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TEXAS SINGS!! VOLUME 25 NUMBER 2
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF TEXAS CHORAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION
Music Education Takes Flight NON-PROFIT U.S. Postage Paid Austin, Texas Permit No. 789
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2009 Winter Texas Sings! 11
TEXAS SINGS! Volume 25 Number 2 Winter 2009
Bob Horton, The Woodlands
TABLE OF CONTENTS Education Takes Flight . . . to Africa!
by Tammy Benton
Amy Allibon, Fort Worth PAST PRESIDENT
Danny Detrick, North Richland Hills
Frank McKinley Dr Everett Maurice Alfred
Dr John Silantien, San Antonio HIGH SCHOOL VICE PRESIDENT
Billy Talley, Amarillo MIDDLE SCHOOL/JUNIOR HIGH VICE PRESIDENT
Kathy Lollar, Odessa
Tough Times by Bob Horton
ELEMENTARY VICE PRESIDENT
Karen Gonzalez, Garland CHURCH VICE PRESIDENT
On the Cover:
Thomas Coker, Houston
Tammy and Taylor Benton arrive at Bethany Village, after a motor boat ride across Lake Victoria from the town of Gaba. The Bentons spent 18 days in the small Ugandan village teaching members of the Mwangaza Choir.
Janwin Overstreet-Goode, Friendswood EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dan L Wood, Austin EDITOR
Photo by Gary Benton
Dan L Wood ART DIRECTOR
James A Black, Coppell PUBLISHER
Good/Wood Associates PO Box 6472 Austin, Texas 78762
TEXAS SINGS! Official Publication of the Texas Choral Directors Association 7900 Centre Park Drive, Suite A Austin, TX 78754 512/474-2801 Copyright 2009 by Texas Choral Directors Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the Executive Director. TCDA is an affiliate of ACDA
TCDA Mission Statement The mission of TCDA is to support and foster the success of Texas choral directors and music teachers and to instill a love of music in every Texas school, church, and community singer.
2009 TCDA Convention Dates Wednesday, July 29 - Saturday, August 1
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Arriving in Gaba, a city on the shore of Lake Victoria, near the capital of Kampala
Music Education Takes Flight... to Africa! by Tammy Benton Photography by Gary Benton
hen I awoke that first morning in Uganda, Africa, it was still hard to imagine that I, a middle school choral director from Texas, was really on another continent to do what I love the very most – teach music. I did not do anything extraordinary on my part or in my career to propel myself into this incredible musical opportunity. Let’s just say that I was in the right place at the right time, felt a strong calling,
UGANDA Lake Kyoga
KENYA Lake Victoria
BURUNDI AFRICA AFRICA
area Map area Tabora
Tammy Benton has been the Midway Middle School Choral Director for 12 years in Waco. She frequently serves as adjudicator, all-region clinician for both treble and tenor-bass choirs, as well as leads workshops on recruiting/building boys’ choirs. Her boys’ choirs have performed at TMEA and for White House Christmas.. If you are interested in seeing and hearing more about the Mwangaza Choir in Africa, please visit www.mwangazachoir.org
and made myself available to go, no matter what my circumstances were in life. We as music educators do what we TEXAS√SINGS!
do because there is an innate passion inside us to go into our schools day by day and teach kids the love of music. This was the same passion that took me all the way around the world. I had the privilege of hearing the Mwangaza Children’s Choir two years prior and was left spellbound by their amazing rich harmonies and endless energy in an unforgettable performance at our church. The choir’s tour director, Patrick Sserunjogi, shared with me that the choir was in need of a trained music educator as there were none in their country. The next thing I knew I received an invitation to come to his country to teach that magnificent group of children! It was a great story, but deep down I knew that a trip and experience of this magnitude was next to impossible for someone like me, or was it? This was where my passion for what I do “kicked in” and virtually took control. Huge doors started flying open for me by the time school started that Winter 2009
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fall. I received invitations from all over the state to direct region choirs, lead workshops, in-services, and adjudicate. It just seemed to all drop right out of the sky when it hit me that THIS was my means to get to Uganda, Africa!! We decided that my husband, my 7-year-old son, Taylor, and I should make the journey together.
tour in September. Most of them spoke English since they are taught our language at school. They could understand most of what I would say as I taught, but the director would, on occasion, have to explain my communication in their native tongue, Lugandan. One of my goals was to try to teach these children how to read music, but I learned very onths of planning and quickly that, when in Africa, preparation finally paid don’t expect to do anything off. We arrived in that you planned! Their Entebbe, Uganda, on May 28, culture is so very different 2007. We were met at the from ours in that they are airport by the choir’s director, never in a hurry, 3 pm may Alex Mutagubya. Our 18-day mean 7 pm and you find very adventure began each mornfew modern conveniences. ing as we walked from a small Some nights we had electricity town called Gaba through a during our meal, other nights marketplace to the banks of we did not! One day I had to Lake Victoria. We would make The daily “Boda-Boda” ride through the village to rehearsals teach the choir under a huge our way down to the dock and Below, thatched huts in the Ugandan bush mango tree! You have to be so get into a not-so-sturdy fishing incredibly flexible, take things trees lining the very bumpy, narrow boat. A 15-minute boat ride to Bethany as they come, just go with the flow. Once road. Village afforded us the most amazing I arrived I saw that I had no chalkboard The Mwangaza Choir, made up of scenery each morning. Wow! Am I or anything to write on for that matter, fifth-eighth graders, were all standing, really here in Africa to teach music?! I no paper, and certainly no copier! I did some barefoot but all in their somewhat my best with what I had – my voice! I wondered what the children looked like and if they were all waiting anxiously for tattered, blue and white striped unitaught them solfege with the hand signs. forms, in an open air structure that the American teacher’s arrival. The I sang parts of the major scale and they resembled a large hut. They were all scenic ride on motor scooters to the echoed me. I also spent a lot of my time silent as I approached, standing tall in village was truly something right out of with the choir on their breathing. Alex their straight lines. The 25 children the pages of a National Geographic asked me specifically to help them with with beautiful white teeth and engaging magazine. We saw Ugandan children this area of need – just like my kiddos running from their thatched roof homes smiles said in unison, “Good morning back home! I took several packages of Auntie Tammy!” This is how I was right out of the bush to greet us yelling, brightly colored balloons and a large greeted each day by this wonderful Mazungu! Mazungu!, which means package of straws with me as teaching choir. This auditioned group was “white man” as we passed by. We saw tools for breathing to sing. The children training to go to Holland for a month’s beautiful mango, banana, and avocado loved the balloons and picked up the
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concept pretty quickly! I always demonstrated and tried to use analogies I though they would understand. They rarely swim because Lake Victoria is too dangerous and no one has pools, so using the analogy of an inner tube in the water as you float would not have been as helpful. The balloons, however, they could see and feel and observe as I demonstrated filling up their ribcage and releasing the air in a slow, steady stream. They thoroughly enjoyed different exercises using these, and it was so colorful when we were taking our deep inhalations and filling them up! They mostly liked the funny sounds when we would all release the air too quickly! I used the straws to help them in “taking a cool sip of air” before they start singing a phrase. These children were so attentive and eager to learn. On my first day with them I noticed that they stood in their lines for over two hours as they rehearsed, rarely ever leaving to go to the bathroom or needing a drink! I thought of my students back at home who frequently whine when asked to stand at all! The focus and discipline of these Ugandan children was really amazing.
