JULY/AUGUST 2010 $5.00
John Burroughs High School
Lights, Camera, Show Choir! Survey: 'Glee' and the Real Music Classroom Report: Apparel Showcase
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GUEST EDITORIAL: JAZZ CHOIRS CD contributor Stephanie Letson, director of Choral Activities at Contra Costa College, shares lessons learned about teaching jazz choirs after observing a master teacher over the course of an 18-week semester.
UPCLOSE: BRENDAN JENNINGS Brendan Jennings, choral director at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California, provides insight into his nationally acclaimed show choirs in this recent CD interview.
SURVEY: ‘GLEE’ AND THE REAL MUSIC CLASSROOM Choral directors from across the country weigh in on the “Glee” phenomenon.
REPORT: APPAREL SHOWCASE Some of the leading apparel manufacturers in the vocal music field present a few of their hot ticket items in this pictorial spread.
REPERTOIRE FORUM: NEW RELEASES Forum editor Drew Collins introduces the first of a series of articles reviewing relatively new releases.
TECHNOLOGY: HANDHELD RECORDERS John Kuzmich, Jr. explores the ever-evolving world of digital handheld recording devices.
23 Columns 3 4 30 34 35 36
Opening Notes Headlines New Products Vocal Tip Classifieds Ad Index
Cover photo by Claudio Papapietro, Brooklyn, N.Y. Choral Director® is published six times annually by Symphony Publishing, LLC, 21 Highland Circle, Suite 1, Needham, MA 02494 (781)453-9310, publisher of School Band and Orchestra, Musical Merchandise Review, Music Parents America and JAZZed. All titles are federally registered trademarks and/or trademarks of Symphony Publishing, LLC. Subscription Rates: $20 one year; $30 two years. Rates outside U.S.A. available upon request. Singles issues $5 each. Resource Guide $15 Standard Postage Paid at Boston, MA and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER/SUBSCRIBERS: Send address change to Choral Director, 21 Highland Circle, Suite 1, Needham MA 02494. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.Copyright © 2010 by Symphony Publishing, LLC, all rights reserved. Printed in USA.
2 Choral Director, July/August 2010
The “Glee” Effect
how choir is riding high these days. And it may be helped – at least in some small part – by the emergence of TV shows like “Glee,” which glamorize elements of the choral arts and assist in building enthusiasm for choir among segments of the student population that might not typically gravitate towards vocal ensembles. An article on www.gazette.net, from the Maryland Community Newspapers Online, spotlighted a new show choir being formed due to student demand at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Maryland. Berna LaForce, who also directs a show choir at an area middle school, will start up the ensemble this coming school year. “I have a lot of kids enrolled for next year and I’m very pleased with that,” she states in the article, adding that, “‘Glee’ is definitely getting [show choir] more attention.” The headline of that story, “Television show fuels show choirs’ popular“‘Glee’ is ity,” may be overstating the “Glee” effect, but similar accounts seem to be cropping up all over the country. Another story, definitely getting this one examining the increasing popularity of show choir in [show choir] Massachusetts and appearing on the front page (!) of the April more attention.” 24th issue of The Boston Globe, is entitled, “‘Glee’ sparks interest in show choirs.” The Daytona Daily News ran an article on June 4th called, “TV’s ‘Glee’ makes choirs cool.” An article titled “Oak Harbor’s Glee: New show choir inspired by TV show” appeared this past February in the The Whidbey News-Times, which covers Whidbey Island in Northwest Washington. While “Glee” gears up for its second season of adolescent drama, poppy choral tunes, and countless mid-performance wardrobe changes – along with increased mainstream exposure of the choral arts – the cover of this issue of Choral Director features Brendan Jennings, former-student-turned-director of the vocal music program at Burbank, California’s John Burroughs High School, which boasts several nationally acclaimed show choirs and has been cited as one of the inspirations behind the hit TV series. (Scenes from the pilot episode of “Glee” were even filmed there.) Although the school undoubtedly benefits from its Hollywood location, the performances by these high schoolers are simply incredible. See for yourself by visiting the program’s Web site, www.jbhsvma.com. For choristers who are put off by the slick, not-so-true-to-reality presentation of “Glee,” another viewing option is currently airing on BBC America called, “The Choir.” A reality show set in England, “The Choir” follows the exploits of a real person, choral director Gareth Malone, as he attempts to build real choirs in schools and areas that didn’t previously have them. This summer’s presentation of “The Choir” is actually a compilation of three previously aired series: the first follows Gareth working with high school students; in the second, he builds a choir at a sports-oriented school; and in the third, he founds a choral group in a working-class community. With all of the negative news permeating the arts in public education these days, it’s refreshing to see the popularity of television programming based on vocal music.
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HeadLines Americans Join India Choral Tour
International Songwriting Competition
ixty-six Americans joined 119 other choristers from 20 countries on a 16-day choral tour of India. The Voices of Bahá tour featured sacred music, Ravi Shankar compositions blending western choral elements with classic Indian vocal melodies, and vocal music from five continents.
he International Songwriting Competition (ISC) offers songwriters and artists the opportunity to have their music heard by some of the world’s most iconic and successful recording artists, as well as many major and indie record label presidents. Open to both amateur and professional songwriters, ISC offers 22 categories to enter, representing all genres of popular music. Past winners have included artists at all levels, from Grammy winners to hobbyist songwriters and everyone in between. To better level the playing field for unsigned artists, ISC has added this year the “Unsigned Only” category which is open to songwriters and artists not signed to a major label record deal, publishing company, or distribution deal. This category provides an opportunity for unknown artists to compete against others on a similar level. Now accepting entries for the 2010 competition, ISC gives away more than $150,000 in cash and prizes (shared among the 66 winners) including an overall grand prize consisting of $25,000 cash and $20,000 in prizes. To enter, go to www.songwritingcompetition.com.
Choir members outside of the Bahá’í Lotus Temple in New Delhi.
Over the last 16 years, the Voices of Bahá tour has brought 1,200 singers and musicians to 30 countries to sing in some of the most prestigious concert halls and record with leading orchestras. The 2010 Voices of Bahá tour included concerts at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai and other venues. The performances included sacred music mostly in English, Ravi Shankar compositions in Hindi, and selections in African, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and Persian. The tour spanned June 11 to 27 and included sightseeing. To learn more about the Voices of Bahá, visit www.bahai.us.
Disney’s Broadway Magic Workshop Students Get Surprise Visit
o help launch Disney’s Broadway Magic Workshop, three cast members from the North American tour production of “Mary Poppins” paid a surprise visit to students from The Florida Academy of Performing Arts in Tampa Bay during one of Disney’s Broadway Magic workshops held at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort’s Performance Hall. Cast members Caroline Sheen, Troy Edward Bowles, and Jesse Swimm taught the group portions of the choreography to the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and participated in a special Q & A with the students. For more information, visit www.disneyyouthgroups.disney.go.com.
4 Choral Director, July/August 2010
2011 ACDA National Conference’s Research Poster Session
he American Choral Directors Association will sponsor a session to disseminate the results of excellent research in any aspect of the choral art at its National Conference in Chicago, March 9-12, 2011. Participants chosen for presentation will be required to prepare a poster describing their research and to be available during the presentation session to discuss their work with interested conference attendees. The intent of the research poster session at the National ACDA conference is to bring current research to light and to encourage colleagues in the choral world to stay in touch with research in choral music, applying what they learn to performance practice and repertoire choice. Of particular desire are papers about repertoire, performance practice, conducting pedagogy, editions, analysis that will illuminate performance, vocal or compositional practices in contemporary choral music, and so on. A poster session is a research report format used widely in the natural and social sciences, and increasingly in the humanities. Presenters prepare a poster (usually on tag board or something heavy that will stand up) showing the main points of their research with brief text and illustrations. Then the presenter stands next to his/her poster during the session, answering any questions from people who come to see the displays. Most of the presenters selected by the committee will also have about 12 minutes to talk about their work. For more information, visit www.acda.org.
HeadLines Comforting Voices of the Threshold Choir
n September, Indian Hill Music, a nonprofit music education and performance center in Littleton, Mass., will celebrate its 25th anniversary and its community outreach. In 2007, Pam Espinosa of Indian Hill Music started Threshold Choir to honor the ancient tradition of singing at the bedsides of people who are struggling: some with living, some with dying. The hospice choir movement was started in California and has blossomed in New England with groups in western Massachusetts and Vermont. When invited by the family, small groups of two or three singers visit the bedsides of people who are sick, dying, or in a coma. Music is chosen to respond to each client’s musical taste, spiritual direction, and physical capacity. Pam Espinosa started the all-volunteer choir after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. To find out more, visit www.indianhillmusic.org.
