Thursday, September 27, 2012


Our performance time has been given to us, but I am not telling the girls until Monday, Oct 8. We have a TMEA Student/Parent Meeting after the Fall Concert - we'll unveil a sketchy itinerary at that time. They are getting anxious!

Today, we just rehearsed as every choir should every day. I asked them what they wanted to work on and this is what they chose:

Gia il sole dal Gange - needs the most work, so WORKED it today. I introduced them to count-singing and their brains were hurting afterwards. We only used it for 2 measures! But we spent a lot of time in those measures working out the kinks.

The Ring - they wanted to work on those harmonic sections and those half steps. So, we did. They aren't as bad as they thought, so dynamics entered the picture. At this point, the music began to breathe new life!

Au Joli Jeu - We marked our music where cross voicing occurs - then sang those measures. Isolated them. A lot of cross voicing can make a singer feel like their brain is short-circuiting.'s a little early for that, but it really takes intellect to maneuver through those measures. Especially when c.v. occurs every 4 measures!

Regina Angelorum - we didn't work on this during class time rehearsal. We rehearsed it during morning sectionals this week. Rhythm! AIR!!! Lots of it!

This is what I am saying in my sleep - SPACE! Separate your teeth! Commit to the vowel shape! The space in the upper range must be as big as the space in the lower range....with the same amount of air flow! SPACE! SPACE! SPACE!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week 5, Day 22

Here's the general status of the music and the girls---
Au Joli Jeu - all voice parts learned by every singer. We are now singing parts together from start to finish and stopping to pick apart the details. This piece will not be performed on the Fall Concert. It will be performed for Solo & Ensemble Contest - the group of 32 girls will be divided into 3 ensembles to perform. Those ensembles have been assigned. We are working on neutral syllables. Text will come soon - no later than October 9 or 10, maybe sooner. A colleague is making a French pronunciation recording for us. As a teacher, I LOVE teaching this piece. It is difficult, but accessible. Teaching all singers all parts forces the musician to really THINK and respond to the music - they think in parts and globally.
After making a couple of Finale blunders, I have issued the real music to the girls. I inputted all parts into Finale, then printed each voice part out individually. Like a band part. Soprano 1 went great. A really good sightreading exercise. Soprano 2 was swimming along nicely when I realized that I made mistakes in m25-26 and m51-52. So, I corrected, reprinted, reissued, the girls re-solfege'd - we went on our merry way sightreading. Then Jan Juneau gave a listen and mistake #2 was the SAME measures, just a different mistake. Horrors! I went ahead and issued the original music at that point - they recycled all of the individual scores. The girls seem to really like the original music more because it is edited well with breath marks, crescendos/decrescendos, and accents - they can see where they need to go with a phrase. The Finale version was just notes.
Gia il sole dal Gange - m1-48 is learned and we can sing parts together. It is rough. We need to move on and learn other notes. We understand it is a work in progress. I would like to be further along in this piece, but we are working on FOUR pieces at one time at the beginning of the school. That's a lot for middle school singers of any level. The girls really love the melody and harmonies of this piece. They like how they sound. This is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, so it is lovely experience for all of us. This piece was composed by Alessandro Scarlatti when he was 19yo - that fact still amazes me.
Regina Angelorum - we have made it successfully to m20. We need to move on. It's a scary piece though. It shouldn't be, but it is. It's a Grade 2 piece on the UIL Prescribed Music List - it should not be hard. It is through composed by Mozart - when he was 11 or 12yo. It is brilliant piece of litany - not boring at all.
The Ring - oh, this piece! The girls sound amazing on it, and then it falls apart on a run of half steps or a pesky tritone. Michael is coming back on Friday - I'm just going to let him run with this piece. He worked it for 4 minutes today. Not enough time.
Rehearsals - overall, rehearsals are going well. I require a lot of these girls. They are singing in 4 different keys and they have to sing the starting pitch for each piece after the tonic triad. Now that laptops have been issued, uniforms fitted, fundraiser collected, and t-shirts have been decided, I think we can get down to business of singing. September to October - we move from 2 part morning sectionals on Th/F to 3 part morning sectionals on W/Th/F.
Jan Juneau visited for a listen last week during class. I published her rehearsal notes on our school's cloud for the girls to read. Marsha Robinson has come 2x to help with rehearsals. Brianna Kruse worked the girls during Tuesday afterschool rehearsal - just working on tone placement. Lots of forward placement. I took notes and published them on the cloud as well. The girls loved her. Sally McGowan - our regular accompanist has been coming each week to help in rehearsals - with sectionals or just as a rehearsal accompanist. Aimee Thompson has been coming for small group help. Michael Goede comes on Wednesdays and Fridays to listen or work with the girls.
The Girls - they are still dedicated. They want more from the music than just notes. I'm trying to move as fast and accurately as I can with them - keeping them energized and interested. They are overwhelmed with schoolwork. My best girls are showing signs of "too much" - they get scatterbrained and can't remember everything. They enjoy school. They like each other. We have begun making a music video for the VIP luncheon - they are super excited about showing ways that make them feel proud.
Upcoming - Kendra Welton Lipman will be with us all day Tuesday as our clinician. We have a set of rehearsals on Friday, Oct 5 and Saturday, Oct 6 with group photos somewhere in there. Fall Concert is October 8, then it is Solo & Ensemble time. The next leg of this trip requires running shoes with lots of support.