A view of Bethany Village, across Lake Victoria from Gaba
he Ugandan kids really only sing two ways – LOUD and LOUDER!! I demonstrated loud, brash, and forceful singing for them and they all laughed. I designated that type of singing by holding up one finger. Then I demonstrated a more open, beautiful tone and designated that style by holding up two fingers. So, one finger was bad singing and two fingers was correct, healthy singing. I constantly reinforced this every day I was with them and had the opportunity. Their already beautiful sound was really much better and they could hear the difference! By the way, the Ugandan children also possess an
Tammy surrounded by curious Ugandan children
Tammy with Joshua and Alex, directors of the Mwangaza Choir
Tammy and Taylor with a member of the choir
The Benton family at Nile River Falls
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amazing ability to hear harmonies naturally and can all dance “lights out!” Their ability to harmonize and pick up their voice part so easily stems from the fact that they hear singing and music in their homes from a very early age and it is part of their daily culture. Watching them play the African drums and dance was entertaining. I thought how difficult it was to get my eighth grade boys to just take four steps forward at the same time! You can sympathize here!
nother interesting attribute the African singers possess, which I find to be ironic when comparing them to the average American public school choir, is their very evident joy in singing and their total body and facial expression as they perform. It is absolutely engaging to the audience and just reaches out and grabs you. Our choirs typically look almost depressed when performing. Seeing videos of our choirs’ performances is like watching a funeral procession in progress and you are wondering . . . “who died?!” The irony here is that the majority of the kids we teach have so much and live in a country that has an abundance of resources. The Ugandans have so little, and I promise you, nothing comes easy to the people over there. Interesting how that works . . . One week prior to my departure from the states, I had found out that I would also be teaching at the high school in Gaba every afternoon. I was told to bring a piece of music of my choosing, in 3-4 parts, for them to learn in two weeks’ time for a contest! Flexibility! I decided to take Shut De Do which my boys performed at TMEA. My boys and their audiences loved it, so I knew that the Ugandan kids would also embrace it. On my first day I was led up a very
Tammy instructs members of the choir
On the first day of class, Tammy presents the choir with gifts brought from the United States
Teaching in the high school
Mwangaza singers in rehearsal
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steep and rocky hill to the first “house” that I was supposed to teach. The singers were grouped into “houses” and each house had a name. The school master took me into this room that was about 20 feet by 20 feet and stuffed with about 40 teenagers who had been at school all day. Did I mention that Ugandan kids do not typically practice personal hygiene? You could not even begin to imagine the odor. Has anyone out there ever tried to teach a class without breathing through your nose?! This building we were in was also under construction with scaffolding, mud, and loose boards everywhere. It was a very loud atmosphere in that all the houses in the area were also working on their songs . . . their very LOUD songs. To add madness to the mayhem, there was African drumming in the room right next door! I had to literally scream all my instruction to these kids every day.
Taylor with Ugandan children
The choir breaks for a lunch of mush and beans
This was the one classroom scenario that my wonderful music education professors at Baylor did not prepare me for!
was finally able to quasi-separate them into sections just by walking around and listening as they sang. I will tell you that finding a key that worked for all in that atmosphere with no instrument was very difficult at first. We probably sang it in a different key a few times! I then just taught the entire song by rote. We did the harmonizing simply by layering each part as we went. Before we started the music, I explained the text to them. In their culture subjects like the devil and light, good and evil, are frequently talked about, therefore the analogies in the song were easily understood. They readily sing all their music with a deep passion as it is such an emotional form of communicating release of their daily burdens and trials of
life in Africa. By the third day, as I was making my way up the hill to the Maranatha School, I stopped in my tracks and just grinned ear to ear when I heard Shut and its harmonies rising up from the many houses and filling the air above me. The goal had been accomplished. Two administrators told me, “We can’t stop listening! We love this music so!” “Thank you!” As our plane lifted off the runway in Entebbe to head home, I thought of the children’s endearing smiles, beautiful white teeth, and their evident joy in singing. Music . . . the truly universal language. I have been so blessed to have had the opportunity to teach the passion of singing to all who walk through my door at Midway and it was that passion that enabled me to travel to Africa to share my gift of music with the people of Uganda. √
Bonded through the gift of music
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Saying “goodbye” to the choir
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FRANK McKINLEY 1915-2008
exas Choirmaster Frank McKinley passed away on October 23, 2008, in Lewisville. Frank was born on June 13,1915, in Winnipeg, Canada, to David Francis and Lillian Belle Arnold McKinley. His family later moved to New Concord, Ohio, where he graduated from Muskingum College in 1938 with a bachelor of science degree in music education and a double minor of English and chemistry. He and his wife, Marilyn, are the parents of three, Alec, Lyn, and Bruce. While continuing his education at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, Frank was a member of the famous Westminster Choir and served as minister of music at Calvin Presbyterian Church Frank McKinley in Philadelphia. He received the master of music degree in 1940 Pavilion of the World’s Fair in New with a major in musicology and York City. In 1972 Frank served as a accepted a position as voice teacher participating conductor for the Third and director of the Chapel Choir of International Choral Festival at North Texas State University (now Lincoln Center for the Performing UNT). Frank studied music educaArts, and in 1974 and 1976 prepared tion/musicology at Indiana University choruses for performances at the where he met his wife. Kennedy Center for the Performing Following a four-year tour of duty Arts with the National Symphony as a warrant officer in the European Orchestra. Theatre during World War II, Frank In 1978 the A Cappella Choir served as director of the music became the first collegiate choir to department at Kentucky Wesleyan record with the Royal London PhilharCollege for a year. He then rejoined the UNT faculty in 1947 and remained monic. In the same year, Frank received the Alumni Merit Award from there until his retirement in 1980. In Westminster Choir College and, in 1980-81 he served as choral director at 1979, the President’s Award from UNT. Colorado University in Boulder. He was awarded the Texas Choirmaster Under Frank’s leadership for more Award in 1980 by the Texas Choral than 30 years, the UNT A Cappella Directors Association. A scholarship Choir presented concerts throughout was named in his honor, and because the United States and, in 1964, made a of his outstanding contribution to 12-week, 9-country tour of Europe music education and international under the sponsorship of the US State cultural relationships, the Muskingum Department’s Cultural Presentations Alumni Association gave him its Program. On returning to the United States, the choir performed at the Texas highest honor in 1984, the Alumni
Distinguished Service Award. Frank also was visiting professor of music (director of choral activities) at The Shepherd School of Music (Rice University, Houston). In 2002 friends and former students at the University of North Texas College of Music established a fund in his honor, The Frank McKinley Endowment for Choral Studies. Frank loved music with his whole heart. He was thrilled when he found a promising new voice and nothing excited him like reading a piece of challenging music. Frank was born to be a musician. He began studying the piano in Winnipeg at five years of age. As he grew he continued his music lessons and also enjoyed reading and playing baseball. His late sister, Ruth Dougherty, used to say that Frank would set the clock ahead when he was supposed to be practicing so that he could go outside and play baseball with his friends. Along with his passion for music, Frank honed his skills as a musician as a young man and truly found music as his calling. His boyhood love of baseball led him to enjoy a lifelong interest in the sport. Frank was a diehard supporter of the Cleveland Indians as a young man, then followed the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. Frank enjoyed all sports, and was a spirited Dallas Cowboys fan. As a participant he earned a letter in tennis at Muskingum College and played golf later in life.
