Berkshire Choral Festival
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Considering taking over musicals

We've been doing our spring musicals as an extra-curricular, after school activity. I've collaborated with the drama teacher and the instrumental teacher on the musical direction and chorus preparation. The number of would-be singer-actors at this school has always impressed me, yet also concerned me that they haven't been enrolled in choir. It has been all too easy - for our seniors especially - to take an open period instead of an elective, so we've been losing a lot of very talented students because they know they can have the most fun and rewarding performance experience without committing to the day-to-day work of a drama or choir class. A different problem is that the amount of after-school hours has made it difficult for students to justify auditioning for the musical. And of course, absenteeism has been a problem, as it's not a graded activity.
 
I now have the opportunity to completely take over the musicals next year, and do them as a curricular activity in my auditioned choir class. The instrumental teacher will prepare the orchestra. My upper choir has 36 voices, fairly well balanced, but currently only a couple of men capable of singing a lead role. I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of doing the musicals in my choir class, and I was wondering what the experience has been for those of you who do Broadway musicals in your choir classes.
 
I'd appreciate answers to any and all of the following questions I'm currently weighing:
 
How much has it helped your enrollments? Has it hurt in any way?
How do you keep the project from taking over your life?
What are some great musicals for small casts with few strong men?
What do you do with the choir students who don't want roles?
During the production, how do you balance the greater picture of choral education with the production schedule?
What are some good resources to learn about producing and directing musical theater?
 
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on October 2, 2013 3:44am
Bruce,
I agree with the posters who've said that you shouldn't try to do your musical in class.  They've mentioned some good reasons, but I wanted to stress one key point:  think about how the classroom environment and flow is NOT suitable to a large-scale musical rehearsal.  Put yourself in the role of one member of the chorus and picture the down time you'd encounter as things you're not in are rehearsed.  Do you really want that during a class period?  So, put them in the auditorium for your 45 minute class and see what happens. First of all, getting everyone set and down to task, doing what you need to do, and coming to a graceful conclusion is difficult in one class period.   What about accountability?  In my class, I want to know where students are at all times.  But picture a musical rehearsal in the auditorium: somebody's in the bathroom, somebody's behind the back curtain making out.  (I am not making this up.)  So, then you'll come to the realization you need extra rehearsals outside of school anyway (picture the first dress rehearsal!) and so you'll have the worst of both worlds:  a lot of extra-curricular time PLUS your class being ruined for all those weeks.  I don't know about you, but I couldn't take it.  I think what you're experiencing is like most things in life: your goals can be achieved--not by any quick dramatic change but by long slow perseverance.  For me, the party line was:
1) Kids in chorus sing better, practice more intentionally, and most often do better in auditions.  They're more often the ones to take private voice, know how to conduct themselves, etc.
2) Musicals were open to everyone in the school, but over the years it was rare that a non-chorus kid got a major lead.  And kids came to know that without even being told.  They knew the path to singing success began in my classes.
3) I saw it as a chance to meet kids I might not meet, and advocate (albeit in an unspoken way) for my classes.
Best of luck, it'll all work out!
Charles Peery, St. Louis
 
 
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