The days blur together....

Last weekend was the high school District auditions - the first level of the All-State audition process. I was supposed to judge, but lost the job b/c they overhired judges. After the initial disappointment, I discovered that rest was needed because my body went into exhaustion mode. Tescille's exhaustion mode = Sinusitis. Rest, rest, rest, and a whole lotta Mucinex later - I'm a lot better.
Meg - what a kid. She is babbling non-stop, singing, dancing, cuddly, laughing, showing creativity, and throwing fits. The adults in this house are lucky to get 5 hrs of sleep each night - 3am is her "witching hour" right now. The other night I learned patience as I sat and watched her scream and flail about in the crib for 45 min at 3 o'clock in the morning. I have no idea why. Maybe those bottom molars? I just love her. Loving a child is deep and I gain new understanding of it each day.
The music is coming together. Not as fast as I would like, but it is happening. The girls - geez, I just don't know if I could have a better group of stellar young musicians. Every day from 11:45am-12:45pm - the sun shines brightly in the Krimmel Choir Room. The other hours are pretty great, too.
What I need right now is 10-15 consecutive days of rehearsal without interruption. Then we could see REAL progress. Progress is surely happening, but the next 3 months loom like a black cloud. October, November, and December are filled with interruptions in the instruction timeline.
We have Soprano sectionals in the morning - I'm going to focus on Regina Angelorum during that time. Try to punch some notes and teach style along the way.
During the next 3 days of instruction - we are just going to rehearse and pick apart details. I need to move from solfege to neutral syllables - that's a scary step for me. It is good for tone unification, but scary when those 7th grade voices start forgetting pitches. Then I have to reteach notes. ack.
The primary clinician comes on Tuesday. We need to be a bit more ready than we are, but that is okay. It's not February just yet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reality Bites

Today, was the realization that I cannot put one more thing on the calendar in the next 2 weeks. There is no room to accomplish everything I want to do. So that I can prepare for the day, I am getting to the school between 7:00-7:30am. The school day is 9am-4pm. I often don't leave until 5:30-6:00pm. I feel like I am working non-stop during this time and yet, there is still a long task list. Each week, I hit this 'point of no return' exhaustion, but somehow, I keep going. Wonder Woman has to crash sometime.
On the way home from work tonight, it hit me that I will not be the mother I want to be this year. Is it sad that I think, "Well, my child is still young, she won't remember"? Yes, it is! I resolved that I will live completely in the moments that I am with Meg. Honestly, that is not a lot. 1 hour in the morning, 1-2 hours in the evening, and 48 hours of the weekend. It's reality.
I'm berating myself for the little things that I cannot solve, that won't solve themselves, and I cannot control. I am overwhelmed.
This too shall pass...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Singing & adolescent girls

I truly believe that not just music, but singing, transforms lives. The happiness that is involved in singing, lyrics, making music, being with friends - it is evident in these photos.
Thanks to Joel Wren for catching some fabulous moments from our Advanced Treble Choir Reunion, August 13, 2012.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lots of notes