long with his professional acumen, Frank was a man of great character, the highest integrity, and innate goodness. His younger brother, George, remarked often that Frank was a great brother. “Mr Mac”, as he was known affectionately by generations of his students,
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was deeply admired and beloved by all. Many students stayed in touch with Frank and Marilyn through the years. UNT was a source of deep pride and love for Frank, who attended many concerts and sporting events during his time at the university. Aside from weeks filled with teaching “the choir kids” challenging contemporary and more traditional music, Frank cherished his Friday
afternoon golf games with colleagues. The only rule for each game was, “No talk about the music school.” He found the outings to be a wonderful way to relax. Frank is survived by his wife, children Alec McKinley and wife, Ann, of Cedar Park, Bruce McKinley of Flower Mound, and Lyn McKinley of El Paso; grandchildren David and Danielle of Flower Mound, Lisa McKinley and
Scott Duffey of Cedar Park. NOTE: Stories and remembrances of Frank McKinley are in the book, Lest We Forget, biographies of outstanding Texas choral leaders compiled by Charles Nelson and available for viewing during the TCDA Convention. Coming in mid-2009, an online version of the book will be available on the TCDA website. √
DR EVERETTE MAURICE ALFRED 1915-2008 by Randy Talley
aurice Alfred, a beloved friend and colleague, passed from this life on December 6, 2008 at his home in Odessa after a lengthy illness. Dr Alfred was a long-time Odessa resident who taught for many years at Odessa High School and Odessa College. He began his teaching career at Stark High School in Orange. Dr Alfred earned his degrees from Hardin-Simmons University and Texas Tech University where he studied choral conducting with Euell Porter and Gene Kinney. He was a former vice-president of the Texas Choral Directors Association. Dr Alfred was a major influence in the lives of those he taught. He was also a mentor and friend to every choral director who has lived Dr Maurice Alfred in Odessa. The Alfred residence the world”. He once told his most was a place where there was laughter, famous student, Larry Gatlin, that he food, singing, and, of course, choral “should have been a choir director”. dialogue. The storybook home of Maurice, Glenna, and Laurie Alfred in He believed it was his responsibility to teach every choir member to read West Odessa was full of pictures and music. His church choir also learned memorabilia from the many trips about the fundamentals of reading abroad taken by the Odessa College Choir. The concert of “cuckoo clocks” music, and they were always prepared to “name the key” when a new presented each hour was worth a visit composition was presented. He never to their home. compromised his passion for great Maurice was happiest in life when historical music, and he was particuhe was teaching and conducting larly fond of the Impressionist Period, choral music. He believed being a having presented his doctoral recital choir director was the “greatest job in
on the music of Claude Debussy. A fitting memorial service for Dr Alfred was held on December 29th at the First Baptist Church of Odessa. Many friends and former choir members were there to fondly remember their teacher and friend. Jim Loden, his college roommate at Hardin-Simmons, remembered Maurice’s “booming bass voice”. Carlton Roy, an Odessa High School football star and choir member, said that Dr Alfred would have been a great coach because of his discipline and focus. Rudy Gatlin, who was a member of Jim Casey’s Odessa High School Choir, talked about the influence Dr Alfred had on all three Gatlin brothers. Larry Gatlin talked about his longterm relationship with the Alfred family and referenced the movie, Mr Holland’s Opus, saying that Dr Alfred was his “Mr Holland”. It was obvious that everyone in attendance loved and respected Maurice Alfred, and their lives are better for having known him. Maurice Alfred will be missed by his friends and family in Odessa. He will also be remembered by his many choral directing friends across the state and nation. He loved being a part of what he considered the greatest fraternity in the world, the Texas choral directors. √
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Tough Times by TCDA President Bob Horton
o far, this year has been some tough times. Economically, the stock market has impacted us all. Several of my students have had parents lose jobs. Many people in our church have suffered the same fate. Hurricane Ike paid us a visit on September 13. The next 12 days without power proved to be educational for my family, especially my children. The effects of that one-day storm are still being felt in my neighborhood, as houses that flooded have not yet been repaired. On another front, I became acquainted with statistics while working on my doctoral degree. Statistics reminds me of a folk song, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen . . .” Never have I worked so hard, understood so little, and questioned everything about my intellectual abilities. Friends of mine have suffered some catastrophic illnesses. Texas choral music and our association lost a jewel, our beloved Glenda Casey. My mother and grandmother underwent surgeries with little advance notice. I know that I do not have the corner on difficulties, but, as a good friend of mine says, “We only learn things one of two ways!” Of course, he means the hard way or the easy way. Most of us, it seems, have learned far more the hard way. Sometimes we learn from the pain of loss or regret, sometimes from poor judgment or lack of preparation, sometimes just by living through something and reflecting on the other side. Over the late fall and winter, I have read Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch was a brilliant computer science professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Faced with his own imminent end, he began to reflect on what mattered most to him and the lessons he had learned. This line of thought brings a question to mind. What are some of the lessons you have learned this year? I know a few lessons I have learned. “It’s nice to be important, but more
“You are the music while the music lasts.” This quote by T S Eliot comes from a very long poem entitled Four Quartets. The stanza that contains this famous line begins,
President Bob Horton
important to be nice”. This gem of wisdom was shared with me by my friend Angela Rivera. I was honored that Angela spent the final year of her 30-plus year public school teaching career with me. This year I have constantly been reminded that being nice really matters. The picture of an artist that many people have as a blustery, temperamental type was completely reversed by one of the nicest people I have ever met. Dr Anny Cheng called me one afternoon in the summer. She had seen an advertisement for the accompanist job at my school. When I asked her to send me a resume, I was astonished. Anny earned a bachelor’s degree in Taiwan and Master of Music from Westminster Choir College. Her doctorate is in collaborative arts. Talk about overqualified to play for our high school choir! However, what I discovered about Anny was that she was also a nice person. Our kids adored her immediately. Even with her obvious qualifications, she was always polite and respectful to her coworkers and to our students. She is a genuine joy. Anny reminded me of the bits of wisdom my grandfather used to always say, “Make them glad to see you coming, not glad to see you going.” So far, these have been words to try to live by. TEXAS√SINGS!
For most of us, there is only the unattended Moment, the moment in and out of time, The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts. I hope that this year, in your rehearsals, performances with your choir, or your own performance, you have a transcendent moment. I hope you have experienced and shared the joy that comes with completely losing yourself in a moment of making music. “Just because a cat crawls in the oven and has kittens, you don’t call them biscuits”. I have heard this all of my life. One way to interpret this saying is that some things are just not what they seem. Two examples from students come to mind. One was Craig (not his real name). Craig joined choir several years ago with a fabulous pedigree. Both of his older sisters were All-State-caliber singers. His parents, a lawyer and an art teacher, were both totally supportive of the arts. Craig initially showed great promise. He had an amazing tenor voice. He had a great ear, and could imitate almost any sound. His music reading skills were developing quickly. By all typical indicators, Craig was headed for a great career in school choir. He was well liked by his classmates, and was constantly encouraged in choir. What none of us knew was how much anger Craig had, and it began to manifest itself toward his Winter 2009
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classmates, and eventually toward his teachers. Simply put, Craig hated to be told what to do – not a great attribute for a choral singer, right? Sadly, Craig left choir and music altogether for a very long time, without realizing any of his amazing potential. On the other hand, there was Tommy. Tommy joined choir in junior high and arrived at our freshmen boys choir with a five-note range. None of the five notes were very good. However, they basically spanned the middle of second tenor range. Tommy also struggled with reading and with grades. Each grade report would come out, and Tommy was at or just below failing. But Tommy had an attribute that served him well. He was persistent. Toward the end of the ninth grade, Tommy began to take an interest in his grades. One of his motivating factors, he told me, was that he really wanted to go to UIL Choir
Contest. We encouraged him, pointed him toward tutors, and constantly checked in with him to see about his grades. Tommy has not failed a class since ninth grade. Tommy’s range and reading have improved through lots of persistent work. Tommy is now an award-winning student playwright. At our third round of All-State tryouts this fall, he came back from his audition beaming. Because we were hosting, I saw him coming down the stairs after the second part. I asked him what he thought about his audition. Without a moment of hesitation, he high-fived me and said, “We’re goin’ to Waco!” I was impressed with his enthusiasm, and glad that he felt so good. When results were announced, Tommy’s name was called as one of the five, second tenor area candidates. I would like to close with this quote from Mother Theresa. Her perspective
serves us well, as we serve others in music.