Travel with the country’s top student travel planner. Performance Tours s Festivals Parades s Cruises s Bowl Games Clinics s International Disney©
n partnership with the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, DoSomething.org recently mobilized 90,000 students nationwide to take action by petitioning school boards, writing letters to elected officials, creating music videos, raising funds, and taking other actions on behalf of a complete education that includes music. Do SOmething! empowers teens and young people to advocate for causes of importance to them, and music education is among their high priority concerns. For more information, visit www.dosomething.org.
The Benefits of the Study of Music
he Benefits of the Study of Music: Why We Need Music Education in Our Schools. Research indicates the study of music helps students achieve success in society, success in school and learning, success in developing intelligence and success in life. This new brochure from The National Association for Music Education (MENC) captures the latest facets and viewpoints from science and industry regarding music education’s impact on student growth and achievement. To find out more, visit www.menc.org.
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CDGuest Editorial: Jazz Choirs
Jazz Singing Goes to Class: Inspiration from a Master Teacher BY STEPHANIE LETSON
Setting the stage
f you are teaching a jazz choir, you know that you will
and age, high school-aged to
have to convey in-depth musical skills and information
to a group of people with limited time constraints. If
found at independent work-
you are teaching jazz solo voice, you know that the
shops, colleges, universities,
Classes can be
teaching process will be different. Or is it? Historically, jazz
and summer camps.
singing has been learned in apprenticeship or immersion set-
ever, these settings share com-
tings such as on the bandstand or in jam sessions. However,
mon ground: singers learn an
todayâ€™s aspiring jazz singers attend classes or workshops to
applied skill in a class setting
learn and work out their craft. These singer/learners are a
with minimal individual in-
diverse group ranging in skill, beginner through professional,
structor attention. Since jazz solo voice classes are relatively new, identification and discussion of successful practices is essential.
delivery can only be enriched with components and strategies adopted from a successful master teacher.
6 Choral Director, July/August 2010
One community college instructor has devoted a life-long career to the art of teaching jazz solo voice in a group setting. He has successfully translated jazz singing skills and knowledge previously learned through apprenticeship to group activities and class performance observations. The secret to this class dynamic seems to be the instructor’s sense of time and space. Just as a brilliant conductor directs an orchestra rehearsal, this instructor “conducts” the class in regard to education, music and organization. Lifetime teaching vocabulary is used to employ learner-enabling tools. Pedagogical technique is tied to subject mastery through which a community of learners is created. In this case, subject matter encompasses vocal technique as well as jazz history and style. In order to learn his strategies, I embarked on a research project observing weekly class sessions throughout an 18-week semester. The instructor was informally interviewed, random students were interviewed, and all students were surveyed. Through this process, three components emerged: community, mastery, and educatorship.
Connecting with the Audience: Community of learners It is 6:35, and the pianist wanders in. “How ‘ya doin’, man?” Hugs…A few jokes…To me, it seems like they are meeting for a drink. There is no sense that they are here for work. The pianist gives pointers to excited students working on that evening’s performance charts. While testing the sound equipment, the instructor pauses to talk with a student about her week. Meanwhile, students find their own comfortable spot to inhabit for the next three and a half hours. It is 6:50, and students start trickling in. First is Ron who has retired early and is seriously pursuing training as a jazz singer. Next is Thinh, a three-semester percussion student who is transferring to university in the fall. He has sung in the Chamber Singers and Jazz Singers throughout his time at school. Susan follows Thinh. She is the lead soprano for the Jazz Singers, and is preparing for a classical and jazz voice recital this Spring. Anna sneaks in followed by several of her friends. Anna has sung in her Spanish church, but is terrified of improvising in this class. It is close to starting time and ten more students rush in. They’ve come from work and many have spent upwards of two hours in transit: 21 students in all, nine men, 12 women, three African-American, five Hispanic, three Asian, 10 Caucasian, ages ranging from 17-70, the musically trained to the relative beginner.
Community is the foundation of this jazz voice class’ success. Singer/learners feel a sense of safety that encourages free artistic exploration. Robert Brooks suggests creating a safe and secure learning environment fills a social-emotional need of learners. Learners whose basic needs have been met will be the most responsive learners.2 Richard Ryan and Edward Deci contend that this safe environment encourages learner motivation, whereas learners will become proactive and engaged or passive and alienated due to social conditions within the class setting.3 This class’ environment is created with necessary equipment, appropriate personnel, and continuously evolving curriculum. Second semester singer/learners mentor new singers in social and educational expectations. Students have varied reasons for class enrollment: a father who listened to jazz vocalists or a youthful attendance to Ella Fitzgerald’s concert. However, the students share common ground: a desire to learn this skill and to work with this particular instructor. In this class, community building is approached through consistent and lighthearted banter. From the first class meeting, the instructor joked with students as they introduced themselves. By the second-class session, students realized that he knew unique information about each of them. This rapport building is supported by Richard Brooks who suggests that educators guided by empathetic philosophy will be able to look inside learners and respond with meaningful strategies.4 Within this relaxed atmosphere much is accomplished. Many tunes are intro-
duced and rehearsed. Jazz history and concepts are almost casually interjected as students work through tunes. Phrasing, style, history, vocal technique and microphone technique are conceptually infused from the very beginning. Pacing is unhurried, however, instruction is intense with an impression of time’s preciousness and a reluctance to waste any minute. Class directed student feedback is minimal. This has been neither discouraged nor encouraged. When asked, the instructor said that this was a conscious strategy. He said, “They are getting used to listening. They don’t know enough at this point to critique in a discerning way. Many students are getting used to the seriousness of the class. Perhaps next semester there will be enough of an experience base for student comments to be discerning and helpful.” Richard Brooks suggests that the social-emotional needs of the students are as important as teaching students in the ways they learn best.5 This instructor has created a friendly-forum in which students find the courage to try. One student addressed this by saying, “The weekly demonstration of human character, in the form of people at all levels standing figuratively naked in front of a crowd and baring a bit of their soul, is worth much more than the time investment or cost of this class.”
Telling the Story: Mastery of subject “Mastery” was a main thematic response from student interviews and questionnaires. Student one, “Because the instructor is a total musician himself, he can communicate musical concepts and ideas from all points of view: director, vocalist, instrumentalist. Wherever the student is, he encourages their best and makes it better!” Another student was surprised at the instructional quality, saying, “The instructor is surprisingly good for a junior college. He teaches theory, corrects gently, and is very encouraging to students who have never sung jazz. He has an amazing depth and breadth of jazz theory history and performance technique. He is professional and engaging. All his Choral Director, July/August 2010 7
students seem to value him as a friend and mentor, as well as a teacher.” It is 7:00, and the instructor introduces “Now’s the Time” as well as lyricist, Eddie Jefferson. He asks Thinh, “Who was Eddie Jefferson?” Thinh does not know, but Susan answers, “A man who wrote lyrics to instrumental solos.” The class sings the tune twice. However, the instructor catches missed notes and encourages careful listening as the pianist plays the section. He then directs the class to sing the whole song in one breath with a faster tempo. After two more choruses, the instructor asks, “Everyone, how do we get through this in one breath?” Anna suggests thinking about breathing in the middle of her body. The instructor humorously addresses support, “Everyone, point to your nose. Point to your shoulders…point to your lungs...There’s difference between your shoulders and your lungs, huh?” It is 7:15, and each class begins a little differently. Sometimes the instructor speaks with individual students while other classes begin with group singing of “Now’s the Time.” During one session, the recent death of arranger Gene Peurling evoked sadness and provided an opportunity to discuss the arranger’s impact on the vocal jazz field. That particular evening’s class began with listening to the Singer’s Unlimited. Research has found that subject mastery is an essential element in effective teacher/learner relationships. Charles Goldsmid, James Gruber, and Everett Wilson found that superior teachers had command of subject matter, concern for students, and techniques for conveying competence.6 Thomas Streeter studied an award-winning middle school jazz band program and found that the director combined strong musical training, solo classical experience, and professional jazz performance experience.7 Catherine Jensen-Hole studied how teaching strategies employing modeling, coaching, scaffolding, fading, articulating, reflecting comparatively, and exploring were used to develop student musicianship. She suggests that student performance ability is directly related to the teacher’s musicianship and edu8 Choral Director, July/August 2010
Strategies COMMUNITY & RAPPORT:
• • • •
• • • •
• Improvisational Teaching • Lecture • Time Management • Momentum • Mastery • Expectation
Humor Student Modeling Chatting Seating
Literature Instructor Modeling Musical Concepts Kinesthetic Techniques • Accompanist • Student monstration • Immersion
catorship, which are intertwined and utilized simultaneously within the learning environment.8 For this instructor, subject mastery includes instrumental performance expertise and technique, vocal technique, comprehensive musical knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and rehearsal techniques. In fact, this instructor has spent a lifetime “preparing” to teach this class, beginning with a music education bachelor degree and a classical trumpet performance masters degree. Although a trumpet major, the instructor studied vocal performance and health intensely. High school and college director positions required choral, band, and orchestral work, while professional credits include principal orchestral trumpet, vocal jazz group directing, international clinician, and DownBeat Magazine award-winning ensembles.
