Developing Student Leaders in the Choral Classroom.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018 9:50 AM | Anonymous

Wendee Wolf-Schlarf
Past President

As choral educators, we all have students in our choirs/classrooms who come forward as leaders. The desire to help students reach their leadership potential got me thinking about what kind of experiences currently exist to help students be leaders. I am aware of many MSVMA members who do a wonderful job developing student leaders in their choirs. They accomplish this within the context of their own program. Knowing this is happening in pockets around the state got me wondering if there was something MSVMA could provide that would contribute to developing student leadership within our high school students to help them gain skills which would positively inspire, serve and motivate others through their actions within their choral classrooms at the state level.

Before moving towards considering a state activity for MSVMA, I wanted to see how leadership training was offered on a larger scale elsewhere. I learned ACDA was providing a national leadership workshop “Next Direction” in conjunction with a traditional leadership workshop provided by the Wisconsin ACDA organization. Wisconsin has had held a leadership conference for several years and the opportunity to see how they put their conference together was very appealing.  Three MSVMA members attended the week-long workshop this past June. Traverse City colleague and I, Tami Grove Williams went as observers and experienced how the workshop was put together from an organizational standpoint. Sawyer Schlarf, MSVMA college student member, attended as a conducting student and served as a mentor for the high school portion.

The week long experience was divided into two focus sessions, each lasting 3 1/2 days. The week started with college choral music majors working with Dr. Joe Miller (Westminster Choir College) and Dr. Matthew Arau (Lawrence University). Sessions were offered on creating a culture of positivity in the choral rehearsal as well as foundation work on score study, conducting gesture and rehearsal sequencing. The second session focused on high school students who were considering going into the field of choral music in college and were identified as leaders within their high school choral programs. Dr. Edith Copley (Northern Arizona University) was the headliner with college conducting students staying on as mentors.

Dr. Copley touched on many of the same focus points shared earlier in the week but put them in context of leading within a high school program. She started by asking students to reflect the characteristics of a person who inspired them. Dr. Copley encouraged the students to approach all their time together with positivity and willingness to examine the gifts they already possess as leaders and the skills they can develop to be even more affective. Throughout the various sessions and rehearsals that followed, Dr. Copley lead by example with sharing/doing first and then having students reflect on the experience. Such concepts were:

  • Purposeful warm-ups which help prepare for the teaching concepts covered in the rehearsal.

  • Leadership as a singer in a section vs. being the conductor.

  • Individual score study/prep so singers are prepared to lead by example and help teach.

  • Basic conducting skills that students can develop in their conducting gesture (beat patterns, style, entrances and cut offs)

    Erin Kurtz, Sawyer Schlarf, Dr. Joe Miller, Dr. Edith Copley, 
    Wendee Wolf-Schlarf, Tamara Williams

The entire week was inspiring and has energized me to do more to support and grow leadership within my choral classroom. MSVMA provides wonderful performance opportunities for students and engaging professional development for choral educators. Experiencing the “Next Direction” workshop confirmed it was time to offer a professional development experience for our high school students who are leaders in our programs. I am very excited to announce we will be offering at MSVMA Student Leadership Conference July 30-31, 2019 in conjunction with the MSVMA Summer Conference. Be sure to look for details in the weekly MSVMA updates.

As innovative leaders in vocal music education, we provide experiences to inspire our diverse community.
Our vision is to reach the hearts of all people through song.

The MSVMA Offices are located in the Timme Building on the campus of Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan.

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