R/S Chair Blog

Saturday
Aug252012

Keep doin' what you're doin'!

Just a push to all of you out there.

I was randomly contacted by 4 of my former students this week (all going to different college/univ). They all said how glad they were to be able to sight read in an audition for choirs at their next level. Even though they didn't always like it, they do now and appreciate it more. One is a sophmore and mentioned that she still feels like others are following her because she has no fear.

None of these students are music ed. majors. They want to continue singing in choir. HOW GREAT!!

SO, as we start into the next tunnel of the school year. Push on through the numbers and solfege, on through the note names and rhythm counts. Push on through the theory we squeeze into all of that. Push on through the encouragement and "cheerleading" everytime sight reading is opened.

What my kids say to me, they to all of us, "Keep doin' what you're doin'!"

Beth Enloe Fritz, Jazz  

Saturday
Jul072012

Resources for Recording Honor Choir Audition Tracks

As I began to prepare for my conference session focusing on making student honor choir audition recordings (Saturday at 9:00 am), my first hurdle was deciding which sound recording and editing software to include in my presentation.  When I made audition tracks in the past for my fifth and sixth graders, I used SoundForge to record and edit my files before burning them to CD.  It's a great program, but if there is a less costly (or even free) alternative, it deserves to be explored.  I had experimented with Audacity at the time, but I found it didn't have the flexibility I needed to record tracks and burn them to a CD. 

Since Audacity is a free download, I couldn't ignore it as an option for the conference session.  I did a little research on Audacity and discovered it has recently been updated to version 2.0.  After downloading and installing the program, I was impressed to see how much progress had been made with this new edition.  True, it does require you to download and install a second file that allows you to save your sound files as MP3 (as required for submission to the MCDA website), but that file is also free, and once you install it, you can export unlimited files in the MP3 format using Audacity.

After this discovery, I quickly made the decision to focus the presentation on Audacity since it is a free cross-platform download.  Further research revealed several web-based resources that will provide assistance beyond the manual linked in the Help menu of Audacity.  If you were planning on attending my Saturday morning session on recording you have a sneak peek at the content of the session, and here's  a chance to look over some of the things we will cover.  Bring any questions you have to the session and we'll try to work through them together.  It would also be helpful if you have a chance to download and install Audacity before the conference.  Try the program out and you'll be better equipped to participate in the discussion.  Experienced Audacity users are also welcome to attend to share their experience with us.  If you've used Audacity before, you will be pleased with the upgrades included in version 2.0.

Audacity Download Link:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Instructions for Downloading the program that will allow you to save MP3 files with Audacity.  The link to the download is included in these instructions.

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/FAQ:Installation_and_Plug-Ins#lame

Audacity Tutorials:

http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/tutorials.html#workflow

http://www.makeuseof.com/tags/audacity/

I created this tutorial video to demonstrate how Audacity can be used to edit and combine segments of the honor choir auditions into one MP3 file.  It is hosted in the Honor Choir section of the MCDA website, but I have included a link here.

http://moacda.org/honor-choir-recording-tutorial/

 

Now I'd like to ask for some help from you.  What types of recording software and equipment are you using to create honor choir audition tracks?  What are its strengths and weaknesses?  I'm interested to hear what other people are using as I prepare for the session. Please share your experience and knowledge with me and the membership by posting a comment to this blog (the link is at the bottom of this blog entry).  If I read about a great product that comes highly recommended in a blog comment, I want to be sure and share it with those in attendance at the session.  Even if you don't attend the conference or the technology session, here's your chance to share your knowledge with the rest of the membership. Thanks, and I hope to see you at the conference.

 

If you haven't downloaded the mobile conference schedule app yet, check it out.  There are still 120 downloads left and I've heard great feedback from those who have already downloaded it.  You can create your own custom schedule of events you want to attend, as well as create a to-do list to keep track of all those things you're going to do with the great information you receive at the conference.

 

Monday
Jun042012

Treading Water or Swimming?