The second week of morning sectionals - the girls are taking their first individual test singing Au Joli Jeu Soprano 1 m15-22. I count m14, they have to count themselves into m15 (they count beats 1-2-3, then sing on beat 4). I listened to half the choir this morning - they sound good. Just for this singing test - notes and rhythms are solid, just a few tuning issues at the phrase entrance. While they wait, the other girls are re-doing solfege for the Soprano 2 of the same piece. I made a mistake in 4 measures when I recreated the piece on Finale. At the end of sectional, we have 10 minutes to spare and they sing through the Soprano 2 part.
During class time, Marsha Robinson and Sally McGowan came to run a 3 part sectional. We worked on Gia il sole dal Gange. It was a rotating sectional - each voice part received 10 min with each instructor. Sally reviewed m7-20, checking for rhythm & pitch accuracy. Marsha taught m21-34 and I taught m35-48. My policy is for students to derive pitches and stay away from the piano. The altered pitches are the only exception. The girls feel better about the beginnning after working with Sally, they loved Marsha, and the part I taught.....well, it's scary for Soprano 2's and Altos. Moving eighth notes and intervallic leaps in order to support the Soprano 1 melody line. Marsha has some good ideas - sing fun words on intervals that are difficult, like chocolate and yummy. Who wouldn't love a difficult interval if you can sing the word chocolate on it?
One of the things that I talked to the girls about yesterday is accepting constructive criticism. At this point, they will have a lot of people talking to them about musical concepts - they need to be ready for correction and apply it to improving their own skill. Middle school girls have lots of emotions to wrangle but learning a work ethic requires thick skin and quite a bit of determination. I'm very honest with the girls - I do not lie b/c a wrong pitch is a wrong pitch. Nobody wants to hear wrong pitches. We can't make this journey successful if I am the only one instructing and encouraging the learning process. Momma Riser is not the only opinion that matters. Musicians help musicians. That is how we improve our skills.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The Universal Calendar - I believe in the concept wholeheartedly, but I can't make it right now. I have too many calendars in use right now. Here's my list of calendars:
  • Personal Calendar on my cellphone
    • I input all of these dates
  • Professional Calendar on Microsoft Outlook
    • I input all of these dates from #5
    • This calendar synchs with #1 on my cellphone
  • Sightreading & Lesson Plan Calendar for Advanced Treble Choir
  • Sightreading Calendar for Men's, Intermediate, & Girls Choir
  • Fine Arts Event Calendar
    • I have to keep this updated for the front office.
  • Clinician Calendar
    • I had to start this one b/c I need to keep up with who is coming to our classroom during the week to help the girls.
  • Charms Office Calendar
    • all choir events are loaded here for parents & district personnel to see
  • Krimmel Choir LMS Calendar
    • all choir events are loaded here for parents & campus personnel to see
This is way too many calendars to manage people. I want a secretary. Or I'm going to need someone to manage me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 days into school

Here's what's happening:
  • Au Joli Jeu - Everyone has learned Soprano 1 part. Singing test on m15-22 this week. Today, the girls began learning the Soprano 2 part. I threw caution to the wind and had half the group sing Soprano 1 and the other half sing Soprano 2. It was rough and we won't do that again for a while.
  • Gia il sole dal Gange - we began reading this piece on Friday, and the girls have learned m.7-20 so far. That was better as parts together than I expected.
  • Regina Angelorum - m8-20 are learned and it is time to move onto parts in m21. The unison is nice.
  • The Ring - this one sounds really good m2-34. The harmonies are really lovely here. This is by far the favorite of the girls.
I have had Michael listen to the girls - he is impressed with how much music they know already. Sally has come in 2x for sectionals. She came again today for afterschool rehearsal to play parts and run a short sectional on Gia il sole dal Gange. I've asked a retired choir director, Marsha Robinson, to help run a 3 part sectional during class with me and Sally. I'll be calling another retired choir director tomorrow to help some more.
It's note-punching time. Along the way, we are learning style.
The girls are dedicated. To the point that one of the girls who forgot rehearsal and went home........her mom texted me with a picture of her daughter standing at the back door trying to get in the Fine Arts Hallway afterschool. Serious effort.
Can I just say.........these girls are super duper talented?!?! Everyone should be this spoiled. They have prepared their music with numbered measures, rhythms, solfege, etc. They are energetic and sing confidently. They know their rhythms! I think we will pretty much school UIL Sightreading this year on the dotted quarter-eighth note rhythm. I find myself expecting my other choirs to move just as fast - have to be careful on that point. 32 girls - such a blessing. So much love!
Other topics - uniforms ordered. fundraiser in full swing. movie night $$ due tomorrow. going through the handbook one page per day. the kids got their computers today & tablet camp is tomorrow. choir officer elections are Friday.
A well-oiled machine in full range of motion.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sectionals & more sectionals!

