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Starting a Choral Program - Please help!

To any music teacher, I could use some insight and help! 
In the fall, I'll be working at a high school in Chicago as a founding choral/music teacher. The school has no music library, and many of the students have had no prior music experience. I imagine that the majority of my first year or two will be a mix of choral singing and general music classes to teach the basics (theory, ear training, etc.).
Does anyone who has either started a music/choral program or has entered the profession to help advance one have any advice, recommendations, or insights into a situation like my own? 
Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on September 23, 2015 9:07am
My heart goes out to you....mainly because I "almost" know how you feel.  I went to a choral program with significant building to do, and I was challenged...but...I loved it!  If you can get a few dollars somehow through fund-raising, etc., of course, that would be helpful....but....if fund-raising is out of the question, you can STILL have a great school year....even with no materials. 
Here's what I think I would do:  Listen to what the students are DOING in regard to what they are singing and enjoying.  Listen to them as they arrive in the classroom, talk about their favorite artists, and informally improvise.  Then....hearing their abilities, use that information, and be your most creative self.  I frequently wrote my own sightreading materials for students.  They probably weren't great, but they worked, and the students learned something about music.  Just a couple of short examples would satisfy the sightreading component.  Then....take them to a new level, asking them to improvise harmonies in the sightreading examples, as they ad lib in the style of the pop artist you have selected for the day (of course, you have played the example for them).  You can really turn these students on to the great JOY of choral music.  And...yes....they also need to know about the styles of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, etc., and even if you don't have the music in the library....allowing them to listen to this repertoire, then asking them to create something in the style of the great composers might be a wonderful challenge.  For example, put the students into groups, give them a task, and then have them perform for each other. 
You might even emphasize the current popular "a cappella" trend, and allow students to create their own a cappella performance.  I might be wrong, but I think that would create an enormous amount of pride in what THEY are able to accomplish.  Once the pride is there, it is good....really good.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 23, 2015 4:38pm
Don't have much time so I'll type this quick.
1) Start them singing something they will be successful at. This will build confidence. Unison, then two part, then SAB, and go from there.
2) Make sure you use Curwen Solfege Hands and have them learn this so they can start to be confident and build intervals. Here is an idea for a game done by Dale Duncan. High School kids like it too and it gets them better at recognizing intervals:
3) Yes, theory is important, but giving them something they will immediately be successful at is also very important. Look for learning tracks. Teachers are really comming around letting students use learning tracks so they can work at home.
There's so many places you can look. I have some resources as well. Visit and contact me through there if you want me to give you some.
Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 23, 2015 5:22pm
Thank you John David Maybury!
on September 25, 2015 9:50am
Hi Adam,
My patriotic and inspirational songs have been performed hundreds of times across America. I am often contacted by music teachers who have a limited or no budget for sheet music or instrumental accompaniment tracks. I AM HERE TO HELP. Please listen to my songs on my website If you find songs that you would like your students to learn, just contact me. I am determined that no student should be deprived of the joy of raising their voice in song with other young people. I will email the sheet music and instrumental tracks to you, free of charge. This is also a "shout-out" to elementary and middle school music teachers: no student should be deprived of the joy of singing!
Best wishes,
Hank Fellows
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