hold a harmony part (basic requirements for being an alto) but I also loved singing low. I wrinkled my nose at notes that went above the second space on the staff and protested that they were too high. This did not really make much sense to my mother, a soprano, or my father, a tenor. I think this preference for being an alto was simply indicative of the times. It was the ’70s, and contrary to popular generalizations, the decade was not all disco music, bell-bottom pants, selfportrait-of-the-composer-and-denimcovered music, and Ruth Artman stickfigure choreography. It was also the decade of the alto – a time when Karen Carpenter, Anne Murray, and Toni Tennille were celebrated goddesses of the airwaves. Like their low-voiced predecessors Patsy Cline and Peggy Lee, these women gave us rich, low melodies with an open, warm sound that as young singers, we imitated. What Muskrat Love didn’t teach me about the birds and the bees, it taught me about alto tone. Any girl worth her salt could heartily sing along with Rainy Days and Mondays or I Won’t Last a Day Without You. But where have the altos gone? Turn on the radio today and you are doing well to find an actual melody, much less a tone worth emulating. The country singers are whining through their noses, the R & B singers are embellishing so much that melody is indefinable, and the pop
singers are so distorted by electronics that I’m not sure any of them actually match pitch. Singers do not come to us a blank slate upon which to write. Just ask any group of kiddos to sing Happy Birthday or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and you will get a big dose of what vocal habits are already built into their muscles. Family and cultural experiences play into singers’ tendencies and preferences, ability to match pitch, and certainly the ability to hear a harmony part. As we begin the formal training of our singers no matter what their age, we do not begin with a blank slate like a band director who puts the instrument to a beginner’s lips for the first time. A band director builds a player’s concepts and habits from day one. However, we take on singers whose vocal slates are already written on and in some cases, with what seems like permanent marker. No matter what age you teach, the goal is to have healthy singers – period. Since many of us leave college with little or no vocal pedagogy other than what we learn in our own private voice lessons, our preferences and knowledge (or lack thereof) can write a narrow story on the slate of our singers if we are not mindful of our own shortcomings. Since I was labeled an alto at a young age, I got stuck singing in the bottom range of my voice and did not learn to
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt Give the world your best anyway. – Mother Teresa √
Officer Comments President Elect Amy Allibon
Where Did the Altos Go?
loved my fifth and sixth grade music teacher, Mrs Richardson. She was energetic and passionate about music, and she always seemed to pick songs I loved singing. Truly, I can still sing many of the songs she taught us, word for word, note for note. She frequently told us what a good class of singers we were, and that we were among the best two groups in her entire career. I thrived on the idea of beating the other group and winning first place in Mrs Richardson’s heart. She gave us treats when we behaved, reprimanded us when we deserved it, dressed in special sparkly sequin outfits for concerts, and ignited an eternal flame of passion for singing in me. As I remember, my sixth grade teacher Mrs Richardson was the first person who labeled me an alto. Since I studied piano, I could read music and
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Officer Comments use my head voice efficiently until I was in my late teens. So, as a card-carrying member of the Hairy Chested Alto Club, I have always worked in my teaching to make sure that my preference for ledger lines below the staff doesn’t keep me from teaching a healthy approach to the head voice down through the lower range. Bringing the head voice down on descending patterns helps teach singers to negotiate their middle range without bringing the chest voice up too high. However, at the bottom end of a singer’s range, warmth, openness, and a focused sound can occur when the air continues to flow, the tongue stays forward, the soft palate stays lifted, and the vocal mechanism remains unencumbered by tension. Chest voice is not evil, and singing low needs to be developed and taught.
Past President Danny Detrick
Twelve Things to Ponder after Christmas
know. It’s February. The holidays are long gone and it’s time to enjoy a renewing experience at TMEA. For secondary teachers, UIL music is being prepared and sight reading perfection is a daily quest. For many church musicians, the Lenten season looms on the horizon with special services both large and small to prepare. Elementary teachers have children’s choirs, chime choirs, and Orff ensembles creating beautiful music. No matter what you are currently in the midst of preparing, I want us to take a moment to contemplate what makes your organization an effective one – one where growth and development are obvious and successful experiences occur often. Much research has been done on effective cultures where growth and development are most likely to occur. Summaries of this research point to 12 norms that distinguish those cultures.
Teaching singers to use only one part of their voice efficiently is depriving them of their full potential and ultimately, what they can achieve with their voices for a lifetime of singing enjoyment. Teaching all singers about the use of their voice in all registers is key to development no matter what the age. Singers can be stretched at both ends of the vocal range through exercises that will develop flexibility, warmth, vibrancy, and ease of register shifts. During my undergraduate studies, I was introduced to the work of Frauke Hasseman, longtime assistant director at Westminster, and find her work very helpful. With Wilhelm Ehmann she co-authored Voice Building for Choirs, a handy small paperback full of vocalises for the choir. I am grateful to the work that James Jordan did to organize more of her ideas
into the book, Group Vocal Technique. While there are dozens of books on the subject of vocal pedagogy, this book gives choral directors practical information and vocalises to assist in the teaching of healthy singing. Approaching the first five to ten minutes of a choral rehearsal as a group voice lesson will develop our singers far better than meaningless repetitive warm-ups. Give thought to what you can accomplish in that time to develop your singers’ vocal range and technique. Developing and encouraging singing in all ranges draws a more complete picture on the slate of our singers rather than a narrow tunnel of vocal limitation. Create a sense of pride about singing any part – not just first soprano. Help singers celebrate their entire voice and not just the high notes. ALTOS RULE! √
Each of us is the leader of our organizations and these norms are excellent reference points for us to consider in creating the best organization possible. Think about these norms in the context of the groups you lead, and take inventory. Take pride in the areas you feel are solid and deeply rooted in your organization. Likewise, if any norm seems weak or vaguely defined as you reflect, be willing to set a goal for improvement. In many of these norms, a key component is collaboration. Who is helping you and your groups get better? A mentor or fellow teacher? Your administration? Parents? It is clear that the more isolated we are, the less likely we are to achieve growth and sustained success. 1. Collegiality How is your relationship with those who are in the groups you direct? How is your relationship with the professionals you work with in directing these groups? Is there a spirit of cooperation, excitement, and a hunger for development? Is everyone sharing in the experience with the gifts and talents they have to offer? 2. Experimentation Are you willing to venture out and try new things? The possibility of programming a song in a language you’ve never taught or a meter you are uncomfortable with could be a great stretch for you and your group. Maybe it’s time for you to get over your fear of working with instrumentalists. Pursuing new challenges helps broaden
our horizons and steer clear of staleness. 3. High expectations We almost don’t need research to tell us that great organizations are driven by high expectations. I think we would all agree, though, that high expectations take a great deal of energy! What are your expectations of and for your organization? How do you maintain the energy needed to keep those around you reaching for excellence? Have you ever caught yourself settling for less than you know you should? Set the bar high and inspire those around you to reach with you. 4. Trust and confidence Those who trust each other will gain confidence in the journey they are on together. Those we work with will have deeply-rooted trust in us through our dependability, fairness, and commitment to them. 5. Tangible support Are we present and available for guidance and direction? Do we seek additional help when what we are pursuing calls for it? Additional help could be a clinician called in to help with tuning issues or it could be acquiring enough parent volunteers to facilitate a performance. Are we reaching out and seeking the support necessary for the level of development we would like to achieve? 6. Reaching out to the knowledge bases One of the best things we can do to stimulate growth and increase our organization’s development is call on mentors, experts, and those who have more experience than we have for
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Officer Comments guidance. 7. Appreciation and recognition Do we appreciate and recognize those with whom we work? Do we collectively have a spirit of appreciation for what we are doing? Showing appreciation and finding regular opportunities to recognize those we work with is essential for growth. 8. Caring, celebration, and humor I found this interesting to be cited through much research. However, I did not find it surprising. These elements are visibly tangible when you see a group or organization that is known for success. Do you have systems in place to develop caring and celebration? Is there joy in your organization’s work? 9. Involvement in decision-making Although it is easier to dictate to our groups, developing a spirit of shared decision-making leads to deeper commitment. We can all work on ways to include those we work with in on the decisions that drive the direction and goals we wish to reach.
10. Protection of what’s important Successful organizations have a clear understanding of the foundational elements that are essential to their development and work diligently to preserve them. Take a moment to take stock of what is important to you and your organization. What is it about your choir or class that is worth keeping, protecting, and nurturing? 11. Traditions This seemed obvious for successful organizations, but was of particular interest to me since I had the opportunity to be a part of opening a new school. I remember being painfully aware of an absence of any traditions in that brand new school. Well thought out and purposeful traditions give special meaning, identity, and continuity to what we do over time. 12. Honest, open communication This seems to compliment trust and confidence as well as the general notion of collegiality. Those you work with will greatly appreciate your honesty as well as your willingness to listen to what they
have to say. We could focus on whether we got the monthly newsletter out in a timely fashion or emailed the fundraiser deadline enough times, but communication runs much deeper than that. Day to day interaction has to be two-way and encompass both sharing and listening.