Personalizing the Music: Commitment to Educatorship It’s 8:30, and Alex works with the instructor. The pedagogical approach is clinician-like with positive, skill-oriented comments, “You just heard something that you would have paid for in a jazz club. Poignant, that’s the word that you were looking for.” The instructor asks Alex to begin again. After a few notes, the instructor comments on note duration and text phrasing. With each student performer, there is never more than a four-minute block of comments. Most of the time an individual comment is less than one minute. This seems to strike the balance between individual feedback and class engagement. With another student’s improvisation, strategy was tailored to her advanced, skill level. The instructor asked her what did not work in her improvisation. The student was not sure. After having the class sing her motive, the instructor analyzed it, “It is all one pitch. But if you take it and end it this way…Go someplace with it.” Using a modeling strategy, the instructor trades four’s (alternating four measure solos) with the student to encourage improvisational concept application. Many strategies are used within this class. If one idea did not work, the instructor would alter it or change it until he found something that did work. Goals and strategies seemed to be clear and conscious. Some strategies were used to build community and rapport: humor, student modeling, chatting, and seating arrangement. Other strategies were used to convey musical skill: instructor chosen literature, instructor modeling, new conceptual information, kinesthetic learning, professional accompanist, student demonstration, and immersion. Organizational strategies created the class framework: improvisational teaching, lecture, time management, momentum, mastery, and expectation-level. When students were asked to describe the instructor as an educator, the unanimous response was excitedly positive. One student noted, “He doesn’t have a one size fits all approach. He works with individuals and teaches them proper vocal techniques, respect for the music, good posture, etc. He makes students feel comfortable in performing. Students learn by watching and lis-
tening to others, and each student is respected despite their ability.” Another student expands this thought, saying, “The instructor is able to teach all levels. He has more than one way to get a concept across. He does not give up. He is an expert at this craft and dedicated to his students’ success.” Ken Bain found that outstanding teachers approach teaching similarly. Class presentations are viewed as important and intellectually demanding. Simplicity and clarity are key strategies. Critically reflective and analytical teachers are able to clearly convey their thought processes in lectures, discussions and assignments. They know their subjects extremely well, and are able to create structures that learners can use to build their own understandings. Further, because these teachers believe in their students’ desire to learn, they seek to introduce authentic tasks that will challenge learners to critically assess their assumptions and models of reality.9 Patricia Cranton suggests that presenting oneself authentically is intrinsic to the teacher/student relationship. Broadly defined, this means helping students learn, caring for students, engaging in dialogue with students, and an awareness of the exercising of power. Further, an authentic teacher presentation integrates teaching, personal life, and professional life.10 Authenticity has five interrelated facets: self-awareness, understanding of others, connections with others, understanding of role of context, and critical reflection on one’s practice. Context would include influences and perception of self, students, and their relationships. Perception would extend to the course content, discipline, physical environment, psychological environment, department, institution, general community, and/or culture.11 Cranton adds, “If we assume educator roles that are not congruent with our values, beliefs, and personality preferences, we are asking students to communicate with the role, not the person.”12 In this class, presentations could have been altered to be more student-inclusive. For example, there could have been more discussion opportunities. However, this is not this instructor’s style or his strength. The instructor sees himself as a master in this genre, and that is presented. Authentically the ‘performer teacher’ role seems to be part of the experience for
the students. However, a consistent class strategy was student modeling. Whether during improvisation or introducing literature, the instructor would immediately ask a student to demonstrate in front of the class. Student questionnaire and nonverbal responses indicated that students did not seem to mind class presentation methods. Perhaps part of their attraction is to the ‘teacher-as-performer’ who, often using kinesthetic tools, would draw the best out of everyone. Singers left class sessions sounding significantly better. Perhaps students traded verbal interaction to gain faster results?
Lessons learned When someone easily creates a “relaxed-yet-serious” environment, an observer might dismiss it as unplanned rather than skill. However, this class’ success and student experience supports the idea that rapport and community-feel are equally important as the amount of content covered. Perhaps the question is “How does one become an effective, master teacher?” Conversations with this instructor revealed continuous reflection about what worked versus what did not. This reflection yielded analysis. Analysis led to preparation: the search for new materials, the creation of new materials, the exploration of meaningful strategies, and the innovation of presentational materials. Essentially, when this instructor teaches a class, for which he is considered an expert, he is not happy to simply rely on previous methods and material. Perhaps in this instance, Billie Holiday’s idea of artistry applies, “Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what’s more than enough.”13 Stephanie Austin Letson is director of Choral Activities at Contra Costa College, in San Pablo, California. She directs the vocal jazz ensemble, JazzaNova, and the Chamber Singers. A doctoral candidate at Columbia University, Teacher’s College, Letson’s dissertation research focuses on vocal jazz education.
Carter, Betty. “Betty Carter Quotes,” BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/ quotes/authors/b/betty_carter.html.
Brooks, Robert. To touch a child’s heart and mind: The mindset of the effective Educator. http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/touch_child.php.
Ryan, Richard M. & Deci, Edward L. (2000). “Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.” American Psychologist 55, no. 1 (2000): 68-78.
Brooks, Robert. To touch a child’s heart and mind: The mindset of the effective Educator. http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/touch_child.php.
Brooks, Robert. To touch a child’s heart and mind: The mindset of the effective Educator.
Goldsmid, Charles A., Gruber, James E., & Wilson, Everett K. “Perceived Attributes of Superior Teachers: An Inquiry into the giving of teacher awards.” American Educational Research Journal 14, Vol., no. 4, (1977): 423-440.
Streeter, Thomas. “Sam Hankins: Middle School Jazz Advocate.” Jazz Educators Journal (April 2006): 1-6. http://www.iaje. org/article/asp?ArticleID=257.
Jensen-Hole, Catherine. “Experiencing the interdependent nature of musicianship and educatorship as defined by David J. Elliott in the context of the collegiate level vocal jazz ensemble.” Ph.D. diss., University of North Texas, 2005.
Bain, Ken. What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.
10 Cranton, Patricia. Understanding and promoting transformative learning: A guide for educators of adults (2nd edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2006.
Cranton, Patricia. “Educator authenticity: A longitudinal study.” Learning In Community: Proceedings of the joint international conference of the Adult Education Research Conference (2007). http://www.oise.utoronto. ca/CASAE/cnf2007/Proceedings-2007/ AERC%20CASAE%20Cranton-2007.pdf. 11
Cranton, Patricia. Understanding and promoting transformative learning: A guide for educators of adults (2nd edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2006. 113.
Holiday, Billie. “Billie Holiday Quotes,” BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/ quotes/authors/b/billie_holiday.html. 13
Choral Director, July/August 2010 9
Brendan Jennings & John Burroughs High School
Photo by Kieth Stevens - Men @ Work performs “The Old Red Hills Of Home” from Jason Robert Brown’s PARADE. 10 Choral Director, July/August 2010
Show Choir! BY DENYCE NEILSON As a result of the latest economic downturn, schools all over the country have felt the pinch. Budgets have been slashed, teachers laid off, and some schools have had to eliminate programs all together, particularly music programs and the arts. However, some music programs continue to thrive, despite the difficult environment nationwide. One of those is the choral program at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif. At the helm of that program is choral director Brendan Jennings, whose several maxims include, “If it’s not growing, it’s decaying,” and, “Go big or go home.”
As Choral Director found out in a recent conversation with Brendan Jennings, his choirs do go big, so big as to be one of the inspirations for the hit television show “Glee.” That recognition landed Brendan and his advanced show choir, Powerhouse, a performance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Brendan began his choral pursuits as a student at John Burroughs High School. Now he shares his passion with his alma mater and the next generation of singers. Choral Director: Why did you choose to become a choral director? Brendan Jennings: I became a cho-
ral director because I had an incredible experience as a student in the choral program at John Burroughs High School. In addition to amazing teachers and team experiences, I also had the chance to become a leader within the group, which gave me the inkling that I might enjoy becoming a teacher. When the opportunity presented itself to become an assistant at Burroughs, I jumped at it. Six years, a degree, and a teaching credential later, I took over the program that influenced my life. CD: What were the things that inspired you to take the path you did?
BJ: Winning show choir nationals in my freshman year at Burroughs, being the California State Honor Choir in 2000 with Rodney Eichenberger, singing Verdi’s “Requiem” while a student at the University of Southern California, directing the men’s show choir at Burroughs while in college, working for one year as an assistant to a real estate broker in Los Angeles, and surviving my first year as a classroom teacher. CD: A real estate broker’s assistant, how did that job inspire you to become a music educator? BJ: What I learned from that experience was how tense and angry people get about their money. Dealing with adults was extremely taxing and stressful. Adults hold grudges; they have less of a capacity for trust. Kids haven’t hardened in that way yet. There was no joy in working with adults. I was very ready to go back to working with kids. CD: Where was your first teaching job? BJ: My first and only, official teaching position has been at John Burroughs High School. CD: When did you begin teaching?
