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Cutting out show choir...

I am in my first year at my new school (3rd year choir director). I am in no way, shape, or form a show choir director. I don't enjoy it, I don't like the music, I don't like the 'costumes,' etc. I don't look down on anyone that does, but it is not my 'thing' and I am not in the business of accomodating what I do to my students' current desires or the students' parents interests. I see more value in the concert choir setting and I think it is more technical and challenging in ways that I think are worthwhile.
All that being said, I live and teach in the heart of the high school show choir world (Indiana). My school doesn't compete in show choir competitions, and not even all their music has been show choir related, but their choir attire is definitely show choir costuming, the music they have sung in the past is heavily show choir oriented, and traditionally the choir auditions are heavy on dance as well as singing. Now, if the show choir were just one separate class or it were after school it would be one thing. But EVERY choir has been expected to dance in the past, and that's what they expect this year also. The girls would cry if I changed their sparkly dresses, and though we just finished their first concert they are already asking when they can start choreography for the holiday concert.
I guess my question is: has anyone had success changing the 'choir culture' when everything is show-choir related? I would love to pull things in the direction of concert choir in the coming years, but I don't know that I can expect it to happen soon. I have good ideas and plans for how to slowly implement my own ways of doing things, and I am pushing the idea that not every concert needs to have dancing and props. But, I'm wondering if I will see a drop in numbers and participation? I guess that's not the worst thing, but I'm just looking for ideas, both in the immediate and distant future, I suppose.
I appreciate all helpful feedback. In no way do I want to demean or put down those who have show choirs or love show choir. If you have any experience with this topic, or know of something that could help me out, I appreciate it!
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on October 6, 2013 7:13am
While I understand and sympathize with your feelings about show choir, my approach would be to seek balance and moderation. Students look to you as a role model for musical leadership, so approaching show choir with an open attitude about what it might offer to a balanced choral program will help them to be more open about other styles of music. You set the tone about this.  There is actually much to gain from using movement in singing. Do some research about Dalcroz, Laban, Alexander, and Body Mapping, also yoga.  Body awareness is vital for singers to understand and apply.   Your singers probably have a good sense of rhythm through doing show choir. Why not capitalize on this? 
Programming music from different eras and places in the world will help them to understand musical traditions from all over the world - of which show choir is one.  
To sum up, looking for common ground and expanding it for everyone will serve you well. I have been teaching for 26 years and have learned this over time.  Consider what your overall goals are for bringing the world of music to your students.
Hope this is helpful.  
on November 3, 2013 6:51am
Hi Leigh, 
When I arrived at my high school 3 years ago there were 3 choirs, two of which did show choir half of the time.  This meant working on classical or traditional choral music while also preparing a show choir set.  Show choir music was taught during the school day and choreography 1 night per week for each choir in addition to reviewing days in class.  I found myself getting burned out, and felt like we weren't doing our best at either style of music.  
This past year I made the decision, and perhaps not the most popular one, to go to one show choir and convinced the administration to make it a class during the school day.  Now I have three traditional choirs and one show choir.  After some initial grumbling by the students and parents I can report that this was the best decision I could have made!  First, having only one period of show choir allows me to feel good about it, especially since we are not taking time away from learning traditional choral music... it's show choir and pop "stand and sing" songs all the way.  Second, my numbers went up.  Enrollment in my girls choir (used to split time doing show choir) went from 32 to 44.  My show choir numbers also increased from 28 to 36.  The students are happier because they are really learning the show choir music and have more time to focus on choreography and performance.  
Before I made the change, I saw that some students suffered through the show choir music in order to sing the traditional music and vice versa.  Now they don't have to make that "sacrifice."  We are the only show choir in the neighboring cities so I don't have that same concern that you do.  The show choirs in other counties are pretty hardcore, and spend lots of money on costumes, set, band, effects, etc.  We are happy to compete at the intermediate level, and whether we win or not is inconsequential.  By offering show choir I am filling a desire for the students and parents, and am offering a well-rounded program for my school.  
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