Scholarship Deadline is April 1 Do you know a college student majoring in music with 60+ hours who could benefit from receiving a scholarship? Please contact them and give them the TCDA website address (www.texassings.org) so they can apply for one of our scholarships. We want to recognize, celebrate, and support our future music directors and educators! Deadline for applications is April 1. Also, remember that TCDA offers two professional scholarships in the amount of $500.00 for members seeking assistance with professional development opportunities. √
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Officer Comments College/ Community John Silantien
n my Fall 2008 column, I gave a brief description of a new website offering choral octavos that can be downloaded free of charge. I would like to expand that discussion to further urge readers to take advantage of this resource. The site
is the result of an historic collaboration between the Library of Congress and ACDA. “American Choral Music, 1870 – 1923” features public-domain choral scores by leading American composers of the period. Other websites, such as “Choral Public Domain Library,” also offer noncopyrighted music. The content of those sites, however, is not highly controlled and edited, so the octavos range from well-prepared, accurate, useful scores to those on the opposite end of that spectrum. The Library of Congress website serves a somewhat different purpose. Its contents, at present, are limited to 28 pieces by eight composers. Each piece was carefully selected by ACDA scholars/conductors for its
List of Works Following is a list of works available for downloading on the LOC web site. Mixed Chorus Amy Beach Dudley Buck George W Chadwick Mabel W Daniels Nathaniel Dett William Gilchrist Margaret R Lang
Horatio Parker Women’s Chorus Amy Beach
Dudley Buck George W Chadwick Mabel W Daniels Nathaniel Dett Margaret R Lang Men’s Chorus Horatio Parker
Bethlehem Peace on Earth Festival Hymn O How Amiable O Holy Child of Bethlehem While Shepherds Watched Enchantment Don’t Be Weary, Traveler I Love Thee Lord Ponder My Words The Hawthorn Tree The Old Man with a Beard The Old Person of Cassel Bow Down Thine Ear God, That Madest Earth and Heaven
Organ Organ Piano Organ Organ Unaccompanied Piano Unaccompanied Piano Organ Unaccompanied Piano Piano Organ Piano
Far Awa’! Through the House Give Glimmering Light Bedtime Elfin Song Inconstancy The Voice of My Beloved Done Paid My Vow to the Lord There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight The Lonely Rose
Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind My Love Three Words Valentine
Piano Unaccompanied Unaccompanied Unaccompanied
Piano Piano Piano Piano/2 vlns. Piano Piano Piano
musical and historical value. Prefatory Material
Another unique feature of the LOC site is that each piece is accompanied by background information about the work and the composer. Such prefatory material can be helpful in placing the piece in context and bringing it to life. Following are samples of the kind of information available on the website. Nathaniel Dett Spirituals
Nathaniel Dett was a composer and conductor who taught at the Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia, 1913–32. He trained the choir at that traditionally African-American school to a new level of musical excellence. The 40-voice Hampton Singers performed at Carnegie Hall in January 1914. In 1930 the choir sang for President Herbert Hoover at the White House en route to New York, before embarking on a six-week tour of seven European countries. The Library of Congress collection contains dozens of spirituals arranged by Dett. ACDA researchers uncovered three gems that are included on the new website. The prefatory essay gives information about the first publication of the pieces. It also describes some features of Dett’s performances with his Hampton Singers. For example, one writer noted that when his singers came to a high note in one of the spirituals, they hollered. The writer felt that was justified in conveying the “convinced, unquestioning enthusiasm” necessary in performing spirituals. Dett, in his teaching, emphasized that the pulses in spirituals were all alike, that there were no primary or secondary beats. He wrote, “The rhythm of the songs might very well be compared to that of the human pulse which is a series of throbs all of equal intensity.” He was opposed to the style of “swinging” the spirituals. This information can provide first-hand insight into performing Dett’s spiritual arrangements in the style he intended. Dudley Buck’s Bedtime for Children’s Voices
Dudley Buck was a New Englandbased composer born in 1839. His “Bedtime” (1906) is the fifth of Five Three-Part Songs for women’s or children’s (the octavo specifies “boys’”) Winter 2009
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Officer Comments voices with piano accompaniment. The piece begins with the phrase, “Last year my bedtime was at eight, and ev’ry single night I used to wish the clock would wait, or else stay out of sight.” Buck’s setting opens with eight chimes of the clock in the keyboard accompaniment, each chime labeled with a Roman numeral, I through VIII. The mother scolds the child with a minor-mode admonition, “Why it’s late! After eight! And it’s time you were in bed.” In the coda, the chimes are sounded one more time, “sleepily dying away”, but they extend the bedtime by a half hour, I–VIII (1/2). This is a very clever and accessible piece for young voices. Margaret Lang’s Limericks
Margaret Lang’s Dramatic Overture (1893) was the first piece by a woman composer performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Though she is
High School Billy Talley
TCDA’s Got Talent
ave you ever attended the annual TCDA Barbeque and thought to yourself as you listened to the entertainment, “I could do that”? Well, do we have an opportunity for you! For this summer’s entertainment, TCDA will hold it’s first ever “TCDA’s Got Talent” competition. Among the thousands of TCDA members, we have an amazing number of talented musicians who can certainly do more than simply play warm-up exercises on the piano. This is your chance to show off your musical abilities, or whatever abilities you may have that would be entertaining. “TCDA’s Got Talent” will feature our own members performing for cash prizes! Thanks to our friends Lu and Kakkie from Pepper of Dallas-Fort Worth, we are awarding cash for the top acts. We are looking for all kinds of entertainment, and nothing is Winter 2009
little-known today, she broke new ground for women composers early in the 20th Century. She was very self critical of her works and frequently destroyed them. Luckily a number of her well-crafted, clever settings of Edward Lear rhymes have survived in the Library of Congress collection. In her SATB setting with piano of Lear’s The Old Person of Cassel (1905), she humorously interjects numerous “ha, ha” responses to each line of text. The nose of the old person of Cassel was “finished off in a tassel”, which Lang paints with a stuttering musical figure that sounds like a stifled sneeze. In her setting of Lear’s The Old Man with a Beard (1907), the piano part is filled with twittering figures to represent the two owls, one hen, four larks, and a wren, who built their nests in the man’s beard. The troubled man relates the problem, according to Lang’s musical
out of the question. Barbershop, pop, oldies, show tunes, tap dancers, accordionists (is that a word?), jazz, country, juggling, bluegrass, knife throwers, ventriloquists, opera, and line dancers – there is absolutely no limit to what you can do for “TCDA’s Got Talent”. We will have a celebrity panel of judges for the show. These judges will determine First, Second, and Third Place Winners who will receive cash in the amount of $500, $200, and $100 respectively. How many of you could use an extra $500? You can’t win if you don’t play! Here’s what we need from you. First, get your act together! Polish up your performance, then video the performance and put it on a DVD. Second, send the DVD to the following address: TCDA’s Got Talent C/O Billy Talley 4400 Olsen Amarillo, TX 79106 Along with your DVD, please include the following: Names of all participants Title of your act Length of the act Number of microphones needed We will provide a basic sound system, TEXAS√SINGS!
direction, “with anguish”. My university choir recently performed these two miniatures. We interspersed them with readings of other humorous Lear rhymes, and we printed period drawings in the program of the two men mentioned in Lang’s pieces. Log On
The Library of Congress has recently approved a continuing expansion of this valuable website. In the coming year, audio examples of the music will be added as well as some 50 new octavos. Works by important early 20th-Century figures such as John Knowles Paine, Arthur Foote, and Edward MacDowell will be included, as well as an unpublished manuscript by Charles Ives. Log on to www.loc.gov/performingarts to support this exciting project and find some music that you can use in tomorrow’s rehearsal free of charge. √
CD player, and piano. You provide whatever else you need for your act. DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES IS APRIL 1, 2009. When the TCDA Board meets in Austin this May, we will view all of the entries and narrow it down to the 12-15 finalists. You will be notified by June 1 if you are a finalist. All finalists will perform in “TCDA’s Got Talent” during this summer’s Convention. Soloists must be members of TCDA. If you perform with a group, at least one member of the group must be a TCDA member.
