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How to balance repitoire

Right now I am studying to be a Music Educator at the University of Southern Maine.  Currently I am taking a few courses having to do with choral music and teaching choral music. 
My question is what is a good balance or a good way to balance repitoire in a high school setting.  With pop music being so prevelent these days I am concerned about how to get students to thoroughly enjoy a wide variety of repitoire.  How to mix in classical, world music, and current music is a mystery to me.  What is too much/too little of one thing.  And how to get students to enjoy new music, not just put up with it.
Thanks so much!
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on April 14, 2014 4:04pm
I think there are a number of painless ways to introduce repertoire to students.  When planning concerts, pick themes to unify your music choices.  There is so much wonderful music, it's difficult to choose and if you have a built in way to narrow your choices down, it helps.  As an example, if you choose themes such as 'Spring' or 'Winter' or 'Freedom', how many pieces, crossing the genres you've mentioned, can you think of RIGHT NOW
Since you are a music education student, I will assume you were in choral ensembles in high school.  How did your own teachers balance repertoire?  Was there 'too much' classical or not enough?  What about world music?  And if there was a Show Choir, was that the place for the pop or current music? I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel....if you have had a good model in your own experience, there's no reason not to use it as a guide.
In addition, you could use the 'rule of three'---each ensemble sings three pieces on each concert.  One classical, one popular (something from a musical or an arrangement of a popular song) and one world music. 
My question to you now is---what do you mean by 'new music?'  Music new to them?  Newly composed music????????  If you present whatever you mean by new music as MUSIC, there shouldn't be an issue.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 15, 2014 9:25am
I guess what I meant by 'new' music was music that was unfamiliar to the students in the sense of genre.  In my personal high school experience other than the few that truely enjoyed singing, no matter the balance of classical vs. popular it was really hard to get the choir to enjoy singing classical pieces or anything unfamiliar, it felt like a chore to them.
My question is if there is a way to represent music other than popular music in a way that they'd enjoy it like it was popular music.
Thanks so much!
on April 15, 2014 11:45am
I love music history.  I think many composers lives are as interesting as anything TMZ or Access Hollywood or People Magazine can come up with.
Franz Liszt was the first Sexiest Man in the World or maybe a Rock Star of his day.  Haydn was a serial cheater on his wife, and Maria Anna Haydn thought what was good for the gander was good for the goose! Gesualdo killed his wife and her lover and GOT AWAY WITH IT.
Many of the works we think of as 'classical'  in the generic way today were considered revolutionary.......Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" comes to mind--caused RIOTS in Paris at the premiere with the audience shouting so loud, the musicians in the orchestra could barely hear each other!
Tell them stories about composers or what the piece means or some tidbit....that would mean you would have to do some research of course.
I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies---if you are excited about a pieces and act like you LIKE IT, the kids will.  If you act like it will be a chore or tell them 'you may not like this but you'll have to sing it anyway,"  they will view it as a chore. 
Any new piece takes work and often it isn't until AFTER we learn a piece, we like it.  With my adult chamber choir--many of whom have degrees in music or teach music or are paid soloists--it is the same way.  They crab about learning something difficult and then are happy we did it. When they start crabbing, I ask them to trust me, they'll like it--and rarely am I wrong!
To always do the same thing is's nice to sing something familar.....but then I'm over it!
Applauded by an audience of 3
on April 15, 2014 8:58am
Good answer, Marie.  I'd just toss in the idea that whatever it is, Rosemarie, it should be fun to work on and fun to sing, even if it's a piece of classiical, ethnic or world.  Also, "beautiful" is a good choosing point.  A while back, there was a thread on that, and Mozart's beloved "Ave verum corpus" clearly came out on top.  For me, making things enjoyable to learn is crucial to having things sink in.  Good luck in selecting your concert rep!
Ken Malucelli
on April 15, 2014 11:37am
I would add one more criterion to selecting music - pick things you REALLY love and are passionate about, no matter what the genre. Your commitment to the repertoire you choose is what will sell it to your students.
As you develop a relationship with your students over time, they will learn to trust that you will make choices that they will like too.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 15, 2014 2:08pm
There are many marvelous suggestions in the three volumes of Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir published by GIA.  These volumes have many useful ways to teach actual music skills while preparing repertoire for performance AND list a wonderful cross-section of exemplary music from a variety of periods and genre.  Perhaps the greatest feature of this resource is the accompanying CD set of good performances of the repertoire listed.  
The reality is, we all have "gaps" in our repertoire knowledge.  The best way to fill those gaps is to avail ourselves to resources such as this AND to attend as many choral concerts as we possibly can.  Go to regional and national ACDA and NAfME Conferences and local middle school, high school and college concerts now!  You'll hear a wealth of exemplary literature.  I've stolen some of my greatest ideas from my colleagues.  Then program a variety of periods, styles and genres so your students get a taste of as much as possible.
Perhaps the greatest thing another educator said to me was, "Remember Karl, your students/audiences don't know what they like...they like what they know.  Program what you want them to like and they'll learn!"
All the best in your preparation for a rewarding career!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 15, 2014 5:32pm
Excellent advice from Marie.   Pick music of power and tell the story behind it.  The historian Henry Steele Commager defined good history writing very simply: "history should tell a story."  Music is history.  Tell the story behind the music and sing the story within the music.  Music from folk and world genres often does not have known composers, but these songs are part of the history of a people.  Nick Page's book Sing and Shine On was very helpful to me.  Strive for diverse selections, but as Leah says, don't be afraid to tilt the balance toward what you know and love.
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