This past week and a half I was lucky enough to sing in a choir with 23 other tremendous musicians with gifted voices led by the world-renowned Simon Carrington.  As one of the younger and less-experienced members of the group, I was very aware of the game of "catch-up" I was playing constantly to be up-to-snuff and make a strong contribution to the choir.  This was a challenging battle juxtaposed against a very high musical standard.  No mistake went unnoticed in rehearsal.  Intimidating.  But it was my response to my imperfection was the critical factor: create a snowball effect of self-doubt and sloppiness OR practice, anticipate and execute.  Both this year and last, I have found that being thrown into the musical deep end has increased my skills, boosted a good natured self-confidence, and provided a really enjoyable experience in the moment.

Upon discussing this with my better half, I realized what a parallel there is to those beginning years of teaching (as my third year has just finished up).  Many times in our careers we don't know what we're capable of or maybe we even doubt what we can do.  Our skills, knowledge and experience are still developing.  That's why we ought to throw ourselves in the deep end of the pool every chance we are able because it's only there that we find out if we can swim.  Personally, I've needed a musical "life guard" from time to time to save me.  That's one of the roles my MCDA colleagues/friends have been of help.  But the next time diving back in, there was a better sense of how to stay afloat and I'm on my way to being a better swimmer... I mean... teacher and conductor. 

We must continue to temper ourselves with fire in order to sharpen our skills.  When a good performance opportunity presents itself, DO IT!  When we find a gem at a reading session that would really challenge our singers and ourselves, DO IT!  Let's shed any fear of clinicians, adjudicators or bad publicity.  Let's continue a choral culture in Missouri of movers and shakers who are active with our singers and communities.  We will be absolutely imperfect!  Isn't it a relief to know that in advance?  We now have permission to go out there and DO.  Here's a great quote I got from one of my fellow singers this last week:

"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." - Samuel Johnson

Simon Carrington himself gave an interview last week where he credited his success in large part to being a boy chorister at Oxford where he was expected to be "spot on" for daily services without prolonged rehearsal.  When he arrived at Oxford as a seven year old, he didn't possess the skills, knowledge or experience that the older boys did. But practice, anticipate and execute is what Simon did over and over until he met and eventually exceeded the standard.  While few of us will ever have the opportunity to sing for daily services at Oxford, the concept applies universally.

Happy Swimming!

Monday
Mar192012

Flipping the tone switch

Now is the time in my classroom, like many of you, when we are starting new music after state contest. In giving a variety of music form many different genres and ethnicities, I am always thinking about appropriate tone. We, my kids and I, want to honor the style in front of us. How do I get my kids to flip the tone switch? Moving from doo wop and barbershop through classical and multicultural to jazz creates new vocabulary for vowel shape, vowel placement and breath percentage in the tone. 

Now that they know classical tone relatively well it is easy to always approach all other tones from that genre. More mature placement, lower breath, resonnators open and working. I have struggled with saying "darker" or "lighter" beacuse it is hard for my students to understand that placement. For some reason they lock into "warmer" or "brighter." Also "forward" and "backward" can become exaggrated. I'm not sure why, but my kids quickly respond to "to the teeth" or "in front of the ears." The later works well for my girls. Placement in the synovial cavity (in front of the ears), especially in the upper range, helps precision of pitch and stops them from pushing to get the note out when they are afraid of the top of the staff.

Another "NO WAY!" moment came by accident when I asked the basses and tenors to sing like altos, the altos to sing like sopranos and the sopranos to sing like tenors. All of a sudden everyone gave up their section stigma and, thinking about the best sound that section makes, they locked it in!

I am certainly not an expert. I am excited to continue learning about our human responses for this invisible instrument we work at mastering. I would love to hear what you say to get them to flip the tone switch.

: )

 

Tuesday
Mar132012

Performance Opportunity for Teachers at our Summer Conference

One of the pieces Christy Elsner has chosen for the 5th-6th grade honor choir is Dona Nobis Pacem by Giulio Caccini. This setting, arranged by James A. Moore, calls for unison treble chorus and flexible combinations of adult singers (SSA and/or TTBB). If you would like the opportunity to participate in an exciting performance with our students, please contact me soon. We need four or five singers on each part to make it work. You are not required to have students in the 5th-6th choir in order to sing with us. Let me know what voice parts you would be willing to sing and I will provide you with more details. I am sure it will be great fun!

Stephanie Fridley