Photos by Julie Letts - Students perform in Burroughs On Broadway, a review show and fundraiser held in October 2009.
12 Choral Director, July/August 2010
BJ: I began teaching in high school really as a section leader and ultimately student president of the advanced choir. I continued to teach as I founded an a cappella group in college and built it up over four years. While in college, I worked as an assistant choreographer and men’s choir director at Burroughs. The experience of getting 40 teenage boys to listen to me, most of who I had just been in high school with, was the best lesson in classroom management I ever could have had. CD: Being a student leader in school must have been good teacher training for you? BJ: It was, but I didn’t know it at the time. It was good to learn how to get in front of a group of students and hold their attention. It also taught me that you’re not always their friend. You have to be a leader. CD: Can you talk a bit about the accomplishments of your choirs? BJ: In competition, all of the Burroughs ensembles are consistently among the top in the country in their divisions. Powerhouse won large national invitationals in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Sound Sensations, the advanced women’s group, was
undefeated in their 2010 season. All of the show choirs at Burroughs also perform as concert choirs studying music of every historical period. Works by Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Lauridsen, Rutter, and Whitacre are routinely performed. In the fall of 2006, Powerhouse performed the Mozart Requiem in several concerts collaborating with the Center Stage Opera of Los Angeles. In the winter of 2008, Powerhouse performed Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms as part of the Burroughs Holiday Spectacular.
“Dealing with adults was extremely taxing and stressful. Adults hold grudges; they have less of a capacity for trust. Kids haven’t hardened in that way yet.” More recently, Burroughs has been credited as one of the inspirations for the hit television show “Glee.” Powerhouse, the advanced choir, was featured on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” opposite the cast of “Glee.” Since then, students from Burroughs have had some wonderful performance opportunities: in concert with Foreigner at the Gibson Ampitheater, for a Konami press conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center during the E3 gaming expo, and for the Direct Seller’s Association 100 Year Anniversary Gala in San Francisco. CD: How did your program inspire the creators of “Glee”? How did they know about your choirs? BJ: The show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, was doing research and watched over 1,000 show choir videos on YouTube. Apparently, he found our video, and we figured very prominently. I’m not quite sure exactly how much we inspired the show. But, now it’s been said by Oprah, so I guess it’s true! Incidentally, they shot some of the interior scenes for the pilot episode at our school. CD: I was on your choirs’ Web site and watched videos of their performances, including the clip from “Oprah,” in which your students perform Madonna’s “Vogue” and are clad in costumes reminiscent of Dangerous Liaisons. These are highly produced, stylized productions with elaborate costumes, makeup, and choreography – they have the production values of a Broadway show. Is this evidence of your signature on the program or were the choral productions like this when you were a student at Burroughs? BJ: They have always been elaborate. However, over the past few years, I have had great a collaborative relationship with our artistic director and chorographer, Jennifer Oundjian, which has helped the program to continue to grow to a point where the budget supports the more extravagant things that we want to do. So, the shows have become larger and more elaborate due to our increase in funds. CD: Where does the funding come from? BJ: The funding doesn’t come from the school, the city, or the state. The kids are responsible for paying a certain amount of costs. When we have a sleep-away camp for the weekend or any trip, the student pays the cost. Students purchase the costumes and they are theirs to keep at the end of a show. Depending on which choir they are in, the costs are generally $1,200-$3,000 for the school year. Families can pay for the year all at once, or they can do a payment plan. Then there are families who want to do fundraising to offset the cost. We do a lot of fundraising. For students who are fundraising and are still falling short, we have scholarship pro-
John Burroughs High School Choirs at a Glance Location: 1920 W. Clark Avenue, Burbank, Calif. On the Web: www.jbhsvma.com Director: Brendan Jennings Choral Ensembles: There are seven ensembles and 226 performers in the program. Show Choirs: Powerhouse - 54 students Sound Sensations - 48 students Sound Waves - 44 students Decibelles - 50 students Men at Work - 30 students Vocal Ensembles: 20 students from Powerhouse & Sound Sensations Total number of students in the school: 2800 Staff: Brendan Jennings is the only certificated teacher, paid by the school district. The choir boosters pay for choreographers, vocal assistants, instrumentalists, and technicians, 12 in total plus additional clinicians. Notable performances and awards: • The Oprah Winfrey Show - April 2010 • Vocal Ensemble sings backup for Foreigner - May 2010 • Powerhouse travels to San Francisco to perform at the Direct Sellers Association 100th Anniversary Gala - June 2010 • Sound Sensations finishes an undefeated season (five grand championships)- April 2010 • Powerhouse is awarded Best Vocals/Musicianship at five competitions from February April 2010 • Powerhouse was Grand Champions of three National Invitationals -Fame Orlando 2007,Fame Chicago 2008, and Fame “Show Choir Cup” in New York 2009 Choral Director, July/August 2010 13
grams. We also have anonymous donors. We know people are struggling, and sometimes students can’t afford to go on a trip. Over the last three or four years, when a student is unable to go with us, at the last minute a sponsor will come through. All of the students get to go, and the whole team is together. We have never had a kid not participate because of money. We always make it work. CD: What do you attribute the success of your program to? BJ: I believe that our program is successful because of the team of par-
ents and staff who are totally dedicated to these kids. The program has been growing for over 30 year, and we constantly strive to improve our practices. We have several sayings that we live by: “If it’s not growing, its decaying.” and ‘Go big or go home.’ CD: How do you respond to critics who might say this trend of going big, with performances becoming extravagant, pop-themed productions, stepping away from a more traditional choral repertoire and reserved approach, takes away from the academic values of a high school choral program?
too. If you’re willing to put in the time and energy, you can achieve the lofty academic goals of training your students as musicians, which I feel I do, and give them a broad experience in terms of repertoire – we perform everything from Mozart to Eric Whitacre and everything in between. Then there is the pop music, which kids connect with on a whole
BJ: I would say that you can have your cake and eat it Photo by Julie Letts - Christina James finishes her solo in the flight themed Sound Sensations competition set.
Photo by Julie Letts - Students from all choirs perform in the closing number of the annual Pop Show, held in February each year.
Photo by Fred Howard.
14 Choral Director, July/August 2010
Photo by Fred Howard - Jamie Howard and the members of Powerhouse perform theier national award-winning competition set.
different level. Due to our location and the history of the program, it has just developed that way. I like to call our program a hybrid program. We work on both the classical and show music. The balance
ing the summer and try to squeeze in as much relaxation as I can, but I’m always working. Even when I’m traveling, I’m on the phone trying to lay the foundation for the com-
ing year. I like to say that being a choral director is my job and my hobby. That way, I don’t feel badly about not getting paid for most of the work that I do.
“It was good to learn how to get in front of a group of students and hold their attention. It also taught me that you’re not always their friend. You have to be a leader.” of the education allows my students to become great musicians, but also great performers. This breadth of experience is very valuable in shaping the future of each student. The students always want to top what they did the year before, and that gives them something to work for. It has raised it to a high level. Doing any activity, whether sports or music, with an extreme amount of excellence is a lesson for the students. My students work very hard, and they know how to reach a higher level. They won’t accept mediocrity, and they will gravitate towards things that are truly excellent. We are not the best choir singing Mozart because you can’t be the best at all genres. You have to focus on one thing, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do and try everything. I have had kids join the program because they wanted to be in the show choir, and then they end up connecting to the classical music. CD: Do you have new ideas and shows in the works for the coming school year? BJ: Absolutely. We are in the process of getting everything together for the coming year. We have four major concerts, a holiday show, and I have to pick all of my classical music. Soon we will begin our costume design sessions. I travel dur-
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`T^X\glbhef Choral Director, July/August 2010 15
CDSurvey: Musical TV
and the Real Music Classroom
hether you like it or not, the recent boom in television shows and movies that focus on school music groups is undeniable. Shows like “Glee” and movies like High School Musical have been ex-
traordinarily successful, and such programming shows no sign of abating in popularity. This recent trend begs some interesting questions: Do these shows and movies have an influence on actual school music programs? Does “Glee” help bring students into the choir? Do the negatives of unrealistic portrayals outweigh the positives of exposure to the joys of singing in primetime media?
16 Choral Director, July/August 2010
With queries like these in mind, Choral Director recently sent out a reader survey on the subject, eliciting a wide range of opinions. The one thing everyone seems to agree upon, however, is that both choral directors and their students are watching these shows. Of the several hundred vocal music educators who responded to this recent survey, 77 percent indicated that they sometimes or often watch these types of shows and, to put it simply, the vast majority of their students do, too. Many readers echoed the sentiment expressed by Lisa Fusco of Saint Gertrude High School in Richmond, Virginia, who says, “I’m delighted to see this popularity for choral singing! It’s about time everyone found out how much fun it is to sing in a choir.” Others, however, dismiss this recent trend as a relatively useless fad, pointing to the depiction of an alternate reality that ignores the virtues of practice and hard work, glosses over issues like funding and time constraints, and overemphasizes petty, dramatic, or farfetched plot lines. (It should be noted that not a single respondent thought that these types of shows were an accurate depiction of music education!) Regardless of where your opinion falls, if you haven’t yet weighed in on this fascinating topic, you can still do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Do you watch television shows and movies based on school music programs, such as “Glee” and High School Musical?
