On Thursday, October 20th, IC ACDA held an inspiring workshop entitled “Teaching for Transfer in the Choral Rehearsal,” led by our very own Visiting Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education, Dr. Linfors. This presentation was focused on utilizing moments in the rehearsal that have a singular, specific objective to give students the opportunity to transfer the information they learn in one aspect of rehearsal to another.
Dr. Linfors started the workshop by talking about the reversal of the warm up. He talked about how the typical choral rehearsal starts with warm ups, followed later by rehearsal of a variety of choral pieces. Then, he asked us what would happen if we “reversed the warm up,” which was followed by confused silence. Dr. Linfors explained this method as thinking of concepts that students need to focus on in order to improve performance on the pieces you later plan to rehearse with the students.
Then Dr. Linfors split us up into three groups, each assigned the task of presenting a choral warm up that addressed challenging vocal and choral issues unique to that specific piece. Each group was given about five minutes to collaborate. Then we gathered back together and shared our warm ups, explaining how they addressed a specific passage or trait of their assigned piece. Dr. Linfors then asked the group why it is important to incorporate concepts into your warm ups that will apply to the chosen repertoire. As a group, we truly began to come to the conclusion that the element and skill of transferring information from one context to another is a highly important skill and one we all wish to encourage in our students. But in a more specific musical manner, when the teacher provides their students with a new concept in a warm up, then the students can go into a rehearsal of the piece with more informed ears, goals, and strategies in mind to assist them in achieving the desired goals shared in both warm up and rehearsal.
Dr. Linfors then switched gears after this deliberation and we talked about the promotion of solfege at the high school. We talked about the tendency for high school teachers to introduce the solfege scale and then expose their students to solfege primarily with sing new songs. This manner, in effect, can lead to assuming that all your students have similar solfege reading abilities when there are often a few students who are and many followers. Dr. Linfors suggests that we promote the use of solfege in our students to a point where when students hear a series of notes, they will hear solfege syllables. One example of the great suggestions Dr. Linfors gave us is for an elementary setting. Teachers can add a verse in a song that has the solfege syllables as the text. This way, when students are remembering the song, they can more easily recall the solfege syllables and retain the intervallic relationships in the song.
What happened next was one of the most exciting parts of this workshop. He passed out a copy of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus to everybody and the room went silent. This silence was then broken by frantic humming and exasperated sighs due to each of the four parts, SATB, reading their own respective clefs. So Dr. Linfors gave the preparatory gesture and off we went!
We got through the first two systems, probably as best as could be expected. All of a sudden, when we got to the third system of music, there was solfege written in and the sight-reading level went up by at least 200 percent. The lesson of this exercise was one that I will not soon forget. Personally, I completely forgot what it was like to struggle so hard to read music and I think this was an important exercise in being able to empathize with your students. Additionally, this was a lesson in the power of giving your students the opportunity to transfer something that they already know, solfege, to an unknown concept, different clefs, in order to be able to perform with accuracy. Dr. Linfors suggests that we should be including solfege in the songs we chose for our students’ repertoire right up until the concert. If we switch to having the students sing on text right before students are beginning to get the solfege, they will most likely never improve their solfege, or music reading, abilities.
This workshop was teeming with brilliant and exciting ideas about the element of transfer especially related to solfege and rehearsal structure that I cannot wait to add to my tool belt as an aspiring choral music educator.
~Matthew Coveney, IC ACDA Public Relations Officer