Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Warm-Up: Getting it "right" - Part III

"Real" Words in the Warm-Up

It seems to me that the next step after the unification of vowels and the use of consonants might involve singing words that change per note.  I realize this very practice is what we generally do from morn till dusk in choral music…and we have done this very thing since we began singing as toddlers...but once the mind is engaged in vowel unification and consonant clarity in Warm-Up, it is our hope that students will think of each word in a new way.  Right?  Sing it differently…make certain the vowels are unified….engage the ears, too!  Watch out for those middle consonants!!

You might find some helpful warm-up exercises that will assist in From Concepts to Concerts.  If you have the book, take a look at pages 73-78.  You will see some examples that will assist your students in the very types of ways I think might be helpful.  Basically, it is the same step-by-step process…start slowly, giving students time to think about the voice, the ear, etc., then move to shorter note durations.

Once students have sung individual words successfully, meeting criteria…maybe then it is time to sing a short phrase…a "sentence."  Many of us have sung the "1, 3, 5, 8, 5, 3, 1" phrase "It's a fine day today"….there are a gazillion of them "out there," or we can make up our own meaningful sentence, based on whatever students are experiencing in their lives that day…current events…or…maybe something meaningful in the lives of your singers.  Maybe someone has won an award, received special recognition for an achievement, etc.  Why not a warm-up in regard to that accomplishment?  Celebrate achievement with a Warm-Up!  Celebrate with friends!  A short phrase gets it done…for those of you who have not been lyricists, you will likely enjoy this process…and your students will love it.

Length in the Warm-Up:
For each example, try to keep your tasks limited to 2-4 measures.  Yes…I have written longer examples  in From Concepts to Concerts.  In most cases, we were trying to get everything on a single page…however, please feel free to sing examples in segments.  Students can feel overwhelmed with the length of tasks.  How can I get from here to there?  Just take a segment, go for success, then add a measure (or so) at a time.

At this point, I think it is important to encourage teachers to remember to give 1) positive reinforcement for successful achievement in the Warm-Up, along with 2) all feedback regarding academic (music-related) performance.  In my opinion, the latter is the most challenging area for a teacher in the Warm-Up.  When do you give feedback in the Warm-Up? If you give feedback while students are singing, their own thought process and evaluation might be disrupted…and…if a teacher is speaking, how can they hear?….and….if a teacher is stopping to give feedback between each half-step increment in the warm-up, and if (according to research) stopping a choir functions as can there be a flow to the Warm-Up that will achieve the purpose of the Warm-Up?  How can a Warm-Up be "pleasant" for students and teacher?

Okay…an expressive "face"…and maybe even specially designed "gestures" that mean something to students (you must tell them what they mean…else, they won't "get them")…maybe these types of silent feedback (nod, smile, eyebrows raised, finger pointing to the sky, conducting gestures for dynamics, etc.) would be the best.

Sometimes I just wish there would be an area of teaching that is "easy."  It is all difficult..every bit of it.  "Yea" for choral music educators (church, school, community)…you are the heroes of choral music in every way…you are the reasons many of us are doing the things we love…you are the reasons many of your students are now attending the choral concerts of their children…you are the reasons there are successful doctors, lawyers, accountants, social workers, performers, and all sorts of other contributors to society…attending Handel's "Messiah!"  It is a wonderful and noble thing that you do.  Hallelujah!  So sweet!  Have a great year!

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