Healthy Choral Tone Over the years, I have supervised a number of student teachers. One of the questions that I am asked is, “How do you know what kind of sound you want the choir to make?” That is truly a great question. What is a great tone? How do we find a tone that works for us? Do we need to work for the same tone on every piece? How do we develop variety of tone? How do we implement good tone in our rehearsals? These are questions for which I don’t have definitive answers. Tone is a subjective area of choral music. Some 17
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Officer Comments like a straight, vibrato-less sound while others opt for a full-bodied opera chorus sound. Some like a dark, covered tone. Some want a bright, forward vocal tone. There is such a wide range to choose from it can get a little confusing. I’ve heard directors refer to a “West Texas sound” when describing the tone of choirs from my part of the state. Is there such a thing as a “West Texas sound?” Or a “Metroplex sound?” Or a “Gulf Coast sound?” Are we bound to stick to one single type of sound because of where we teach? I don’t think so. As I examine my own preference of tone, I use the following criteria: • Make sure the tone is appropriate for the age of the singers. I don’t want my high schoolers to sound like they are still in middle school. At the same time, I don’t want them to sound like they are approaching menopause. Challenge
Middle School/ Junior High Kathy Lollar
Serenity for the Middle School Choir Director
have heard it said that the only constant in life is change. Although I am well known for my need to plan every detail of my life, years of dealing with family and friends have softened this obsession. As much as I have tried, I have found myself powerless to control the actions and attitudes of others. Experience has taught me that the only power I have is the ability to control my own reaction to a given situation. For a control freak like me, working with pre-teens and young adolescents can prove to be exceptionally stressful. Some educators enter the junior high classroom with fear and trepidation. I must admit, the middle school clientele has earned quite a reputation! In a world of energy, hormones, and peer pressure, the lone adult in the classroom must possess traits of a superhero in
your singers to sing “a little older than they are”. But don’t go to the extreme and create future vocal problems for your students by asking for a sound that is not natural for them. • Address proper breathing, posture, and vowel formation every day. During the course of each rehearsal, make sure you are developing good habits in your singers. An outstanding director in my region says, “Stand like a champion!” If your tenors are impersonating a giraffe reaching for that highest leaf, something is wrong. A good, tall vowel is essential to a healthy tone. • Imitate choirs whose sound you prefer. I was very fortunate to sing in a great university choir at West Texas State under Dr Hugh Sanders. I like the sound that we made. I enjoy the richness and clarity of the St Olaf Choir and Concordia Choir. The more I listen to these
choirs, the more I want my choirs to lean that direction in the area of tone. • Work on tone in every aspect of your rehearsal. During warm-up time, during sight-reading practice, as you work on phrasing or balance or diction, keep good tone at the center of everything you do. Never be satisfied with an unfocused, breathy sound, even if you’re “just sight-reading”. As you begin your UIL Choir Contest preparations, I hope you will give some thought to the kind of sound you want your choir to make. You can sing with great precision, beautiful phrasing, and dynamic variety, but if your choir doesn’t have a well-supported, open tone, you might not get the rating you want. Great tone will make the difference. I wish each of you the best of luck during the upcoming contest season. √
order to succeed. I entered middle school choral education after a decade of sharing music with elementary children. During my earlier years, I had established a calm and predictable elementary classroom environment. I fully expected to continue similar class control methods with my older students. Only a few days into the new school year, I came to the terrifying realization that an hour with a group of young teens is far from predictable! My thoroughly detailed lesson plans would have been the pride of any college education professor. My plans were based upon sound teaching technique. Students would be able to demonstrate skill in sightreading as well as in areas of vocal development. All the while, they would also develop a love for music while being extremely courteous and cooperative. But day after day, my plans fell by the wayside and I reverted to “seat of your pants” survival techniques. At the end of the day, I felt like a failure. At some point in my career, I heard a speaker associate a well-known verse with middle school teaching. Commonly known as “The Serenity Prayer,” the words of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr have changed my actions and my reactions in dealing with middle schoolers. I cannot remember who shared these words with me, but the
stanza has become my daily mantra as I deal with young teens. Long used as the daily prayer for 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (do you see the irony?), these words offer exactly what I need to know as an educator of young people.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Let me share a few ways I have learned to adapt this message to my dealings with middle school students. I must admit that total serenity is not a state of mind that I have yet mastered, but when I allow myself to take a deep breath, smile, and think of these words, I feel a lessening of my stress level during rehearsal. I apply a bit of humor to the situation and become a better teacher. The serenity to accept the things I cannot change
• Boys will be boys! A boy who enters his first year of middle school choir is only a child. Although his body may resemble that of a teenager, he still possesses the qualities of a child. At age 11 or 12, most boys simply cannot be still. Wiggling is not an activity that they choose just to drive adults crazy, they Winter 2009
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Officer Comments actually must move. This need for motion seems to be most satisfying when the movement results in hitting a neighbor. I have learned to give my boys lots of personal space on the risers to avoid potential problems. • Girls will talk…and talk…and talk. Observe the soprano and alto sections during your next adult church choir practice. My guess is that during the rehearsal, singing among the women will be interspersed with chatter. If adult choir members find it difficult to keep their thoughts to themselves, why should we expect anything different from our younger counterparts? Females are very social beings. There is just so much to say! Young ladies can be trained to save talking for designated periods during the rehearsal, but it will take time and practice. • Boys’ voices will change. The voice that covered your tenor line today may not have the necessary notes tomorrow. I tell my young men that there will never be a permanent riser arrangement in our choir. Assigning parts among middle school boys is an ongoing process. Check your boys’ ranges regularly. When a voice cracks during rehearsal, make a game out of the event. Give the singer a round of applause and congratulate him for taking another step in his journey to vocal manhood. Enjoy the fact that the middle school boy’s voice is ever changing. Look at your work as a challenge to mold impressionable young men into settled singers in time. Enjoy the process. It is quite an amazing transformation. • In Texas, athletics is king. For your own sanity, just accept this fact. Plan your choir events around the athletic calendar. Although coaches will tell you that students are not penalized if an athletic event is missed because of a choir concert, in most cases this is simply not true. Your choir members and your choir parents know this. Avoid putting your students in the impossible position of trying to please both a coach and a choir director. Make life less stressful for your athletes and for yourself. Schedule your choir calendar with the athlete in mind. After all, don’t you want to encourage students to be well rounded individuals? Offer your students the opportunity to excel in music as well as in athletics. Winter 2009
The courage to change the things I can
• Develop a carefully thought out set of classroom rules and procedures. Establish a routine to deal with everything from gathering rehearsal materials to exiting the classroom in an orderly manner. Think through the arrangement of your rehearsal area. Include preventative measures in order to avoid conflicts among students. Design appropriate consequences for student failure to comply with classroom rules and apply them fairly. • Plan your rehearsals around the traits of the pre-adolescent and the young teen. Include a variety of activities and repertoire in each rehearsal. Incorporate movement activities into each period. Provide wiggle room and short periods of social time. Teach your children to enjoy the less structured time periods in the rehearsal and to quickly return to rehearsal mode when instructed. This transition skill takes practice, but it can be accomplished. Allowing students to be kids decreases stress during high level learning time. • Respect breeds respect. In order to earn the respect of students, a teacher must model the desired behavior. Every young person who enters your classroom has value and deserves to be treated courteously. Young teens deal with lack of self confidence regularly. Avoid responding to students in any manner that would lessen their self esteem. Speak to students in a kind and encouraging manner. I have found that, in most cases, an attitude of mutual respect will prevent most classroom problems. • Deal with discipline issues calmly and fairly. No matter how we try, discipline problems in the middle school classroom cannot be totally avoided. In dealing with conflict, remember that YOU are the adult in the situation. Do not allow your frustration with a student to determine your behavior. Breathe and think before responding to a challenge. Quietly remind the student of the classroom rules and consequences. If the situation escalates, remove the student from the classroom and deal with him/her in a private conversation. Allow the student to save face, but make your expectations clear. TEXAS√SINGS!
