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Select Choir vs. Show Choir

I am currently teaching high school chorus and for the past 2 years I have directed the show choir.  The show choir was started by a different director has been in existence for only 4 or 5 years.  A lot of students like the show choir, but become hesitant when it comes time to dance. I also find that students have conflicts with sports or work during our after-school rehearsal time.   I will be honest and say that if I had my way, I would choose to do a select choir instead.
 
The only type of music they do is "pop" music, and often break downs happen between students in regards to costumes, solos, set design, etc.  I feel burned out and totally overwhelmed with creating costumes, set, finding a choreographer.  I actually had a parent begin this year by yelling at me about how my own two children are making me unfocused as the show choir director.  My guess is that (big surprise) it's not like it was when the other director lead the group.  
 
I would like to change the show choir into a select choir next year.  I have thought about the caliber of music we would be able to do and the many different performances we could take part it.  Our school has a long history of groups traveling all over wtih the Heritage Tours.  I would love to offer something like that to the kids.
 Any thoughts?
Replies (10): Threaded | Chronological
on May 6, 2014 5:22am
Ciara, Hugs. I would follow your gut on this one (Speaking as a parent since I'm in the same boat this year as a director so don't have much advice from that angle.  I'll be starting our select choir next year after 3 years of not having one.) 
 
You are not that other director.  You have your own unique gifts and talents and that will make it different by defailt.  There's nothing more exhausting then drying to be someone else.  
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on May 6, 2014 6:49am
Have you considered switching to a vocal jazz format, focusing on the music and taking out the choreography and costuming/set issues? That might be a good first step in a more positive direction that can gradually evolve musically to your goals. It might also be a more educationally viable choral format.
 
In regards to tying this change to the touring idea, (DISCLAIMER: I used to work in the student performance travel field) that's a great thought; I would consider doing something with musically meaningful depth and content. Maybe I'm not reading this right, but to me it sounds like what might be helpful is an experience that can help you set a new direction for the program and get them excited about following....especially if it's a select choir group as you describe.
 
I would suggest getting them in a clinic situation where a conductor can work in depth with them for a couple of hours, or some type of experience to help them stretch their abilities and grow as musicians. The groups I worked with while tour planning seemed by far to get the biggest benefits from working with a great university conductor/educator. Get them into a rewarding performance situation....something that's memorable and special, not just the "same old" contest situation. And something with that kind of content is likely to garner better support from administration and school boards. Don't tour just for the sake of touring.
 
Good luck, hope that is helpful.
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on May 7, 2014 4:05am
Could someone clear up a matter of vocabulary for me please? I gather a "select" choir is an auditioned choir. And a show choir is one that dances as well as sings, right? But surely a show choir is also auditioned? Have I got the wrong end of the stick?
on May 7, 2014 9:54am
Ciara -
It is of, eventually, paramount importance that YOU steer the program.  Input from students, parents and admin. is valuable, but you have to follow your bliss.  If you are trying to fit into someone
else's mold (shoes), the fit may not be right.  Actually, this is a great time to bring this up.  Why not do both?  Announce that you will be auditioning (selecting) for next year's ___________ choir.  You
will likely encounter resistance, groaning, and you WILL lose some students, but, what you will gain 2 years down the road will be something for which you have passion and that will transfer to
the studnets.  Talk with admin. about this so they don't perceive you as a loose canon, and accepet their advice.  Then they TOO own it :<).
You will find that the hardest part is just deciding what it is you really want to conduct.  Make that decision, choose the choir, and they will sense your passion for it.  If you have the skill, I like the
vocal jazz idea.  It is a great art and there is LOTS of ACDA support for you.  Follow your bliss.
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on May 7, 2014 11:16am
Hi, Clara -
 