Today, we began morning sectionals. Thursday mornings in the month of September are Soprano sectionals. Fridays are Altos.
Currently, we are reviewing the Soprano 1 part of Au Joli Jeu. Everyone will test over measures 15-22 next week in morning sectionals. We began Regina Angelorum today. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm! Students must be able to identify & demonstrate mastery of these rhythmic phrases before solfege enters the picture. The girls & I discuss the rhythm, write in the counts, 'clap & say' each measure then phrase then section, repetition ad infinitum. Then once rhythm is mastered...add a layer...say the rhythms while handsigning solfege. More repetition in the same process. Reverse the process...say the solfege while tapping the rhythm. At this point, comfort & ease are found. Wait! We haven't even sung a note?!?! Now, it's time for pitches. Slow down. Sing pitches completely out of rhythm. Say the solfege in rhythm. Now SING the pitches in rhythm SLOWLY. Oh, the lightbulbs begin flickering inside those minds! More repetition until mastery is achieved on pitches & rhythms.
Wow. THAT is a process. Just to begin 1 song. In a 45min morning sectional.
During class, we had breakout sectionals. Mrs. McGowan & Mrs. Thompson came to help students review, catch up, & keep moving forward. Mrs. McGowan worked on review of The Ring & prep for the Au Joli Jeu singing test. I worked on Regina Angelorum in my sectional as well as prepped Gia il sole dal Gange to begin during class tomorrow. Mrs. Thompson worked with small groups, checking solfege & giving sightreading tips.
Not a minute is wasted. We are just getting started, but I feel like we are in full swing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Grand Payoff

Uniform Fittings all day long. I could not have done it without help from parent volunteers. Along with the seamstress, we had 1-4 parent volunteers per class period. It made the day go very fast.
Tomorrow is Fundraiser Kickoff. Let me stop right here and say, I have a love/hate relationship with fundraisers. Really. Everyone does. Love #1 - my fundraiser rep is pretty spectacular. Our 7 year relationship makes me feel so much better about what I can do in the classroom everyday. No one else dare darken my door unless they can match her awesomeness or provide a better cookie dough product. Love #2 - applying last year's fundraiser profits to this year's purchase of choir uniforms for the Men's Choir. We did this a few years ago for the girls - over 2 years time, we bought Concert Dresses for the 7th/8th grade girls choirs. This was a $6,000 investment using fundraiser profits from 2009-2011. For the 2012-2013, we are purchasing vests and pants for the guys, black skirts for the 6th grade girls, and extra/replacement dresses for the 7th/8th girls - all with the fundraiser profits of 2011-2012. This is a huge investment of $4,000-5,000. The boys are so proud that they now get to wear tuxedo pants and a really cool vest. Love #3 - fundraiser profits are at a point that kids can start applying 10% of their profits to their Schlitterbahn ticket. A great incentive. Especially when so many kids can get half off or free tickets this way.
Hate #1 - the community is oversaturated with fundraisers, so parents tend to resist the pressure. They buy a couple of items or none at all. Hate #2 - the fact that we have to fundraise in order to supplement our programs (and yet it does so much good). The good outweighs the bad (probably b/c I <3 my fundraiser rep). The point of fundraising is to give the profits right back to the kids in tangible ways and make the programs they are involved in better. So, we buy uniforms and sound system equipment. They look good and can be heard.  The sound system - we are still working to achieve greatness - the equipment is expensive. We'll get there.
Onto other technical topics (if you are not a musician, this may get confusing for you), just keep trudging) was the first afterschool rehearsal for Advanced Treble Choir. It was a 2 hr rehearsal, but time flew by very fast. During classtime (and uniform fittings), the girls worked in quadruplets - writing rhythm counts & solfege for a couple of pieces - to be ready for the rehearsal. At the beginning of the afterschool rehearsal, I vocalized the girls for a long time - getting those voices warmed up & ears turned on to listen. Then we dug into the music - they were hungry for it. We began The Ring, working 2 part music. First, we clarified any problems from our classtime lesson (difficult rhythms, questions on solfege). Second, we listened to a youtube recording while looking at the music. At that point - time to sing! Simple harmonies centered around the tonic triad - good ear work. They moved through 2 pages rather well - working rhythm, then pitches. Parts separately, then parts together. The girls liked what they heard - simple harmonic 3rds and 6ths always make the young female ear feel comfortable and successful. We revisited Au Joli Jeu on the Soprano 1 part - it's been about 3 weeks since we last looked at it seriously. The girls are surprised at how singable the melody is & it repeats 2-3x. There is still some work to be done in order for the melody to settle on their ears. Isolating a few measures & transitions within the form. I told them that they have to finish Soprano 1 this week. Next week - they will have a singing test on Soprano 1 and begin the Soprano 2 part. Thus begins the process of hearing vertical harmonies. Learning a new part while testing the previous forces the chords to stack up in their ears. Call me crazy, but it works.

