Singing in a choir at any time in your life can be a very moving experience. Your one individual voice combined with others creates this feeling of oneness and community through songs in harmony. Everyone in the room becomes connected on many levels.
Using Connection in the Classroom
As the choir teacher at the Indianapolis Junior Academy, I have demonstrated this oneness with the 65+ students in the room. For example, I like to play a fun choir game that involves everyone in the room closing their eyes and listening to the accompanist play the introduction of the piece, and then pausing where the choir is about to start singing. Unknowingly, everyone will breathe together naturally, not because the conductor is showing them, but because they feel and sense everyone else in the room. It will sound as if all 65+ people took a breath as one person, and the effect is surreal. Some of the students did not believe that they would all breathe as one, and some thought it was a silly exercise. But after we did it, they thought it was exhilarating. Many even got chills.
My Own Experience in Choirs
I have been involved in choirs for as long as I can remember. Everything from 2nd grade children’s choir at St. James Catholic School, to going on to be a Vocal Arts major at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, then to Hofstra University as a Music History major with a choral focus, and now to singing with the Indianapolis Women’s Chorus and teaching choir at the Indianapolis Junior Academy. One thing I love about teaching at Indianapolis Junior Academy is that the choir is filled with all of their 3rd - 8th grade students. It is for all of these students, not a select group by audition only, but actually a requirement. This is not common in many schools any longer! There are some students that love to sing, and others that are using their voice for the first time. Some have been in choir a few years now and are old pros! The beautiful thing is that in moments similar to the game I described, regardless of age, interest, or ability, all of the students have a congruity, a connection, that is intangible and unique.
A Worthwhile Challenge
Directing choir doesn’t come without its challenges. As students only have choir once a week at IJA, I have to make the most of my time, teaching them about basic theoretical principles, how to sing as a unified voice, musicality and performance strategy, all while having them memorize pieces that are challenging enough to keep them interested without being too difficult that they will not be ready by the time of the performance. But the experience of creating a beautiful corporate sound is worth it.
Last year, we did a piece called Famine Song arranged by Matthew Culloton that uses word painting; they sang “rain” many times throughout the piece, and the last time they sang it they began to snap slowly and softly, grew faster and louder, only to die away as they finished the song. It made it sound like it was raining at the performance, and the audience was amazed!
Choir, and music in general, is a unique artistic medium that provides students a connection that is beautiful and priceless.
Peace, love, choir.
- Jessie Ann Bolash, Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy.