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Professional Journal: "Teaching Music," August, 1998, Vol. 6, #1, Publisher: Music Educators National Conference, Reston VA.

Article: "Ready for Rehearsal?", by Mark Munson, Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music Education at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. pp.32+

The article was a reinforcing message to choral directors reminding us to always thoroughly prepare a music selection before presentation to a choir. I know that we directors get caught up in the time element and we hurry to get the choir into the singing of the piece, so we cut short the preparation time. However, every time I do that, I am usually sorry, because suddenly there is a complicated music element that the choir will stumble on, creating a habit that is hard to reverse. Now, that I am into the school year, I needed to read about choral preparation that will remind me to refocus on the ideal rehearsal. Mr. Munson develops a flow chart with the process divided into four parts: 1. analysis, 2. lesson plan, 3. rehearsal, and 4, evaluation. If there are any problems in the evaluation stage, then the lesson plan needs to be reviewed and other methods introduced for the problem areas. The culmination of this process will be performance.

The first learning factor of analysis is sitting down with the piece and studying it by analyzing all of its elements, such as the vocal parts, rhythms, motives, text, expression marks, phrases and accompaniment, if present. Mr. Munson asks directors to find the major sections of a piece and decide how many learning sections the piece should be divided into, locate the elements of repetition and pin point the principal tonal centers. He assimilates this to taking a trip, one would never start out on a trip without some preparation, planning and a map. The central reason for analyzing a piece is to develop the "map" to teach the piece and develop the sound and effect you want the song to radiate to the students and audience.

The second part of the process is devising a lesson plan. Mr. Munson advises choral directors to develop several lesson plans to reach a goal, because maybe one will not work for the director or the choir and it is necessay to back track and approach the element another way. He states that directors need not only to ask the obvious questions relating to how to teach students what is on the printed page, such as pitches, rhythms and dynamics, but a director also needs to plan strategies to help students learn what is not on the printed page, such as style and other interpretive, expressive elements. That which is not on the printed page is very important, because music needs to stimulate the sensory of the performer and the listenner. Mr. Munson suggests two priorities for directors when planning, 1. to teach students to read music and 2. help students develop healthy vocal technique. There needs to be a call on what vocal passages a director knows their choir can read and what vocal passsages are going to be a challenge, and it is for the challenging passages that we need to prepare, develop exercises and multiple plans. To protect the voice, a director needs to develop warm up exercises based on the melodic and rhythmic challenges in the piece. Finally, the director should ask what other musical elements can be taught, reinforced, introduced and expanded. "There is much that can be discovered and discussed while quality choral music is being taught," says Mr. Mark Munson.

The third step is the rehearsal. Mr. Munson suggest sight reading and solfege to develop phases, concepts and choral ability. Briefly, discuss the musical concept with a choir. If there is too much talk and explanation, choirs will tune the information out. Choose what is important and relate it quickly and directly. Mr. Munson describes the progession of learning a vocal part with solfege first, then develop to four part and last, introduce the musical concept. Flexibility is vital to all lesson plans, because what we plan may not go as planned. (We have all been in that spot in front of our choirs, bands or classrooms!) Know your choir, feel them out, read their mood and don't be afraid to retreat and start again in another way with an altered lesson plan at another time or day.

The final step is evaluation. Review the rehearsal method. Ask yourself questions and make notes that will evaluate the rehearsal, such as what went well, what did not go well, what should be done differently and what to do at the next rehearsal. I would take it to one additional step since we are in a state implementing Graduation Standards, and that would be to have the students discuss, evaluate and question their work and performance. In the Graduation Standards, students are encouraged to develop rehearsal logs and write an evaluation of what was worked on, what was good, what went poorly and what in their eyes needs to be worked on to improve and how to accomplish it. The process of evaluation needs to continue along the path to performance, in the hopes that the performance will be of the desired quality, a beneficial learning process, aesthetically effective to the audience and the student and a meaningful artistic moment for all.

Mr. Mark Munson concluded with a great statement that a teacher in any area of education can relate to. "Effective teaching in the choral rehearsal room does not happen accidentally. Thoughtful preparation, execution, and reflection are essential ingredients for successfully teaching choral music."

-- Anonymous, February 10, 1999

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