Here's another idea...if you have two choirs under your leadership, perhaps your smaller group (currently your show choir) could work towards being more diverse stylistically?..as in Lee Kjelson's U of Miami Sunshine Singers back in the day. This small select group did madrigals, contemporary serious pieces, pop, show and jazz equally well. Philosophically speaking, what country has more music styles than America? For me, this is all the justification you'd need for moving in this direction. I would suggest cutting back on the choreography and switch to choralography instead (considerably less dance moves w/little if any footwork), or, as Western Michigan's Gold Company has done for many years, open your show with one piece that features dance moves and then branch out to other genres. Frank Pooler is another hero of mine when it comes to stylistic diversity. As far back as 1976, he had the courage to program jazz, avant garde, Classical, Romantic, spirituals and choralography for his large Concert Choir at the Dallas ACDA National convention. By the way, if one chooses carefully, so-called "Pop" music can be just as scholarly and interesting and "entertaining" (not a bad word) as any music ever written.
 
Finally, (attributed to Sir Lawrence Olivier):  Be Bold and mighty forces will come to your aid!
 
I hope this helps -
 
Kirby Shaw
 
 
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on May 8, 2014 3:35am
Kirby,
 
For several years I've given serious thought to what you advocate. I have two select ensembles - one that sings jazz/pop with mics and a rhythm section, while the other one is strictly a cappella "classical" music. When I first started as the groups' director over a decade ago, about one-third of the members were in both groups, but over the years they have evolved to the point where both groups have essentially the same personnel. And they do it all rather well, based on feedback from pros whom I respect. So, I have considered merging the two groups into one (another incentive for this plan is that my not-large university is looking to cut down on the number of small ensembles we direct, citing "cost inefficiencies" for a department that does not offer a music degree).
 
Ideally, I would want such an ensemble to really "mix it up" in performances, for example, going from a jazz piece w/ mics & rhythm section to an unaccompanied "classical" selection (often in a foreign language) where no mics would be used. The challenge is that we have limited weekly rehearsal time, and while they are able to sing the jazz/pop pieces from memory, works in foreign languages would realistically have to be performed with music in hand - they would have a great deal of difficulty performing them from memory.
 
My concern is one of physical logistics: Would it look/be too awkward to have them repeartedly going back and forth from holding mics to holding choral folders? While the mics, when not in use, would be placed back on a mic stand, the folders would probably have to go on the floor(?). I'm trying to figure out how to make it all look smooth, efficient and not unattractive.
on May 9, 2014 2:46am
Won't anyone tell me the essential difference between a show choir and a select choir? Is a select choir one that sings and doesn't dance? In which case why is it called "select"? Perhaps my ignorance is due to my being English and unfamiliar with American terminology.
on May 9, 2014 7:17am
Hi Katie,
A show choir is usually a "select" group, in that there are usually auditions for the choir.  A show choir incorporates dance and costumes into "the show". (think glitter, bright colors, and big smiles) There are competitions throughout the country where the show choir can compete.  The music is usually more "pop" style.  
A select choir is also an auditioned choir, but the repertoire is usually more "art" music, incorporating many different genres, but, more focused on what we would consider "serious" music.  In the high school setting, because of the demographics of the choir, the select choir often performs "pop" pieces also.  
Some select choirs will focus primarily on the genre of vocal jazz, which a lot of times is accapella. (some select choirs will call themselves accapella groups as opposed to vocal jazz/pop/select.....)
I hope that helps. It took me a few years to figure out the differences too. And I am American!
happy singing!
Lori Maves
on May 10, 2014 6:22am
Dear Lori
 
Thank you so much for your explanation. It still leavers me bemused: if both select and show choirs are auditioned, then the "select" aspect of the select choir must lie in the superiority of singing without dancing!! As if anybody could perform in a show choir. That can't be right. But I can't see  how else to account for it. Weird.
on May 13, 2014 8:07am
You could also do what George Utphall did in Eau Claire, WI: His group sang Early Music and other chamber music during Fall Semester, culminating in a madrigal dinner. In the spring, they switched to Vocal Jazz.
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