In that rehearsal - I heard the greatness of tone coming through. It's magnificent.

At the end of the rehearsal, we did some team building. We attempted the Sitting Circle of Trust several times. Difficult & hilarious - even when we released our hands. We talked about our TMEA t-shirt - the design, the t-shirt color - as well as our "everybody" Choir t-shirt. Then, I opened the floor up for affirmations. "Who has affirmed or encouraged you thus far in our journey?" A few hands hesistantly went up to share things like "I've learned that ______ & I have a lot in common, like our love of Broadway musicals, and I don't feel quite so alone."

These girls are precious & they are workhorses. I have to be careful, they will get tired along the way. Ultimately, they have my heart.

Our TMEA program

So here it is.....our TMEA 2013 program for all of you followers out there on the World Wide Web.
Au Joli Jeu from Two European Madrigals
Jannequin/Harris, Walton Music
Giá il sole dal Gange
A. Scarlatti/Sieving, Santa Barbara Music Publishing
Regina Angelorum
Mozart/Bennett, Hal Leonard
Welcome All Wonders
D. Brunner, Hal Leonard
The Ring
Dvořák/Liebergen, Carl Fischer
Igraj Kolce
Slovenic Folksong/Jakob Jež, Earthsongs Choral Music
The Turtle Dove
English Folksong/D. Bacon, Alliance Music Publications
in medley with
Scottish Folksong, arranged by Tim Winebrenner, BriLee 2013 catalog
(the last tune has yet to be revealed to the choir, so it remains the mysterious Song #8)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pay Now or Pay Later

The Pay Now or Pay Later principle has been around forever, I'm sure. I didn't learn until 9 years ago in a Fred Jones Tools for Teaching training session. It made sense. In fact, all of Fred Jones' ideas and tips make sense. I don't teach without them. But right now, they are getting in the way of singing. With the "pay now" principle, I do a lot of administration at the beginning of the year. 2 days of campus procedures. 2-3 days of choir procedures. Plus 4-5 more.....Tomorrow, all choir students will be fit for uniforms. Parent volunteers and the seamstress are coming to help out. Wednesday, it's Fundraiser Kickoff Day. 2 days of not singing. Ugh. BUT I am paying now, so I don't have to waste the days later. When the business of singing is ready to be done, classroom procedures supports the flow.
I have yet to go through the choir handbook, talk about fees, events, etc. I've overviewed the calendar, presented my "expectations", and passed out 1 flyer about an upcoming social. At some point, I'm going to get to those social contracts that I learned to do in Capturing Kid's Hearts training. There is SO MUCH to do!
The Advanced girls begin their extra rehearsals this week - Tuesday 4-6pm, then Thursday & Friday morning sectionals for 45min each. We'll gain back some time.
I am ready for the singing to begin. No doubt the kids feel the same way.