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I am a band director...that also teaches one period of choir.

This is entirely new ground for me, so I welcome any and all ideas.
I am a band director, and as such, have a background in instrumental music with that one credit class designated for vocal techniques that we all take as an undergraduate. I currently teach at a high school where I also instruct one period of choir, grades 9-12.  Due to scheduling conflicts, only four students from my previous year of teaching the choir were able to sign up for it again- otherwise, every year the choir will be filled with entirely new students. The students range in abilities, from those who sing publicly in their church and those who have never, ever sung music in their life. Also, a good portion of the class is involuntarily put in to choir. Though it is an "elective", it is a place for students to be put when the other two electives are full. Having that in mind should present a good idea as to how many students wish to sing or want to be in choir.
 
There currently about 40 students in the class: 4 returning from last year, 10 are willing participants, and the rest fall into the category of "my other choice was full." In a forty minute class, with the broad range of the students, how would you approach the year? The program cannot be built due to the scheduling process- every year the choir will begin again from ground zero. Any rehearsal suggestions, repertoire selection, management, and so on- please share your thoughts and suggestions as I am at a loss! Thank you so much.
on September 10, 2015 9:26am
Suggest to the principal, superintendent and school board that these "extra" students be warehoused in a calculus or French class instead of your choir.
Applauded by an audience of 5
on September 11, 2015 6:41am
It's important to 'win over' as many students as possible as quickly as possible. I've done this by a 'balanced approach.' Let me explain. Pick 3 pieces that YOU would like to do and then allow the students to pick 2 pieces THEY would like to do. I've found, while some students only want to sing pop, if you toss in a relatively simple SAB piece, by the end of the quarter, they will love the pieces you selected and they will soon see the lack of substance in some pop music. As a starter, if you have the voices to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, I've never had a group that did NOT wnt to sing that. I know some of  my comrades will disagree, but I have more students in choir this year than I've ever had. I almost always allow students to pick one piece.
 
Another way to win them over, have a class talent show. Allow all students to sing, dance, whatever. See what talents your students have and THEN build your choir.
 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on September 11, 2015 7:54am
In my opinion, your biggest issue is the Guidance and Administration using an ensemble as a dumping ground; then there's the issue of can't ever be built.  It would seem that is a choice, made by guidance/admin, more than anything else.  If students know the program will never grow or improve and no one seems to mind, why should they own it or care?  I had a similiar issue with being a dumping ground when I started teaching years ago and found one major resource: parents.  The parents of the students who care need to hear from their students, and you, what is happening.  They also need to know they have the power to influence change far more rapidly by talking to the principal, the board members, etc.  However, all of this is null and void if the school has no intention of doing anything to grow the choral program.
 
My best as you work through it all...   Chris
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 11, 2015 9:06am
Hello Cody,
I was in your situation once – and once only – but made the most of it along the lines of what I suggest below. It was pretty labor intensive as I had a lot of arranging to do (though a piece I wrote that included a line for 'monotones' was eventually published) and decided at the end of the year that enough was enough and went back to university, leaving the school classroom behind forever. (I missed it so much I later started a Children's Music Workshop with a leading Orff specialist. Great fun!)
 
I most certainly second what Chris and Bart have proffered, and hope you can use this as ammunition for change. (Sorry about the metaphore) In addition to Alan's excellent ideas – once you have bitten the bullet (there I go again) – it strikes me you have an excellent, not often used resource: your band. Eg. Bohemian Rhapsody for Choir and Band, and go from there. The gradual addition of classical repertoire (consider also world/folk music, classic musicals (Bernstein? Sondheim?...) even some of it in unison vocally, would appeal to ensembles, audiences and school administrators. I'll betcha dollars to donuts there are composers and arrangers out there who would be happy to work on something with you.
 
Trouble is, you might be too succesful, and nothing would change... 
 
Donald
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 12, 2015 12:08pm
Here are some suggestions.  I have been put in that situation before twice with 67 and 71 kids AT ONE TIME! :). Don't fret.  You can make choir more "appetizing" by stating, no homework as this is a performance based class.  Work is completed IN CLASS.  NO TESTS, "tests" are MANDATORY performances.  POSSIBLE TRIPS!  There are many companies that run programs that include day or overnight, locally and nationwide PERFORMANCE WITH AWARDS AND TICKETS TO THEME PARKS.  In Florida, I used Music USA, but there are many many companies that provide package deals.  I used fundraisers to deplete trip costs and did not make them mandatory.  Uniforms are easy, depending on your budget.  Start simply.  Black pants, white blouses and collared shirts, black socks, black shoes.  Whether you have 4 or 44, you can do it.  
 
Option 2 .  Split the class.  Those who do not want the fabulous opportunity you are providing can opt for General Music/Music Theory.  They will have daily class assignments which are graded, semester projects which are graded and sometimes homework.  Those who do not like these options can switch their schedule to whatever is offered , perhaps basket weaving?  :) 
my email is vpass616(a)gmail.com. Feel free to write me.  Upon email, include a phone number, if you like.  I would love to assist you in any way as I have a wealth of experience in this wonderful field we have chosen!
Hope this is helpful!
 
Musically Yours,
Victoria
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 12, 2015 12:09pm
Vpass(a)gmail.com
on September 13, 2015 7:24am
I was once in a situation where one year of high school music was required for graduation but a large number of other (locally imposed) graduation requirements made it almost impossible for anyone to schedule an additional music class as an elective once their requirement was finished.  As a result, I taught several (large) general music classes and one choir each year, but every year was an almost entirely new group of singers.
 
Nevertheless, we had fun and managed to build something of a program.  Alan's suggestions are great, and we did more or less the same thing.  In my first year, I had nine students enrolled in choir but by year five, we had 44 singers, because some who would have otherwise chosen to meet their music requirement with the general music class were opting to sing.
 
I'm wondering if your band is under the same challenging schedule situation, with students being unable to re-enroll due to scheduling difficulties.  If not, how does administration/guidance deal with it?  Can you make it work with the choir also?
 
One final thought.  In this particular district, a three-year sequence of classes in a vocational subject was also required for graduation.  The most popular were computer and culinary arts classes, but the band director had also created a program that made his band eligible for this track.  That way, students could continue in the band for at least three years.  I was in the process of creating a curriculum for the choral program to meet the same requirements.  Unfortunately, other situations (unrelated to the job) made it necessary for me to move before this process was complete, but maybe something like that is possible in your situation. 
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