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Choir and IB?

Is anyone out there in an International Baccalaureate school? My middle school is in the planning process, partnering with our primary feeder high school.  What do you see as advantages or disadvantages? As the fine arts rep on the comittee, what do I need to advocate for in particular? (obviously, rehearsal time... we're already at 70 minutes every other day, and any less than that might destroy the music program).  
 
Thoughts? Comments? 
on May 28, 2014 7:07am
There is a high school here which has had a good Fine Arts Dept. for years - including Chorus - and it is a school where you can earn I.B. There is a woman who taught Chorus there and is a local officer in
A.C.D.A.     One of it's main feeders has a great choral department; (State Teacher of the Year) I'm not sure how much they specifically discuss, or collaborate on, I.B. curriculum, issues, etc.
I have taught a voice student who graduated from there  (H.S.)  with an I.B. degree.
I will see if I can put you in contact with either/both of those instructors.
-Lucy
on May 28, 2014 10:39am
Dear Elizabeth:
As a parent of students with the IB option, I was not impressed with IB. Our local H.S. had the "Cambridge" program, and then switched to IB. The school system also had a few levels of IB -- the IB that students must test into, and then a level of IB (some of us called it "IB-light") that the school tries to pigeon-hole their other students into.
 
For music teachers, one of the biggest drawbacks of IB seems to be that all the extra coursework "eats up" the time that students are available for elective classes. Students taking IB seem to have a lot less time available for music, art, shop, tech, FACS and other courses outside of core curriculum. IB gives the school a certain enrollment "track" or "tracks", pre-programming all the courses that a student will take in their high school years. (It almost seems to be a lazy guidance counselor's dream!)
Parents must work diligently to ensure that their students (and the electives) do not suffer from the IB steam roll. I have also heard of students that, when they get to college, burn out from so many years of college-level expectations.
 
Probably the most prescient comment on this topic came from a college VP at my daughter's college. I asked him about his thoughts on A.P., Honors, I.B., Cambridge, and the other types of courses... He replied that they did not care what label the courses had, so long as there was rigor in the students coursework.
 
Granted, this is my experience... I would be interested in what other teachers and parents have experienced...
 
Good luck...
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 28, 2014 5:40pm
I agree with Ronald's comments. This is my first year teaching at a high school that offers IB and one of the greatest challenges I have going into my second year is keeping IB students in the choral program. I have so many talented students who are dropping choir because they have to take other classes that will allow them to earn their IB diploma and most of these kids are my Chamber Singers. Granted, choir is not an IB class so that isn't helping the situation; but, in the research I hae done about IB, in hopes of making choir an IB course, I learned from the instrumental music teacher that one the reasons he is not teaching IB is that it requires a copious amount in depth coursework- coursework that there just isn't time in a performance class to cover. In order for the student to have a shot at passing the IB exam, it would require you and the student to put in many extra hours after school which, if they are taking a load full of other AP and IB courses and/or doing athletics and/or another elective, they just don't have time for and neither do you if you have a family or a church job, etc! If you want to make music an IB course, I would suggest making it similar to an AP course or in depth music appreciation class rather than a performance class. However, I have heard that there are a few pathways for IB music- composition, performance, and history, if I'm not mistaken. I would suggest doing some research on the performance pathway and see if that sounds doable for you and your students!  If I could teach IB and still have high performing ensemble, I would love it! The more I can teach, the better! But, alas, in secondary education, and in my experience, this just isn't the case. 
 