3. What is your general impression of the sudden, and relatively recent, explosion of school musicbased TV shows and movies? “I love them! ‘Glee’ has really helped choral music become popular.” Dana Brandwein Merrick Avenue Middle School Merrick, N.Y.
“Love them – ‘Glee’ is great! I really loved the a cappella competition show that was on TV last year too. We talk about it in class regularly.” Beth Mercer Robious Middle School Midlothian, Va. “I didn’t like ‘Glee’ at first because of the stereotype that only geeks sing and jocks don’t. But the acting and music are fantastic, and I got sucked in. I only watched High School Musical to stay current with my students’ interests.” Catherine Bennett Thurgood Marshall Middle School Tumwater, Wash. “I feel these shows present 1) a completely unrealistic picture of what music education in schools actually is, and 2) a superficial, glammed-up version of pop music that negates the worth of actual training and practice.” Marc Dicciani The University of the Arts Philadelphia, Pa.
“It is definitely helping awareness of high school programs and their importance to students. It does bother me that, on ‘Glee,’ for instance, they manage to put together a great performance with just a week of practice! This does give people an unrealistic impression of what can be accomplished.” Elaine Schaefer College of the Siskiyous Weed, Calif. “TV is a powerful medium for making things acceptable and popular. I think immediately of positive racial attitudes and the promotion of sex outside of marriage. I expect that choral music, at least in schools, may be similarly affected.” Mary Anne James Covington Elementary School Los Altos, Calif. “I am glad that students get excited for TV shows that have music-related themes, but I am not a fan of the unrealistic impression these shows give of our music programs.” Jason Falkofsky Saint Ignatius High School Cleveland, Ohio Has their popularity had a positive impact on your program? No
2. Do your students watch them?
Most do Some students do A few of them
None of my students watch those shows
“It is a good thing for music education. Students now have a greater interest in choral music and more of them think it is cool to sing.” Molly Fazio Floyd Light Middle School Portland, Ore.
Choral Director, July/August 2010 17
“It serves to bring interest to choral music and shows that choral music is for a wide variety of students – from the star athletes to the music geeks to everyone in between!” Katie Talsma Central Valley Christian School Visalia, Calif.
Do these TV shows and movies accurately depict the realities of school music ensembles? Yes
In Some Ways
“I’m a GLEEK! [But] my girls getting pregnant, my students falling in love with me, and having to choose between a basketball scholarship and a Juilliard scholarship are not daily issues in my program.” Brent Rose Buffalo High School Buffalo, Wyo. “If they really depicted what happens in the everyday life of music education, few would watch the show. Mr. Holland’s Opus, some years ago, was to be a savior for music education. In fact it was just another entertainment movie like Drum Line or ‘Glee’... I am not saying they are not entertaining in their own way, but if you are a teacher, they are not reality.” G. Daniel Fairchild Univ. of Wisconsin Platteville Platteville, Wis. “Real life cannot come up to the standards of fiction; students are disappointed and drop out when they find this to be the case.” John Lindberg Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minn. 18 Choral Director, July/August 2010
Additional thoughts on the proliferation and popularity of programming based on school music programs? “The sudden rise in music and drama programs appearing in the mainstream entertainment world is interesting to say the least, but unfortunately is misguided. While it raises an interest in the subject in general, it trivializes what actually takes place in quality music programs. Often the characters in these small and big screen productions are individuals who suddenly find they have a talent and immediately become the most popular kid in school because of their vocal skill. This happens miraculously with little or no training, while those who have stuck with the vocal program for years muddle through in the land of mediocrity… In the end, if the ‘Glee’ and High School Musical fads increase numbers in vocal music programs, great! I tell my students, ‘I don’t care why you join choir, I only care why you stay.’ If students join because they want to be Troy or Gabriella, more power to them. If they stay in the vocal program because they have found a great course of study that increases their ability to think critically, allows them a creative outlet beyond what they experience in every day life, and perform music that stretches, challenges, and enlivens them, even better!” Garrett Lathe Sartell High School Sartell, Minn. “Programs that deal with school music? Who would have thought! It just goes to show how truly meaningful the arts are to kids and how hard we all need to fight to keep them from being cut from schools and communities. The arts are alive and life. Kids’ response to ‘Glee’ should tell us all that fact.” Pat Badger The Prairie School Racine, Wis. “My students really enjoyed the show ‘Sing Off ’ more than ‘Glee’
or High School Musical. ‘Sing Off ’ provided insight for how to bring audience into a performance by an a cappella group. I hope it will be repeated.” Susan Wilkes Manchester West High School Manchester, N.H. “These shows unfortunately do not show all the dedication and hard work involved in reaching a successful performance. The students and teachers seem to instantaneously burst into perfect harmonies, melodies, and rhythms. There is no mention of self-discipline or commitment. While our choir makes beautiful music, it is sometimes a painful process getting there. And some of the best music we experience never enters the concert venue, but abides in heart-wrenching rehearsals. These shows also neglect the centuries of powerful, beautiful music, stealing that glory, and replacing it with the glitz of flash-inthe-pan current hits.” Joseph Allred Gunnison Valley High School Gunnison, Utah “At the Spring Western ACDA, when ‘Glee’ was mentioned by a speaker, the adults in the room for the most part booed, yet many students applauded. It seems to me that we, as choral teachers, might be wise to ride the wave: use what we can, pick the ‘better’ of the songs – not all pop songs are invalid musically – and keep on doing our ‘real’ literature, too. In the mix of music I did last year, which included ‘Glee’ and other popular/musical theatre songs, my students favorites were Doreen Rao’s arrangement of the duet from ‘Lakme’ (Dome Epais), the Brilee edition of ‘æLascia Ch’io Pianga,’ and Ron Jeffer’s a cappella ‘Amazing Grace.’ They do know the difference – and are grateful to sing great music!” Nina Burtchaell Harvard-Westlake Middle School Los Angeles, Calif.
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CDRepertoire CDRepertoireForum: Forum2009-2010 Releases
Holiday Selections While past columns have largely focused on tried-andtrue selections, the next five issues will feature new releases. Each column will feature a variety of voicings and difficulties, but will have a unified theme. This issue includes reviews of works especially well suited for holiday concerts. – Drew Collins
EASY TREBLE Carol of the Russian Children (arr. Donald Moore) – pub. BriLee Here is a cross-cultural selection for beginning choirs. The text is in English, and is secular, though it hints at the traditional Christmas story, and so could be used in worship or parochial settings. Texturally, it is homophonic. The last chord splits to three parts, otherwise it is strictly two-part, with a few bars of unison to begin the work. It is in A-minor with an occasional raised seventh. If performed exactly as written, the work lasts only about one minute. However, I would be inclined to add a repeat from measure 24 back to the beginning, thus almost doubling the performance time of the piece without adding any rehearsal time. Though not marked, a crescendo in measure 20 would
blossom nicely into the forte marked in the following bar. Visit www.carlfischer.com for a free score sample, beginning-to-end recording, and part-predominant MP3s.
Bim Bam (Hassidic, arr. Shirley McRae) – pub. Colla Voce Nigguns are wordless songs associated with a sort of spiritual catharsis. As a genre, they are typically not associated with particular holidays, and this is true of this piece as well. It is included in this column because it could, in a pinch, represent Hanukkah on a December program. However, it is not a “Hanukkah song” by any means, and should be considered viable for any time of year. McRae’s arrangement of this tune uses clarinet, tambourine and piano, and is voiced for SA chorus. The vocal texture is mostly unison, but splits
to two voices. The form is strophic, with the melody stated once in unison, again in homophony (the altos get the melody), then the singers get a prescribed rhythm to clap for 12 bars. The key changes from D-minor to Eminor for the final unison statement, with a fun accelerando to the end. This selection is part of Ruth Dwyer’s excellent series with Colla Voce that focuses on the development of part singing in young singers. However, this could be fun for older singers as well, and might be a good “early success” piece for slightly older treble groups. Also consider… • “While Shepherds Watched” by Victor Johnson (pub. Hal Leonard). This is a Caribbean-style original composition using this eighteenth-century hymn as the text. It is for SA, piano, and flute. Choral Director, July/August 2010 23
Add guitar and simple percussion to spice it up. May be reviewed online at publisher’s website.