Apply discipline consequences fairly. The wisdom to know the difference
Public school choral directors do not enter the profession with dreams of counting tardies, writing referrals, and monitoring TAKS testing. Many of us dislike the management aspects of our jobs. First and foremost, we consider ourselves musicians. For most of us, the pursuit of musical excellence has long been our passion. We have spent our lives as musical over-achievers. It is difficult for us to realize that most of the children in our classes do not come to us with this desire. Our goals for students involve the enjoyment of art and beauty. In a perfect world, eager youngsters would come to us with an intense desire for learning. They would take in our every word and strive to achieve their personal best in every rehearsal. Our lofty goals for students and their inability to comply with our ideals causes conflict for the music educator. This conflict can result in a great deal of stress. I have found a measure of contentment in my own teaching by keeping “The Serenity Prayer” in mind. I always consider that my middle schoolers are really just children who reside in bigger bodies. I have learned to choose my battles carefully. I have decided to avoid frustration by altering my expectations of student behavior and responding with a sense of humor. I attempt to create a classroom atmosphere which includes mutual respect, a variety of activities, and lightheartedness. My goal is to provide a setting where young musicians can flourish and where I can enjoy my time with students. I have found that adapting my personal goals to the level of my students has not lowered my musical standards. A few minutes of laughter each day has not cost my choir a single sweepstakes trophy. My courtesy toward students has not limited my authority as a teacher. The resulting classroom atmosphere has created a climate of acceptance and security for my students and for me. I feel less stressed about my job and enjoy most days with my kids. I encourage you to give some of these tips a try. May you all enjoy a more serene new year. √ 19
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Officer Comments Elementary Karen Gonzalez
reetings to you all. I hope the holiday season was not only filled with joyous sounds of concerts and programs, but also filled with rest, relaxation, time with family and friends and a renewal of spirit. This school year has been a year of many changes for me. It is my first year as Elementary VP of TCDA, I am teaching at a new school after being part of the gang for six years at my old school, my eight-year-old is no longer going to the school where I teach, and my physical being is much smaller and healthier than it has been in almost 20 years! For as many changes that have occurred so far, one thing remains constant in my teaching and will probably never change – the importance of teaching children to sing. We play instruments, move our bodies, and learn theory in music class, but what we do first and foremost is sing. There are many reasons that singing is important. Singing teaches history, vocabulary, language, literacy, fluency, phonics, mathematics, science, and a host of other academic skills. Singing also teaches thinking skills, social skills, and gives students motivation to learn. Singing creates a positive school environment if the students love music. At my previous school, we had a “song of the week” that was played each day at the end of announcements. I would send a PowerPoint™ presentation to all of the teachers and the entire school would sing together each and every day. The teachers and the students loved starting the day with a song. Singing teaches musical concepts such as fast/slow, high/low, soft/loud, beat/rhythm and all of the other skills that are stated in the TEKS. I firmly believe that pitch matching should be taught at the earliest possible age. It isn’t addressed in the TEKS until fifth grade (5.2A) – a little late, don’t you think!
Singing teaches basic thinking skills. Reasoning ability, intuition, imagination, creativity, and problem solving skills are all attached with singing. But maybe most important is that singing is an emotional and artistic expression like none other. The body produces singing, but the emotional connection makes us feeling human beings. We experience sheer joy, utter despair, calmness, agitation, and a host of other emotions when we sing. It is our responsibility to share the emotional side of singing with our children. I make it a point to use words like beautiful, sensitive, compassionate, love, and many others that aren’t a part of daily word usage. We must encourage our students not to be afraid to feel what they are singing and hearing. While teaching a song about veterans, I had several students get teary-eyed when we sang the song. The remarkable thing about it was that no one even thought about laughing or making fun, but I went to get them a tissue and gave them a hug. That’s what singing is all about folks! What goes into teaching singing? The understanding that breath is the foundation of singing! An instrumental major knows the importance of breath – you cannot play a woodwind or brass instrument if you don’t have breath support. Transfer that to singing. I tell my students that air to a singer is just like gas to a car. The car will not run without gas, and you cannot sing properly without air! It’s fun to see the light bulb go on when they hear that analogy. It is our responsibility to teach them good tone quality and timbre, vowel placement, and production. If you were not a vocal major, make it your mission to learn more about the voice and how it works. There are workshops at TMEA and one specifically this year at TCDA that will relate directly to the non-vocal, instrumental major, elementary music teacher. We do our children a disservice if we put them on stage and they look great but sound lousy. It is not enough to tell them to “sing loud” if they are not producing a healthy and pleasing sound. As teachers we need to use proper breathing techniques, vowel placement, and production of tone quality when modeling for our students. Face it – we are constantly modeling for our students – why not make it good? TEXAS√SINGS!
Talk to your students from the earliest age about singing posture. Let them know why it is important to stand or sit up straight. Use visuals to show tall vowels. Years ago I attended a workshop by Susie Low and she showed us a tennis ball with a slit in it. She had drawn some eyes and a nose on it and I think she even had glued some hair on it! When she squeezed the sides of the slits, the mouth opened in a north/south position. You will be amazed how easily some concepts can be taught if you will just use simple visuals and other people’s ideas. Echo songs are a great teaching tool for pitch matching and tone quality. I have used I Sing, You Sing by Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse for many years and these songs are wonderful. There are many times I will sing the songs a cappella – the children don’t always need accompaniment. Singing a cappella makes their ear more acute. I will always sing with an age appropriate tone – remember modeling is key! My teaching partner in the afternoon introduced me to I Sing, You Sing Holiday Songs and they are wonderful as well! Whatever resource you have or choose to use, just make sure that you don’t allow the students to what I call “yell sing”. It not only sounds bad, but it is harmful to their voices. If you sing softly, make them sing softly, it will reinforce their learning. A third grade teacher gave me one of the nicest compliments I have received at my new school. Her husband is a secondary choral director, she is a musician as well, and their kindergarten daughter sings like an angel. Her comment was that the kids actually sang the songs instead of yelling them. I wanted to hug her – I think I did! There will always be some children who are not matching the pitch, but when the overall sound of a group is melodious, it is a wonderful thing! Because singing is so important and teaches so many different things, it is our responsibility to teach our students well. Singing is a skill that will last them a lifetime. We must take our responsibility seriously by making singing enjoyable while at the same time teaching proper technique. Happy singing and enjoy the rest of the school year! √ Winter 2009
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Officer Comments Church Thomas Coker
will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also.” So says Paul near the end of the famous “love” chapter of 1 Corinthians. What is your vision for music in your church? Is that vision, in fact, happening in your church now? I’m not necessarily speaking of performance here. Before there can be meaningful performance, there needs to be the “joy” of singing. Does the congregation sing for the sheer joy of singing? Is it what you would like it to be? Is what we are doing in our churches encouraging the joy of singing in children, youth, and adults? I am assuming that readers of Texas Sings! have all had early experiences that planted and nourished the joy of singing and of music. Where did your joy of singing come from? What early experiences did you have that gave you this joy which you now pursue as a career or at least as an avocation? Alice Parker says in her delightful little book, Melodious Accord, that she came to realize “that where there is an unbroken tradition of good singing, children grow up hearing their parents and neighbors sing, and recognizing that they love to sing. It is the norm. They simply join in.” These words made me go back to recount where I developed my early love of singing. In my childhood, I remember: Family and extended family singing together in the living room. (My father even recorded some of these family “singings” on his old reel-to-reel Webcor tape recorder. It had to be the first generation of tape recorders.) Singing song after song on car trips Singing lively and reflective songs in church – both in Sunday School and in worship Going with my folks to “singing conventions” at my grandparents Freewill Baptist Church
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Later, as a high school student, I strongly remember how the band members sang song after song on the bus as we traveled. I remember how the director of our national championship marching band enjoyed the singing of his students’ informal rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic so much that he actually scheduled the band to sing it during a school assembly program. He introduced it, and then stepped out of the way while the band members sang a cappella and without a director, the same way we did it on the bus. I’m thinking that anything we can do to encourage the delight found in song is what we ministers and church musicians should be about. I am a believer that this love of singing is “caught” as much as it is “taught”. I am also thinking that the more we understand about the kinship singing has with worship, the more we will know how to help people of all ages find their voices and, by extension, find life at its fullest. For this idea I am deeply in the debt of Austin C Lovelace and William C Rice who influenced this young college student with their timely and thought provoking book, Music and Worship in the Church. Lovelace and Rice write of four main characteristics of music that give it what they call “an organic relation to worship”. These characteristics are: Mystery Emotion Creativity Affinity to language
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God is mystery. The human mind cannot comprehend God. The Book of Job, which contains the earliest biblical writings, tried, and was given credit for, trusting and worshiping through the inexplicable hardships he endured. The Psalmist captures it in many places. The one that comes to my mind is Psalm 8: “When I gaze into the night skies and see the work of your fingers . . . what is man that you are mindful of him?” Paul says, “Now we see through a glass darkly.” Loveless and Rice say it this way: The mind of man cannot comprehend the wonders of God; it can only see the occasional flashes of light which shine through the glory holes of life. . . . music helps man to express the inexpressible. TEXAS√SINGS!
