Fitting Chorus Into a High School Schedule - How Do You Do It?
Date: November 22, 2013
Dear Colleagues –
I work at an international boarding school whose daily schedule is death to performing ensembles like chorus.
Problem 1: It’s a small school (330), so the pool from which I can recruit singers is somewhat limited. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that about a third of the students are from cultures where such extroverted and exceedingly public means of personal expression as singing are not a natural part of a student’s makeup. There are many exceptions, of course, but it still means that a significant subset of our 330 students simply won’t go near chorus.
Problem 2: “Core” academic classes are scheduled every period, so any elective class (like chorus) is automatically competing with English, math, social studies, and science classes, no matter when it is offered. Furthermore, core academic classes are given priority in scheduling. Only after students have been assigned to their core classes can they look to see which electives happen to be offered during their few remaining unassigned periods. Because it’s a small school, many classes are only offered in one section. So, no matter when chorus is scheduled, a significant number of singers are not available because they’re scheduled for a “priority” class that is only offered at that time.
Problem 3: There is no traditional “after school” time during which we can rehearse; academic classes are scheduled straight through to 4:30pm, and dinner starts at 5:30. [Athletes are enrolled in a sports “class” that meets at the 3:20pm period, and then goes straight until dinner.]
Problem 4: Evenings are poor for rehearsal as well due to AP classes and study halls. AP: The school offers a large number of AP classes, and at least half of my choristers take at least one. Every AP has at least one mandatory weekday evening meeting (Sunday through Thursday nights). No matter what evening I try to schedule a chorus rehearsal, a significant handful of singers can’t come because that’s when they’ve got AP. Also, individual teachers are increasingly scheduling their regular help sessions/study halls on specific pre-set weekday evenings, so if a student needs to see a specific teacher to do a make-up test, they are pushed to see that teacher at that time. If this conflicts with chorus, guess what usually wins?
Problem 5: Weekends aren’t great either – students have mandatory recreational activities many Friday nights, and will soon have mandatory rec on Saturdays as well. Sundays are fairly open, except that many of my singers are active in church through mid-afternoon, and some won’t come in on Sundays at all. Sunday nights we’re back to the AP/study hall schedule.
SO… thanks to all of these issues, my current chorus is just twelve singers strong. We meet once a week as a group, and also manage to fit in one men’s and one women’s sectional. And they’re great for the time we have, so the whole thing makes me sad.
Does anyone see any solutions here? Do any of you face similar challenges? I am hoping that some of you can share the strategies and solutions your school uses to facilitate enrollment in and regular meetings of performing groups. Thank you!