scored for SATB. However, it was most likely – if not certainly – written to be sung by a chorus of all women. The piece was composed while Vivaldi was Maestro dei Concerti at an orphanage (the Ospedale della Pietà) where some of the girls played instruments and sang. Some Ave Maria (Saint-Säens, ed. Robert believe that the tenor and bass parts Boyd) of his SATB works were sung This is a lovely little gem by men from outside that is not programmed the orphanage, while nearly enough. Several others believe that editions are availwomen sang all able, both for sale the parts either and for free downverbatim or using load. Each differs octave transposlightly, most nosition. This editably in key (‘A’ tion follows the vs. ‘A-flat’). Boyd’s latter theory, and edition is clean and allows for a foureasy to read. He has part performance inserted some logical by a modern femalebreaths that are respectonly chorus. For purists, ful of both music and text. Vivaldi I should caution that there It is scored for SA voices and are some decisions that go against piano (or organ). While a capable choVivaldi’s original text (the first such rus of younger singers might be able to moment is found in mm.32-35, do it justice, my preference has been to when the S1 part sings the tenor part perform it with more advanced singers. an octave higher instead of staying Don’t let the quarter notes and half notes on the soprano part and the S2 part fool you, achieving a mature and exprestakes over the original sive line on this piece may be a challenge. soprano part). But the The form is simply ABA with a coda. Be listener would never careful to not rush the tempo; allow the know it, and an argusixteenth notes in the accompaniment to ment could be made be airy, not rushed. Your singers will need that there are pedato be ready to hit those first notes cleanly gogical or other benand healthfully, or the whole piece could efits to such decisions. end up plagued by vocal tension. The This is most certainly two things that will contribute to their true, given that this is success will be an open throat, and prein Henry Leck’s series, ceding this piece in performance with and Leck is a consumone that will set them up vocally. mate choral educator. A variety of other treble arrangements of this What Child Is This (English, arr. standard Vivaldi work are available. Ruth Elaine Schram) – pub. Heritage The old Mason Martens edition Scored for SSA and piano, with two is often selected when performing optional clarinets. A slightly new take the entire work SATB, but the first on this familiar carol, but the recognizmovement of his edition is available ability and accessibility for singer and in a variety of alternative voicings, listener is augmented by Schram’s apincluding TTBB, SAB, and SSA. If proach, not diminished. A safe bet. you would like to perform the enGloria (Vivaldi, ed. & arr. Wm. tire work with SSAA voices, Doreen Chin and Javier José Mendoza) Rao’s edition published by Boosey – pub. Colla Voce & Hawkes some years ago is a fine Vivaldi’s famous “Gloria” is a choice, but the individual movemulti-movement work originally ments are not available. However, if
TREBLE (MEDIUM & DIFFICULT)
24 Choral Director, July/August 2010
you want to only perform the first movement with SSAA voices, the Chin-Mendoza edition is your best bet, and you can even get the optional instrumental parts from the publisher if you so desire. Also consider… • “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow!”, arranged by Robert Boyd (pub. Colla Voce). It is for unaccompanied SSA. Opportunities for one or more soloists. • “D’où Viens-tu, Bergère” by Thomas Bell (pub. Hal Leonard). Scored for 2-part with piano. It is charming, but challenging. The meter changes between 2/4, 6/8 and 7/8, rarely with any two measures in the same meter. Review online at publisher’s Web site.
MALE CHORUS A La Nanita Nana (Spanish Carol, arr. Ken Berg) – Carl Fisher Ken Berg’s choral music is always engaging. He particularly understands the developing male voice, and how to write effectively for them. This Spanish carol is a good selection for junior high boys, or even for a small high school men’s group. Scoring is for TB, tenor solo, piano, and optional cello. The tenor solo may be given to one singer exclusively, a small group, or may be divided up between a few soloists. The chorus divides to four parts in the final bars. Visit www. carlfischer.com for a free score sample, beginning-to-end recording, and part-predominant MP3s. Also consider… • “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tom Council (pub. Colla Voce). A beautiful piece for advanced male chorus. I didn’t give it a full review here because it is quite challenging: TTBB divisi unaccompanied with soloists and small groups, meter changes, and chromaticism.
CHANGING VOICES White Christmas (Irving Berlin, arr. Ed Lojeski) – pub. Hal Leonard A jazzy selection for your developing singers this holiday season. Your singers will enjoy the harmonies, and will want to rehearse the piece. Audiences will enjoy it as well, not just because it is easily recognized, but also because Lojeski has created a lush, warm setting. The harmonies will be challenging, but this would be a good foray into jazz if your choir is new to the genre. Also available: 2-part scoring, accompaniment track.
A Caribbean Gloria (Gary Parks) – pub. BriLee Scored for three-part mixed chorus with piano. Optional bass and percussion parts are available for free download from www.brileemusic.com. Check the range of the men’s part, as it may be a bit low for your cambiatas (the cover lists the low note as an ‘E’, but it goes to a ‘D’ in the music a couple of times). Your choir will enjoy the rhythmic groove, and the moments they get to clap. Read the inside front cover for some helpful rehearsal, simple choreography, and percussion suggestions. Visit www.carlfischer.com to download a free score sample, beginning-to-end recording, accompaniment track and part-predominant MP3s. Also consider… · “Pat-A-Pan” arranged by Mark Burrows (pub. Heritage). Available for three-part mixed/SAB or SATB. Check the range of the men’s parts carefully, as they sit on low ‘E’ a lot. Review online at publisher’s Web site.
HIGH SCHOOL All This Night (Jess Langston Turner) – pub. Hinshaw This setting of William Austin’s classic Christmas text is a great choice for just about any SATB choir: school, community, church, etc. Turner sets it to a lovely melody, paying great attention to the text. This work bears resemblance to Carolyn Jennings’ excellent “Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain” (pub. Curtis) so if
you like that piece, you will probably like this one. Texture is almost entirely homophonic, with interest for the ear provided by expanding and contracting choral scoring throughout and lovely harmonies. The structure is strophic, but there is enough variation that the ear does not tire. For verse three, the tonality goes in an unexpected direction: a change to the mediant is a lovely effect, and particularly poignant given the text “Wake, o earth”. Two brief unaccompanied moments add interest as well. The couple of low bass notes in mm. 78 and 124 may easily be sung up an octave if necessary. This piece would lend itself well to accompaniment by orchestra, and I hope that the publisher considers making an orchestration available in the future.
O Magnum Mysterium (Corelli, arr. Delanoy) – pub. Carl Fischer Delanoy has taken a movement from Arcangelo Corelli’s famous Christmas Concerto for orchestra, and rescored it for choir. She chose the holiday text O Magnum Mysterium, a fitting choice given the feel of the piece. The dissonances in this piece are lovely–your singers and audience will surely agree. The Adagio sections should be conducted in a subdivided four pattern. Make visual contact with your accompanist at the tempo change in m. 11, and allow enough rehearsal time to practice that transition (including a clean cutoff on beat two). Take care to coach the high notes for sopranos in mm. 5 & 26 in rehearsal, and to lower the plane of the gesture in performance; because of the leap above the break for both sopranos and altos, it will be easy for them to sound shrill. Also consider… • Michael John Trotta’s fresh new take on Christina Rosetti’s poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter” published by Colla Voce in the Z. Randall Stroope Choral Series. • Two editions of Haydn “Dona Nobis Pacem” settings came out this year. Patrick Liebergen edited the one from Grosse Orgelmesse (pub. Alfred), which is of moderate to easy diffi-
culty. Philip Brunelle’s edition of the final movement from St. Nicholas Mass is an excellent choice for more accomplished choirs with strong soloists. Either would contribute some heft to your holiday program.
MIXED (ADVANCED) Mirabile Mysterium (Taylor Davis) – pub. G. Schirmer Beautiful and lush harmonies define this latest addition to Craig Hella Johnson’s choral series. It is scored for SSAATTBB, and each voice part has its own staff. The harmonies (especially inverted ninth chords) and expansive scoring faintly recall Lauridsen and Clausen at times, but Davis has a fresh approach here that should not be discounted. Take special care with dynamics, making sure each voice part contributes to the contour and trajectory of the overall performance, otherwise you may end up with an amorphous “tone bath” that your audience will think is pretty but won’t be able to follow. Attention to the melodic elements and moving parts will help with this as well. This is a college-level piece, but is not out of reach for advanced high school choirs. Review a partial score and sound file at www.halleonard.com. Also consider… • Z. Randall Stroope has created a new voicing of his Magnificat. Originally composed for treble voices, the new voicing is SSATB. It is published by Alliance. • Dormi Jesu, composed by Abbie Betinis and published by G. Schirmer, was reviewed in a previous issue. Forum editor Drew Collins is on the choral and music education faculty of Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio). He is active as a festival conductor, author, and composer. Contact him directly at drew@drewcollins. com.
Choral Director, July/August 2010 25
CDTechnology: Hand-Held Recorders
The Magic of Handheld Digital Recorders
n the world of handheld digital recorders, smaller is better and now it’s getting cheaper, too. This is great news for music educators who are looking to record their rehearsals, concerts, and lessons. Today’s handheld digital recorders can professionally record at a moment’s notice with instant, one-hand operation. There are even palm-size handheld digital recorders
with two channel capability that can record uncompressed digital or compressed formats like MP3 and WMA. BY JOHN KUZMICH, JR.
