As I start each school year I always hope to do it better than the previous year. I assume I’m like everyone else in that manner. I try to look back to everything that I did “wrong” or that could/should have gone better during the previous years and learn from those mistakes. I also work towards making even better experiences for my students.
The past couple of years I have devoted a good deal of time to making sure that my students understand what is in their control and what is out of their control. I rehearse my show choir students three times a week for 45 minutes. For us it is a class meeting before the school day. We work on three different productions during the year, as well as prepare things for our choral concerts. In our athletically-dominated school environment my students yearn for victory and anything less is just not worth the effort. This has been a hard paradigm to shift, but I am finally seeing the labors over the past two years paying off in how they view success.
It seems every year they try to set goals of winning, placing in the top three groups, etc. where everything has a trophy or ribbon attached to it. They are finally starting to understand that trophies and placements are outcomes, and that their goals have to lead them to the point where they have taken control of every rehearsal, every note and every move and used those minutes and seconds to their advantage.
How did we change things? Well, we took awards completely out of the goals. From there we asked what they needed to do to perform to their best. How can they measure their individual performance, support everyone else in their group to achieve their best and how can they all achieve at the same high standard simultaneously? They watch themselves on video and listen to their audio from rehearsal after rehearsal. They take judges and clinicians very seriously because the see the show from an outside perspective and have no ties to anything that we have already created. It has been a game changer for us because my students now decide IMMEDIATELY after each performance if they have succeeded in out-performing their previous performance, and if not, they discuss what they have to do to make it better – and yes, they treat rehearsals the same way.
Students and directors have no control over what another group is going to bring to the table or what a judge or panel of judges may think of a show that you’ve invested so deeply in. Once the students start to understand that they are competing in a very subjective area, they learn to appreciate everyone else’s performance and they don’t view it as competition, but more of a celebration of what other schools are doing in this crazy art of show choir. I wish you all the best for this school year and please feel free to reach out if you have questions or need information.
NCDA Show Choir R&R
Skutt Catholic High School, Omaha, NE
I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of our three NCDA Show Choir Festivals this school year. The registration forms are online and available now. This year the festivals are at Central City, Chase County and Omaha Skutt Catholic. The Central City and Chase County sites will run as they have in the past, with a 20 minute performance spot and a 20 minute critique session. The Skutt Catholic site will try a new format with a 20-minute performance spot and a 35-minute critique session, hopefully allowing for more positive interaction with our incredible clinicians from across the area. There are also member and non-member registration rates, so feel free to share the link with middle school and high school show choir directors around the state. We’d love to support everyone’s program with our festivals. https://goo.gl/forms/i8T3oi1YHWmsvmsk2