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Two ensembles in one class period

I'm taking on a part-time gig while I'm finishing up my degree. This is a high school with now only two periods of choir, a beginning mixed and an advanced mixed. It used to be three choirs with an advanced women's choir, but alas, budget cuts make it only two this year. Each mixed choir has about 45 students each with only 14 or so boys. The girls that were going to be in the advanced women's choir were just folded into the advanced mixed, so otherwise that ensemble would have been 35 students with 14 boys--definitely more desireable.
I'm tinkering with the idea of still segregating both choirs somehow. Just off the top of my head, maybe doing the mixed advanced MWF and the women on TTh. Or, in the 50 minute period, after a 10 minute tutti warmup session, rehearse one group for 20 minutes then the other for 20 for a MTWThF routine. Then the $6 million question would be is how do I keep the other choir busy when they are not rehearsing?
Do any of you have any experience with attempting this insanity? Or if not, do you have any ideas?
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on July 26, 2013 8:08pm
What about instead of an advanced mixed do an advanced men and advanced women that would combine to also sing as advanced mixed. You could do the first half of rehearsal each day with the group as a whole working mixed pieces, and then for the second 25 minute portion send one of the groups somewhere to do sectionals.
on July 27, 2013 10:37am
Those are interesting ideas. However, combining them doesn't solve the problem of balance issues, which is the primary reason why I'm looking into a solution. Doing sectionals is a good idea--I'll probably use that, thanks.
Any other ideas, folks?
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on July 27, 2013 12:39pm
However you reconfigure, your kids are getting less rehearsal time than if you kept them together (like each kid is only rehearsing --singing-- for 20 minutes instead of 45.  I would go with ALL of the guys in the advanced mixed and the other ensemble of just girls--if that configuration might work for you-- then get a few of the advanced guys to do some barbershop stuff.... to balance things out.  Hope that helps...
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on July 27, 2013 7:16pm
Trying to work both choirs in one period can be really challenging. If you the kids are prepared very well and taught independece, it can work, but that takes a while--and the students need to have the maturity to make this work. I work toward my students' not meeting me, but they are still young people, and they need guidance. In the end, everyone would probably not be well served.
on July 27, 2013 10:14pm
I would be hesitant to have student-led sectionals every day as the skill and maturity level usually isn't there to have it work on a longterm basis. Discipline could suffer, and you could lose them. I vote for the idea of a balanced mixed group and a women's group. They need you and deserve you 100% of the time, much more important to do what is doable and do it well. They signed up to be taught by a teacher, not a student. Have two great choirs!
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on July 28, 2013 5:59am
In all of my nine years of teaching choir in my town, I have never had a 50/50 balance of numbers between my men and women in any of my choirs, AND I have never ended up with a balance issue. In my experience fewer men can balance out more women. If balance was the main reason to try to rehearse separately, I don't believe you will end up with a balance problem with 14 boys and 30 girls- even singing SATB lit. 
on July 28, 2013 6:54pm
How about creating the "J.V. Choir/Varsity Choir" model?  Something to SHOOT for -- funner music, harder music, solo/duo/trio music in the Varsity and music to build choral abilities in the J.V.?  AUdition them -- teach the JV HOW to be the best choir and MAKE the Varsity the best choir.  
on July 28, 2013 7:26pm
I teach at a small (200 students) private high school, and I have one extra-curricular "show-type" group, in addition to the Concert Choir which includes 40 students in 9-12 grades.  In an effort to give some of my more advanced students an opportunity to do some more difficult a cappella pieces, I came up with a great way to "split" the 40 member class twice a week.  I have developed a 4 year Music Theory curriculum that the students are required to complete.  There is an assignment due each week.  Whenever they join choir, whether it is as a freshman or senior, they begin with Level 1, progressing each year to the next level.  Once a week, I have a volunteer parent come in during choir period, to moniter the students that are not in the advanced ensemble while they work on their Music Theory assignment, which is due at the end of the class period.  The students that are in the advanced ensemble must do the assignment outside of class time.  I also meet with them one morning a week before school for 35 minutes, so they have two rehearsals per week.  The Music Theory lessons are self-explanatory and sequential, and my parent volunteer is familiar with all of the assignments and can help students that don't understand.
While this is not an ideal solution, it does give more advanced students a chance to be challenged by more diverse and difficult music, AND has the added benefit of all students in all choirs becoming more proficient at Music Theory.
I hope this helps!
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