch.
Here are my questions!
1)What is the BEST WAY to teach these kids to sing? I know that is a broad question. With the junior high kids, how do you get them started? How do you teach them to sing in their head voice? 
2)With senior high, I'm going to have to break bad habits. HOw can I do this? How can I show them what the correct sound is? How can I show them that choral singing is just as cool as they think pop music is?
3)What is the best way to build excitement at the beginning of the year? All ideas breakers, team building things, just anything!
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on September 22, 2013 6:25pm
My opinions:
1. Model what you're asking them to do. If you can't model what you want, then postpone teaching it until you can. All your instrumental teachers did this, I'm sure - in voice it's even more important, because so much of the vocal apparatus is hidden inside the body. Instruments where almost everything is visible (e.g. keyboards) can afford to put somewhat less emphasis on modeling - but even then it's still important.
2a. Same answer as question 1.
2b. Is choral singing just as cool as they think pop music is? Or is it cool in a different way? I mean, choral singing is also just as cool as math, or just as cool as building robots or writing papers for English class, and normally we don't try to compete with any of those - why even try to compete with pop music, when we could coexist with it as we do with all the other great things there are?
3. The very best way to build student excitement at the beginning of the year is two-fold: (a) a great previous year, and (b) rumors of the even-better stuff we're about to embark on for this year. When you don't have "last year was great" to lean on, then planting rumors does nothing. Instead, do your best to stay focused on "walking the walk", with a minimum of fanfare; making the best music you can make is really what this is all about, right? Put your own excitement inside the music, let them "catch" it from there, rather than trying to transplant artificial excitement into the students. There's a line to avoid crossing - even if last year was amazing, and even if this year is looking even more amazing, if you crow excessively about it, it becomes about you and not about the musical experience. Speak softly, and carry a big ictus. :)
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