Starting a new choir in a small school
Date: July 20, 2013
I have a few questions, but first some background:
I teach at a very small, newish private school-- just 100 students in 3rd - 12th grade. We already have an active theater and art department, but several students (including my 12 year old son) really want to get a school choir going.
I'm an English/History teacher, not a professional musician. However, I was an active school choir participant throughout middle school and high school, and I have been the volunteer choir director for my church's choir for several years. I am volunteering to get a school choir started. If we can get a choir to work in our small school, then we will look at hiring a professional school choir director to take over and expand the program in the future.
I am opening the choir to all interested students in 6th grade and up (age 11+), and we will meet after school twice a week. A preliminary survey tells me I have about a dozen students interested, half girls/half boys, mostly in the 12-14 year old age range. These kids are absolute beginners and have had no music training at all, other than learning a few songs by ear for theater and singing in the shower.
After looking at a lot of different programs, I plan to use Alfred's "Sing at First Sight" for music training.
As for the actual repetoire, that's where I need some guidance. Because this is a small group and everyone is a beginner, I was planning to use 2-part music to prepare for the Winter Concert and then perhaps move to 3-part for the Spring concert if the students were up to it (or stay with 2-part all year, if necessary). I plan to stick with music that has accompaniment tracks available because I'm not a great pianist (I'll probably purchase through Alfred).
My main concern is the boys. I have one boy with a mature changed voice-- moving towards being a bass. Of the other boys, I have 3 boys with unchanged voices and 3 boys whose voices are getting a huskier and occasionally "crack". I want the boys to enjoy choir and have a positive experience, even with their changing voices. I have done a bit of internet research on the "cambiata" voice, but most of the recommendations assume a larger choir.
Here's a few questions that I hope someone might be able to help me with:
1. Is it realistic to expect my beginner bass to sing one of the parts in a 2-part song (octave lower, of course)? As a beginner, he won't be strong enough to sing alone on SAB music. If he can't sing with 2-part music, the only option I see is to tell him he can't be in the choir unless we can manage to recruit 2 or 3 more boys with low voices. But, I hate to turn him away!
2. When using 2-part music with both boys and girls, would it be better to have all the girls sing Soprano/Part 1 and all the boys sing Alto/Part 2? Or would it be better to have a mixture of boys and girls in each part?
3. ... Or would it it be better to just start with SAB music, divide the girls into altos and sopranos, and then have all the boys sing the bass clef line, an octave higher if necessary?
The main purpose of this choir is just to have fun, learn music basics, and see if there is sufficient interest to expand the program in future years. If we can pull off a decent concert, well... that's just icing on the cake :)
I appreciate any input!
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