When thinking about purchasing a recording device, there are two lines of products to consider: those designed for recording speech and those designed for music. Often, the consumer lines are used to record people speaking, while the pro-lines are mainly for music. However, there is no significant difference between handheld digital recorders for music applications if you know what product features to look for. The voice recorder unit can weigh less than two ounces and many music recorders, while larger, are still palm-sized and often have easier access to controls with one-hand operation. The field-size recorder is larger and has larger speakers and a substantial on-board speaker playback system for instant classroom playback. Whether on batteries or AC, larger portable units require the use of two hands, whereas the other two sizes are definitely okay for one-hand operation.
Important Facts About Voice and Music Digital Recorders Dr. John Kuzmich Jr. is a veteran music educator, jazz educator and music technologist with more than 41 years of public school teaching experience. He is a TI:ME-certified training instructor and has a Ph.D. in comprehensive musicianship. As a freelance author, Dr. Kuzmich has more than 400 articles and five textbooks published. As a clinician, Dr. Kuzmich frequently participates in workshops throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, and South America. For more information, visit www.kuzmich.com. 26 Choral Director, July/August 2010
Price difference between voice and music digital recorders is no longer a significant issue. The $200- to $300-range is typical unless you desire the esoteric features of extravagantly priced music recorders. Both product lines should be capable of doing an excellent job for music applications if you are aware of a few things. Pro-line recorders can record at higher than CD audio quality and are very slick with most of the large operating controls located on the front of the device, while the consumer lines have most of their controls on the side. Audio recording and playback are outstanding, well worth their pricing and often able to record in uncompressed WAV files all of the way up to 24-bit / 96 kHz, which is welcome news if you’re shooting for a high-quality recording of a live performance. While I personally prefer the larger pro-line units because I have large hands, I must say that the audio quality of voice recorders can be very impressive, and they are usually competitively priced and come in a very convenient size. And if you add on a modestly priced external miniature condenser microphone, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. External mics have an advantage over built-in microphones because they can be directed precisely toward the sound source and in some cases, you can control the recording angle coverage for an even better recording. The Sony ECM-MS907, for example, can be config-
ured for a 90- or 120-degree recording angle coverage. Regardless of which product line you consider, be absolutely sure that the unit has manual recording level controls. In order to obtain the best music recording with a full range of dynamics, the unit’s VU meter needs to be manually set to optimize the recording for both loud and soft passages. All digital recorders have automatic gain control, which boosts the low volume voice and reduces the recording levels of loud sounds. This will not work for a high quality music recording – the addition of the adjustable microphone recording sensitivity level is mandatory. Do not purchase any recorder without manual recording level controls. Models by Sony, Olympus, and Yamaha have several new features on their voice recorders that make them good music recorders. They include
Yamaha Pocketrak 2G
“lite” music editing software versions of SoundForge or Cubase, which are pro-level applications for optimizing the audio when the recordings are transferred to the computer for more editing. Manual recording level controls give higher resolutions in compressed file formats. I suggest 128 kbps and higher as a minimum audio standard in an MP3 recording mode. Modestly priced miniature external condenser microphones are a perfect match for a handheld recorder.
Playback Hints Digital recorders do a much better job at maxing out the sound levels correctly on a manual recording. Avoiding the automatic recording mode will give you a noticeably better playback through the small speakers because it is usually at a lower, more acceptable level. Otherwise, use earphones or extra speakers for playback. Since handheld digital recorders are not electrically grounded, hand noise can affect the recordings, especially when the device is turned on, put down, held. I suggest using a case, if there is one available, to hold the recorder while recording. If a case isn’t available, I wouldn’t suggest laying the digital recorder down while recording. If you must do so, start the recording and then place it on something like the reverse rubberized surface of a mouse pad and wait at least five seconds before the music begins to play. The mouse pad will minimize the transfer of surface sound to the recorder and the five seconds of silence will make it easier to edit when using editing software. Perhaps the best solution is a miniature tripod to hold the recorder, provided the unit has a screw mount. The smaller the unit, the smaller the speaker will be, and the lower output power it will have. Consequently, voice recorders have limited playback use in a music ensemble or classroom because they’re meant to be heard by only one or two people. But if you use external speakers with any size handheld unit, you will be amazed at how well these devices can function in a large classroom. For example, Sony offers full range, compact stereo speakers, SRSM50, that have both A/C and battery power op-
tions that could be used in a classroom situation without size or weight issues, and with 2.5 watts of power per channel. With a price tag under $50, these very portable speakers fold in half, making a handheld recorder more functional in a classroom situation, yet also highly portable for use beyond the classroom. Another idea for fast and dirty playback is to purchase a Y-cable so two sets of headsets can be plugged into the unit. Two students can then listen to clear audio playback, and an eightfoot extension cable will provide even more convenience, so the students don’t have to be standing next to the recorder when they listen. The other option that most devices have is to save and play back digital voice recordings on a PC. Additional foot pedals, headset, and transcription software for professional use only costs another $150. Check out the transcribing software bundle, Sony FS85USB, which comes with foot control and listening device. There are other good transcribing software
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and foot control bundles on the market from Dictran.com (wavpedal). There is a plethora of handheld digital recorders to look at from prominent manufacturers, for both music recorders voice recorders that have good music capability. Here are some worthy competitors for your comparative shopping: • Sony • Olympus • Marantz • Yamaha • Edirol • Zoom • Tascam • M-Audio • Korg
tween Linear PCM recording at true CD 44.1 kHz quality, with sampling rates up to 192 Kbps in its MP3 mode, or Sony’s LPEC codec for voice dictation. Its one-gigabyte memory is adequate. The ICDSX700 even has a number of different recording modes: Super High Quality, High Quality, Standard Play, and Long Play with High or Low microphone sensitivity settings. It has automatic gain control, but the manual adjustment can shut off this function and is ideally suited for music with a large, easy to see LCD screen and VU meter to calibrate proper recording levels. The controls are easy to use, even with my large hands. Its built-in stereo microphones can either be Two models stand used for directional or wideout in the voice rearea coverage. The on-board corder line: the Yamaha speaker is quite good for a Pocketrak 2G and Sony small voice recorder. Sony ICDSX700. The Yamaha includes Sound Forge Audio Pocketrak 2G is one of Studio LE software with the the smallest high-quality ICDSX700 as well as Digiportable audio recorders tal Voice Editor software to available today weightransfer the recordings to the ing in at 1.7 ounces. It Sony ICD-SX700 PC. Being MAC compatible, also has two gigabytes of recordings can be transferred memory, three hours of PCM recordusing drag and drop. ing at a maximum MP3 quality of 128 kbps. Its lightweight, low-profile design is just dying to be used for covert Professional models usually provide spy missions and concert bootlegging a high quality VU meter for adjusting because it is easy to conceal in a pocklevels, compression options to prevent et, or tucked away in some dark cordigital clipping, XLR jacks with 48V ner. The built-in stereo microphone phantom power, and the capacity to can be angled up on its hinge to preinsert additional memory cards. Limvent picking up vibrations when laid ited editing can be done on the unit, on a table. It includes a built-in USB but some include PC software for real stick and rechargeable AAA battery. editing later. The long-lasting rechargeable battery The Tascam DR-100 has more recan be used for 19 hours of consecucording features than most voice retive MP3 recording and charges in 90 corders. It is definitely a “high end” minutes with a USB connection to a recorder; it has four built-in microcomputer. Speaker playback is quite phones – two cardioid and two omnigood for the unit’s modest size, decent directional – along with analog limitfor one or two people. Having cubase ing and filtering for great-sounding AL music editing software included recordings. A pair of XLR microphone makes it possible to edit recordings, inputs with phantom power welcomes which is a real plus. pro-grade condenser microphones, If you are looking for a voice reand line in and out connectors are also corder to provide even higher audio provided. It also has a tripod mountquality, consider the Sony ICDSX700. ing hole and comes with a wireless reIt offers the flexibility to choose be-
28 Choral Director, July/August 2010
mote control that can start the recording from a distance. The DR-100 has two gigabytes of internal memory and can accept SD media cards up to 32 GB. It records MP3 files from 32-320 kbps and WAV files up to 24-bit/48 kHz. Tascam says that 96 kHz recording capability will be provided in the upcoming 1.10 software update. The DR-100 includes a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, but can also be powered by AA batteries or an optional AC adapter. The Olympus LS–11 US is a linear PCM recorder with high quality stereo microphones that record in multiple recording formats (PCM/WMA/MP3) of up to 24 bit/96 kHz quality. The microphones are very sensitive. It comes equipped with eight gigabytes of builtin flash memory and a SD Card slot and stereo speakers that rock for a handheld recorder. It is like having a recording studio in your pocket. The LS-11 allows users to add index marks to files in PCM mode during recording and playback so you can easily return to key places in a recording. It features file editing in PCM mode to divide files and make partial cuts right inside the device. It is also possible to move and copy files between the internal memory and the SD card, making it easier to switch to a different SD card on the go. You will love the wireless remote option that lets you start and stop the recording from a distance. This is ideal for live performances when the LS-11 can be placed near the stage and activated from several rows back. The Marantz PMD 620 is a versatile 24-bit handheld digital recorder with unlimited SD flash media capability that can record high-quality WAV or MP3 files with onboard editing, a large, easy-to-read display, and an onboard speaker. This pocket-sized recorder also includes 360-degree recording capability via its internal microphone design, plus line and external mic inputs. This can capture a 360-degree sound field which is great for conferences and live performances, allowing you to get all the sonic information you need, as well as all the “sound of the room” you want. And with external microphones you can capture directional recordings to your delight.