To summarize, I would encourage you to strongly advocate that arts electives should not suffer due to the implementation of IB on your campus. You want kids to stay in your program! Remind your administrators that college admission isn't just about academics- it's about dedication to an outside activity, something that shows you are a well rounded individual with more to offer society than your brain! :)
 
CJ Kemble
Choir Director
Laguna Hills High School
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 28, 2014 10:30pm
This is my first year teaching at a school that offers both IB and AP programs. As Ronald mentioned above, the IB program requires an intense amount of work within a very limited framework. Our principal is actually slowly cutting the IB program because it so severly limits what students can explore in high school. His first cut is going to be music and I'll be teaching the last group of "Year 2s," or seniors, next year. The IB music course requires an incredible amount of work in a variety of topics. It would not be to any student's advantage to try to combine it with a performance class. If students are really dedicated to music they can do both, but often at a cost. My auditioned choir of 22 has 3 full IB diploma seniors this year which meant that half my altos were missing the entire month of preparation for graduation and other end of the year events. My single year of experience with this program has not convinced me IB diploma students are better prepared for college.
on May 29, 2014 12:18pm
The threats to a quality, well rounded education are constantly changing, but always present.
on May 30, 2014 6:09am
IB is rigorous and the Music curriculum is not performance focussed, as many have noted.
 
Things I do like about the IB program in my school is the balance of music tasks they students are required to do and the variety of music they must know. There's a composing element, performing element, listening element, 2 required works to study and a comparitive essay to write. I come from a strong General Music background so the diversity of choice in performing, composing and comparitive essay makes a lot of sense to me. The listening element and required works seem in keeping with exit requirements at a High School level. I also teach an international community so it allows all these different cultures to have an equal place in the classroom. Chinese guzheng player? Welcome. Musical theatre enthusiast? Welcome. Piano player who started formal lessons at age 3? Welcome.
 
The performing groups have another timeslot on the schedule, or run after school. The IB students are required to be involved, but are the other HS students who do not take the course who play in the ensembles as well. They don't have to conflict with IB. For example, IB Standard level allows for group performing to be included as part of their performing requirement. I've had students arrange and compose pieces for school ensembles, which is very cool for all involved. 
 
Would love to know how this works out for you.
on May 31, 2014 4:17am
I'm a graduate both of the IB program and a Bachelor of Music, about to start my M.M. I just thought I had to post here due to what I see becoming a one-sided opinion being voiced in this thread. All though high school, I was in two bands, two choirs, piano and clarinet lessons, and managed to balance the entire IB workload, including IB Music. Was it rigorous and all consuming? Yes. Did I see some students drop out of extra-curriculars in their senior years to focus on schoolwork? Of course. Does this happen everywhere, regardless of what curriculum your school endorses? Definitely.
 
I don't know much about the Middle Years program, but I have no regrets about my high school education. I think the ways IB better prepares one for college come mostly from the rigor of taking such a wide range of challenging courses simultaneously, along with the focus on literacy across the entire curriculum. You can't graduate from the program and not be a fluent writer.
 
As for preparing one for a life in music, of course the program is at odds with the goals of someone who wants to practice for 6 hours a day. Jacqueline is right that the music curriculum is not performance focused (Our entire class was required by our teacher to enroll in private lessons, which might pose a financial barrier to some). I think it makes up for it in the range of music it exposes students to and the rigor of theoretical analysis and ability to write about music it requires. I had to do things in IB music that I never had to do in music school. (Complete analysis of Bartok Concerto for Orchestra! In depth world-music research paper!) In university, I was surprised at how many of my peers had actually come from the IB program as well, so clearly other musicians are able to balance the workload.
 
Yes, perhaps its framework is "limited" in that IB very much requires all its graduates to focus on core academic disciplines. Regardless of what one thinks of that as a holistic educational model, this is still what colleges want to see on transcripts.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 2, 2014 11:10am
The IB Diploma Program has been at our school since 2003. Our school is known as both an IB school and a Performing Arts-strong school.
 
