Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oct 2 - Clinician Day

Kendra Welton-Lipman, formerly of West Ridge Middle School in Eanes ISD and now Asst Choir at Westwood HS in Round Rock ISD, was our clinician on Tuesday October 2. She worked with the Men's Choir, Advanced Treble, and Intermediate Treble Choirs.
1st pd - Men's Choir In just under 30 minutes, she was able to get more diction and sound out of the guys. Really energetic work.
2nd pd - 6th grade girls. My principal enters the room for a 15minute walkthrough. I was not in the hall greeting the students, I was in the room discussing the previous class with the Kendra. I was NOT happy with this situation - guest in the room, admin makes a quick evaluation - UGH. NO. Not ideal. It's reality. I introduced Kendra to my principal, then she went in the choir office while I attempted to teach class. I'm not going to discuss what my need for improvement is because I don't agree with it completely, plus the situation still rubs me the wrong way. I did not get my way, so this is my tantrum.
4th pd - Advanced Treble - Kendra and I had previously discussed a plan. She warmed up the girls for about 30 minutes. It was divine. She had the girls stand in a large circle around the piano while she led warmup - really putting them through the paces of vocal exercises. Forward tone. Harmonics. Half step work. Afterwards, they sat while she talked to the about the TMEA experience and what they could expect. I expected the girls to have more questions, but they didn't. Hmmm.... At the end of class, I conducted the 4 pieces that they have worked on and she took notes for the afternoon rehearsal.
5th pd - 6th grade girls - I carried on as normal.
6th & 7th pd - Intermediate Treble - Kendra got a better response from 6th pd - the smaller, older section of this choir. They really understood what she wanted from the music and enjoyed the rehearsal. The last class was not as responsive, almost flat-lined, but good work was achieved.
Afterschool rehearsal - Kendra got down to business with the girls immediately working on Gia il sole dal Gange and The Ring. She spent nearly 40 min on the Italian. I had to insert some mental breaks in between to get the girls to unload for 30 seconds. The girls were surprised when an audience of teachers showed up for the rehearsal - I didn't tell them about that part - to gain professional development. There were 10 adults in a room with 32 girls - they were shocked. I took notes the entire time - listening to the girls and to the clinician - then posted them on LMS (our cloud) for the girls to read later. When the girls left, we had a Q&A session with the teachers. It was quite enlightening.
My true thoughts - having a fall semester clinician is scary. It is more wrong note work than I am comfortable with because I think a clinician's job is to polish. It didn't feel like a polishing day to me. She was extremely picky - very intense. The girls liked it but it was the first real rehearsal like that this year. We have been focused on learning NOTES. They were exhausted. I learned that I have not opened myself up enough to the artistry of this experience. The focus of learning rhythm and pitches, entrances, breath management, releases, etc.....overwhelms me. We were barely into the text! Yet, I need to let go and allow these students to enjoy the music. Kendra suggested moving to text earlier in the process. That's a trust issue for me. Yes, solfege is a tool for learning pitches, but I believe that every pitch has to be secure on solfege before moving to text. In the past few years, I have learned that these kids are on information overload. I am more successful teaching solfege - almost to the point of memorization - until all pitches are secure and then moving to neutral syllables and/or text. If the layer of text is added too soon, then pitches will be forgotten and sung wrong. I have a trust issue with this technique, obviously. I trust it too much. Kendra suggested I release the text earlier in the process. The truth is  - I don't want to be correcting wrong notes in January. I want to polishing.
Overall, it was a great day - pleasing and scary. It had to happen.

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