While teaching last summer in Europe, I used the Marantz 620 in concerts and clinics. Visit www. kuzmich.com/IASJ/Marantz/1009.MP3 for a live jazz concert which I recorded from behind the ensemble and its public address system, and www. kuzmich.com/ Pulawy/1029. MP3 for a big band sight-reading Tascam DR-100 rehearsal which I recorded right from the conductor’s podium. The instruments – from flute to saxophones to brass and rhythm section – are clearly separated for easy, instant analysis and improvement. All recordings were made with the internal microphone. Sony’s PCM-M10 digital audio recorder lays pro quality in your lap. It has 24-bit/96 kHz recording capa-
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life using conventional AA batteries. You will love the wide LCD screen for access to all the bells and whistles found on this unit, along with centrally placed buttons on the top for userfriendly one-hand operation. The Edirol R-09HR is a high-resolution WAV and MP3 recorder with 24-bit/96-kHz fidelity and up to eight gigabyte SD or SDHC memory card. It comes with Cakewalk’s “Pyro Audio Creator LE” wave-editing software, a wireless remote control, and a large OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display.
Closing Comments The excellent audio quality of digital recorders is much like the quality of today’s digital cameras. Until a few short years ago, 35mm cameras had the edge over digital photography, but today, digital is king in both photography and audio recording. Enjoy the digital age!
bilities with electret condenser stereo microphones, four gigabytes of internal flash memory and a micro SD/Memory Stick Micro Slot for expanded memory. Key features of the PCM-M10 recorder include a built-in speaker, cross-memory recording, digital pitch and key control, digital limiter, low-cut filter, track mark functions, a five-second pre-recording buffer and A-B repeat capability. The recorder includes a USB high-speed port for simple uploading and downloading of native WAV or MP3 format recorded files to and from Windows PC or Mac computers. The M10 is ruggedly constructed to withstand the rigors of location recording, and has long battery
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menus. The H1 can accommodate up to 32GB microSDHC memory cards, providing over 50 hours of recording time. The recorder is powered by a single AA size battery, which provides up to 10 hours of continuous operation. H1 users can purchase an H1 accessory kit that includes a windscreen, AC adapter (USB type), USB cable, adjustable tripod stand, soft carrying pouch, and mic clip adapter.
supposed to be “difficult.” Author Gordon Jones provides a vivid biographical sketch of Bach’s life and times and then takes on the question “What is a cantata?” guiding the listener systematically through fugue, recitative, and aria. The author chooses 30 of Bach’s 200 church cantatas that are likely to be performed live and explores them in detail. The book is accompanied by a 75-minute CD featuring complete tracks from five of the finest cantatas.
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Weighing in at about two ounces, Zoom’s H1 recorder delivers clear 24-bit/96 kHz stereo recordings suitable for music, interviews, lectures, recitals, band practice, and more. The H1’s two onboard microphones are configured in an X/Y pattern. The H1 also features a newly designed user interface that places all its functions at the touch of a button. Zoom included access to the track marker, auto record, low cut filter, level, and volume controls with onboard buttons and no
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The DN-F400 Solid State Audio Playback System from Denon was designed to deliver dependability in critical applications where the audio runs continuously or must be triggered at a moment’s notice. From schools, theme parks, and shopping malls to hospitals, hotels, airports, and train stations, the DN-F400 is suited for use in public facilities requiring continuous-playback, repeated-programmed audio messaging, or quickly triggered announcements. The optional RC-F400S Remote Controller features a large LCD display and ergonomically designed control panel, including 20 hot buttons for instant playback of audio or sound effects. When used together, the DN-F400/RC-F400S solid-state audio combo is an alternative to sound FX playback systems and CART players, CD, or MiniDisc units for radio, television, sporting events, theater, and other real-time performance applications. With the DN-F400’s use of the SD and SDHC card formats, users can store up to 999 files per 32GB card,
NewProducts and each department can have its own school system content-approved cards that keep their particular audio files ready to play at the touch of a button. And the large LCD display on the RC-400S remote control allows users to clearly name up to 20 files and assign them to hot buttons that will instantly start each audio file from the beginning, every time.
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New Titles From Choristers Guild
“Winds Through the Olive Trees,” composed by Timothy Shaw, is an anthem that depicts images from the first Christmas night and proclaims the familiar song of the angels, “Gloria in excelsis deo!” Voicing: SAB, piano, optional C treble instrument. Composed by Nancy Raabe, “For the Colors of the Rainbow” offers praise and thanksgiving for creation, friendship, music, and can be used in any general service or service with thanksgiving themes in unison and piano “Comfort Ye My People” is a gospel setting of the 17th century hymn text by Johannes Olearius, is suitable for Advent services and features a soprano solo.
can be added to any rack setup. It is suitable for club and mobile racks, DJs and musicians to record their sets, restaurants, houses of worship, schools, home studios, broadcasting, meeting & lecture halls, and any permanent install situation. The RM3 features a large, full-color LCD screen and a front panel jog wheel. It has several input/output options: two 1/4” line inputs on the front to record any vocals or instruments, as well as a combo XLR/1/4” stereo jack and stereo RCA inputs on the rear. There are also front and rear MIC inputs, two balanced XLR outputs, and a stereo RCA output for pass-through ability. Media can be monitor through the 1/4” headphone/line output provided on the front of the RM3, which has its own dedicated volume adjustment. AC adapter, USB cable, and 1GB SD memory card are included. The RM3 records directly onto SD cards up to 4GB, SDHC cards up to 32GB, and any supported USB storage
New From Carl Fischer’s Part-by-Part Series
“Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” is an Appalachian folk song, arranged by David Lantz III for SATB voices with keyboard and is suitable for high school level and abve. This folk song is often heard in concert, but this particular arrangement by David Lantz has be referred to as one of the richest. Lantz passes the melody between the different voices and provides harmonies and color with the piano accompaniment.
Choral Director, July/August 2010 31
NewProducts device of unlimited memory capacity. Users can record in MP3 formats up to 320kbps, or in WAV format with 44.1kHz/16-bit quality.
for those who may have some training but who wish to build their basic skills. The companion second volume
James Whitbourn’s Luminosity
British composer, conductor, and writer James Whitbourn has released his latest CD, Luminosity and Other Choral Works. The texts on this new recording feature settings ranging from ancient seers to the modern luminary Desmond Tutu. They are of America’s national anthem sprinkled throughout the piano accompaniment and original melodies for the voices. With comfortable ranges, it’s a suitable choice for young singers.
performed by Commotio, an Oxford-based chamber choir which specializes in contemporary choral repertoire.
Conducting Choirs is a three-volume textbook series published from Roger Dean Publishing. The first volume is intended for those beginning their study of conducting, and
32 Choral Director, July/August 2010
is a compilation of musical examples for use in developing gestural fluency, especially appropriate as a classroom tool for collegiate conducting courses. The third volume is intended for those who have experience leading church, school, and community ensembles and who wish to broaden their abilities and knowledge. There is also a companion Web site to the printed texts that offers additional information.
Trophy Music’s Maestro-Lite Baton
Designed to make it easier for musicians and singers to see in dark situations and to create a visual effect on stage, Trophy Music’s Maestro-Lite features a sturdy Lexan polycarbonate shaft and a textured easy grip han-
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“Where Go the Boats?” Stevenson’s well-known poem and its vivid imagery are expressed through Cynthia Gray’s music and supportive accompaniment. A soloist is featured at the beginning of the work, a showpiece for treble groups of all ages. Heritage has released “Sarasponda” as part of their Sing Out Series. Dave and Jean Perry’s arrangement of this Dutch folk tune features interplay between parts, a rhythmic, spoken middle section, and dynamic contrasts, this multicultural piece is reminiscent of the Perrys’ “Chumbara.” “Let Freedom Ring” is also part of the Sing Out Series and features snippets
dle. The entire shaft is illuminated by LEDs that will last 100,000+ hours. The light concentrates at the tip, further allowing the ensemble to better follow the tempo. Includes extra batteries.
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