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Festival Season - Part 1

Good morning, Colleagues,
 
It is almost time for the spring annual Adjudication/Assessment/Festival. Here in Virginia we are headed that way next month, perhaps some of you are even headed there in late February. As someone who lived for many years as the conductor on the stage I empathize with you from that perspective. As a young teacher I was often nervous about what the judges would think but more importantly the impact it would have on my day to day life in the classroom.
 
As a professor who now teaches future educators and sits behind the clipboard (or recording device or iPad in this generation) I would like to share some things to consider as you prepare for this event for your ensembles. This is only from my perspective and perhaps this is a good place to start a forum of support for those of you who are doing this for the first time. 
 
This is one day in the life of your ensembles. Perhaps this sounds trite but it is true. You are the true judge of what you want to achieve in your classroom. You know the strengths of your choir and what challenges them. Depending on considerations such as weather, testing dates and other distractions from the day to day of your world the level of preparation may be varied.
 
Here are five tips I can share with you from an adjudicators perspective that may help you with your overall presentation. 
 
1. Choose repertoire that suits your ensemble.
This may sound simple to the reader, but it really does make a difference. We have levels of music for a reason. There is often pressure to do a level five piece but if your group is not singing it well, the result is obvious. We are educators first. We are trained to know what good  literature is but I know there can be pressured to do what is popular. Not all school choirs are ready for advanced languages or complex metrical pieces. Use something to teach line, phrasing and beauty of tone. The purpose of this day is to reinforce comments that you make every day in rehearsal. Check your pronunciation of languages; there are many sources online for the best way to teach German, Latin, French and others. Musica Russica has recordings avaialble for the majority of their catalog.
 
2. Consult your colleagues and R&S Chairs for repertoire ideas. If you are unsure about where to start go to your state lists. I know that in our area we can use Virginia and a few other state lists (New York, Texas for example). Our choral friends are our best assets for repertoire and going to to your state, regional and national conferences is a way to learn about new composers and works. Pair repertoire to your ensembles that match their size and potential for divisi.
 
3. Mark your scores for your adjudicators. Please, please put measure numbers on your scores so if we want to talk about a particular section in the work we are not trying to do so in the moment. If you make artistic changes to the repertoire (changing a tempo marking, dynamic or part changes due to voice needs) please mark them. Pack an extra set of scores with a chaperone or accompanist, just in case!
 
4. Be sure to rehearse with your accompanist prior to performance. This may sound obvious but I know there are extraordinary circumstances that preclude this from happening in some school systems. It is worth the investment of time. If you use a student accompanist be sure the student has done a performance in public of some kind, even if it is simply inviting your prinicipal in to your classroom.
 
5. Talk with your choir before your assessment day about what is important to you as a teacher, and have them set goals as a choir. We have varied philosophies about what a "I" at festival means, and in some places in the country I know your position as a music teacher can be on the line. We are educators for the long haul.
 
I welcome your comments and questions. I will share more hints next week for the sight-reading portion of your assessment.
 
Respectfully submitted,
Lisa Billingham