As a child when, on a summer night (before daylight savings time took away the night), we lay on our backs and looked at the stars in the night sky, the words from a simple little children’s song, “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are”, helped us express this mystery. Emotion
Both music and worship express the personal and the universal, and are intimately intertwined with emotions. Music is an incredible tool we can use to help us express the full range of emotions. Whether it is a toe-tapping tune or a pensive ballad, music provides an aid and an outlet for us to relate to and express ourselves – and those tunes are also capable of leading us to see and worship God. When the high school band I was in sang the hymn, Now the Day is Over, in four parts a cappella on a bus on the way home from a football game, it became a prayer moment for many of us. When, after 9/11, the song, God Bless America, was sung at a baseball game, it was very cathartic and so filled with emotion that it has since been added to practically all professional baseball games. Creativity
Music, like worship, is not done once and finished. A song is never exactly the same twice. It has to be recreated, sung again, and interpreted again to have life. Worship is the same. As long as there is life, there is the need to worship. There are new confessions to be made and new praises for what God is doing. It is not done once and finished. And, somehow, don’t we feel nearer to God, the great Creator, when we create? Music has an affinity to language
Lovelace and Rice say it best. Both music and language “are forms of communication evolving from the impulse to give voice to the feelings and to express thoughts.” The graph below from Music and Worship in the Church has helped me see how valuable the marriage of music and text is. <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- -Speech Emotions Imagination Intellect Music - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - > So, music speaks from emotion to the intellect, whereas speech speaks in 21
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Officer Comments exactly the opposite way. One “feels” music first. One may have to “live with” a musical text before the meaning fully sinks in. I sometimes think this is why hymns become more valuable the longer we live with them. The text has moved from the emotion to the mind – the intellect. On the other hand, speech speaks first to the head – the mind. A very gifted (or manipulative) speaker may eventually get to the
Secretary/ Treasurer Janwin Overstreet-Goode
Point Me in the Right Direction
any choir directors spend some portion of their time in score study and marking in preparation
emotion, but that is not where it begins. So, what is the vision we have for music in our churches? Without a vision of what we want it to be, it surely will never become that. I’m thinking that, for me and for my church, I want the joy of singing with body, mind, and spirit to be uppermost. Alice Parker says that, “The congregational voice is the heart of all
church music. It can and should be beautiful, meaningful, musical, full of the Spirit, responsive both to text and tune, and magnetic in drawing together all who hear.” She also admonishes, “There are churches of all denominations . . . where congregations do sing well, and it is always because there is at least one person who is actively expecting it.” Let’s be that person! Let’s do it. √
for rehearsals. However, devising a system of score marking directed at our singers could be a more effective and efficient use of our pre-rehearsal preparation. For example, many directors and singers use commas to represent breath marks – it’s fast, easily understood, and effective. Conductors and singers also use phrase markings or slurs to indicate no breath – also a fast and effective way to mark a score. As an educator I am always looking for ways to communicate more effectively with my choirs. Establishing a system that conveys my wishes as a director and is easily understood by choir members has made my rehearsal time more productive and more efficient.
One method I have found particularly beneficial involves the use of directional arrows. They can be written quickly in the music and are a shorthand form of more extensive instructions; this saves time in rehearsal and can be quickly interpreted by the singer. Although many directors use “up” arrows or “down” arrows to indicate whether a pitch is higher or lower than expected, arrows have many other potential functions in score marking. Following are examples of arrows that have specific uses and functions in the singer’s (and conductor’s) score. I have included excerpts from Sing Joyfully by William Byrd (CPDL) to illustrate the use of each arrow.
UP-AND-DOWN ARROW – This arrow is useful for reminding singers to use tall vowels, especially “ah” and “oh.” Drawing this arrow in front of a syllable quickly reminds the singer to drop the jaw and sing with space (for example, now, thy, blow)
“UPPIE-DOWNIE” ARROW – This symbol reminds the singer that the pitch ascends, but not as high as they expect. This is particularly useful if a pattern changes (ie, Do up to Sol becomes Do up to Fa.) In the following example, the arrow is used to remind the singer to sing Do instead of the Di which comes after.
down to Sol becomes Do down to La, or, in this example, Re moves to Di instead of Do.)
RIGHT ARROW – This is useful to remind singers to carry a phrase to the end of a measure or beat, especially with a half note, dotted-half note, or whole note. It is also useful as a reminder when a note value occurs that is longer than expected (ie, a half note instead of a quarter note)
The RIGHT ARROW can also be used to indicate a pitch that repeats unexpectedly. “ DOWNIE-UPPIE” ARROW – The opposite of the “Uppie-Downie” arrow, this indicates to the performer that the pitch descends, but not as much as they expect. Again, this is useful if a pattern changes (ie, Do 22
“LAND-ON” ARROW – This arrow is most often used Winter 2009
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CONVENTION ’09 The Cliff Notes
by sopranos and tenors for pitches that lie above the staff. It is a quick reminder to approach the pitch from above rather than reaching for it from below. Altos and basses can also use this arrow effectively for pitches that lie at the top of their range.
■ MS/JH Honor Choir Application Forms for the 2009 MS/JH Honor Choir are in the mail Or download from http://tinyurl.com/a2g84x Guest Conductor is Judy Bowers from Florida State University.
UP ARROW – This symbol is used to remind singers that the pitch is higher than expected or previously experienced (Mi up to Fa becomes Mi up to Fi; Do to Fa becomes Do to Sol.) The following example relates directly to the musical excerpt for the “up and down” arrow, as this passage begins on a higher pitch than the previous phrase.
■ Directors Chorus Application Forms for the 2009 Directors Chorus will be available soon. Watch your mailboxes, physical and electronic. Guest Conductor is Z Randall Stroope from Rowan University.
DOWN ARROW – The opposite of the Up Arrow, this is used to remind singers that the pitch is lower than expected or previously experienced. This can be particularly useful when accidentals occur in the music. In this example, the “up” arrow could also be used at the appearance of the A#.
■ TCDA’s Got Talent New for 2009 — Be the Star (and $500 prize winner). Download application and more info from http://tinyurl.com/8gmfkn
For All Convention ’09 Info Visit TexasSings.org
The following directional arrows are more common uses of the symbols, and are here as a reminder of their usefulness in score-marking: UP-RIGHT ARROW – This symbol can be used to indicate an ascending passage in the music. It is also useful to direct a section to join another part (ie, alto join soprano 2), or even to switch parts. DOWN-RIGHT ARROW – This arrow can be used to indicate a descending passage in the music. It can also be used to direct a section to join another part (ie, tenor join baritone), or even to switch parts.
Convention Dates for 2009: Wednesday, July 29-August 1
When my students have difficulty with a passage, I ask them to determine what is causing the problem, and then we decide if there is an arrow that will help correct the problem. In the vast majority of rehearsals, the problem is almost instantly fixed. The use of directional arrows can be an efficient and effective tool in your rehearsals. They are a quick shorthand method of expressing more complicated instructions, saving time in rehearsal and resulting in an instant solution to the choral problems they address. √ Winter 2009
Exhibit Schedule Exhibits will open on Wednesday afternoon during registration. Plan to register at 3 and rush right in to visit your favorite exhibitors and meet some new ones! Note: There will be no exhibits on Saturday morning. Get your shopping done early! 23
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