My background:
I taught choral music at this school from 1986-2009. I taught AP music most of the time as well. I taught IB music from 2003-2009. At that time I was NOT a fan of the IB Program; it was presented and run as elitist and exclusive and “pigeon-holed” as has been expressed. However, in 2007, the position for IB coordinator for our school came open. I felt I should apply, and I got the position. I have been IB Coordinator at the school since fall 2007. Since then I have become it’s biggest fan. Understand that I was considered a “hardcore” arts teacher, and still LOVE the arts (I miss teaching music tremendously, but my health won’t allow the physical toll it would take right now). I have a BM and MM in Music Education and a DMA in Choral/Orchestral Conducting.
 
When I was hired as the coordinator (which I did along with half the music program for 2 years before becoming full-time Coordinator), it was under the mandate from the district (and from my personal view) to figure out if there was a way for students to do IB AND be involved in other activities in the school. We have found that YES, it is possible, and also PREFERABLE in the eyes of IB; that IB really should be non-elitist and non-exclusive.
 
First, IB Music:
The IB offers IB music in three areas on the Standard Level (SL): group performance, solo performance and creating (composition). On the Higher Level (HL), students must demonstrate solo performance and creating. The interesting thing about the assessments is they are exactly the same for both Standard and Higher levels, only HL is required to show more.
IB music has always been taught along with AP Music at our school. Granted, IB music needed a lot more historical, stylistic, and international perspective. We added these elements to the music theory of AP as a combined curriculum for both the IB and AP students and it has worked very well. I am an advocate that there is no such thing as learning too much, and the added history and style seemed to help the AP students as well.
In addition, we decided to use the performing class (choir, band, and/or orchestra) as the first year of a two-year program of either SL or HL music. The student’s junior year is the most IB course-heavy year, and this helped students still fit in the performing course. This is justified by the fact that our performing courses should also deal with music reading and historic and stylistic interpretation, which prepare them for the AP/IB Music course during senior year. (We have done similar things with IB Theatre and IB Dance). Students can also choose to do IB music in one year.
 
Second, the IB program in General:
 
Coursework: IB requires a well-rounded educational experience in six curriculum groups. We have done as much as we can to make the IB courses fit the Utah/District graduation requirements, so students are not having to double up on courses. We have also expanded our offerings to include HL and SL course in EACH curriculum group; this gives the students ownership and choice as to which subjects they want to study on the HL depending on their own interests and strengths. There are NO required HL courses in our school. The “pigeon-hole” schedules and “limited” schedule tracks are really due to the school and what they are willing to offer, not the IB program itself. We allow students to do either the full diploma program, or individual courses according to their needs. We also allow our students to test up to two of their SL courses their junior year, as per IB guidelines; this can free up more time from students to take courses of interest during the senior year (including performing arts courses). We also encourage students involved in other school programs to take some of their smaller required courses for graduation (health, financial lit, etc.) ONLINE, especially during the summer, in order to continue to free-up time in their school schedule.
 
Scheduling: I really worked to have our faculty be willing to schedule students into other classes with similar curriculum when there was a schedule conflict with another school group class. I promised them at first if they would this, the program would grow, allowing more sections, resulting in less “piggy-backing” of students in other courses. I explained that most students, if they had to choose between IB and an auditioned class, they would choose the auditioned class. They were persuaded, and it worked. We have gone from 16 Diploma Candidates to 76 this year. Piggy-backing has reduced considerably.
 
Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS): Whereas before this was looked at as something that needed to be done outside of school, we learned from IB that it is actually a program designed to keep the students INVOLVED in their own school and community. Being involved in the school music events, as long as it is not tied to an IB class, can count for these hours.
 
IB Career-Related Certificate: We are actively pursuing this expansion of IB in our school, and as part of it, we are looking to add Performing Arts tracks in this program.
 
Why am I such a fan of IB? Without fail, I have received feedback from the students that they are so much better prepared for college than their peers. Research (ibo.org/research) also bears this out. (The critical thinking skills learned also make our music students better musicians).
 
I’d be more than happy to communicate more with your and your school about IB and how it works here.
Brian Bentley
IB Coordinator
Hillcrest High School
 
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