Today, I attended the educational and enlightening panel “Teaching Musicianship Through Repertoire”. The panel was moderated by Jo Michael Scheibe from USC Thornton School of Music, and the other panelists included Jeffery Ames (Belmont University), Hilary Apfelstadt (University of Toronto), Lynne Gackle (Baylor University), James Jordan (Westmister Choir College), and Phillip Swan (Lawrence University Conservatory of Music). All six panelists had recently contributed chapters to the book, Teaching Music through Performance in Choir, Vol. 4. Each panelist gave a brief summary of what his/her chapter consisted of.
Dr. Ames began by discussing his chapter on the recent surge in popularity of concert gospel music. He stressed the importance of providing a historical framework of the origins of concert gospel music. He also explained the significance of including appropriate colloquialisms and never sacrificing tone quality (which, he explained, is the key to performing concert gospel with dignity and honor) in performing Gospel music.
Next, Dr. Apfelstadt spoke about making the rehearsal process effective and efficient by breaking it down into three components: preparation, presentation, and evaluation, and by being both proactive and reactive about each rehearsal. It really resonated with me when she reminded the audience that the goal of the rehearsal process is to “make ourselves as teachers obsolete” by teaching for musical independence.
Dr. Gackle then spoke about developing tone colors with the female voice. She presented us with a wonderful analogy about painting with sound in which the conductor is a painter, the female voices are various shades of paint, the spatial placement of the singers is the canvas, and choral literature is the brush. She also stressed the importance of stepping back to reflect on the “painting” at various points in the process in order to reflect.
Dr. Jordan discussed the choral rehearsal as a means of either “musical first aid”, or short-term repertoire fixes, or as a means of long-term learning. He posed the question: is it more important to be concert ready or to foster musical growth in students? I really enjoyed his insights into teaching theory concepts within a harmonic context and strengthening audiation techniques with the ultimate goal of musical growth.
Dr. Swan articulated to us the importance of collaboration, and talked about the concept of the conductor as a “servant-leader”. He explained that one of the most important attributes of a conductor that can creatively and effectively communicate is diplomacy and the mindset of “it’s about ‘we’, not about ‘me’”.
Dr. Scheibe concluded the panel discussion by sharing his findings about phonation, particularly about consonants and the legato phrase. He delved into some problems that might arise due to improper articulation of consonants and some technical considerations for avoiding these problems.
At the panel’s end, I found myself wishing for more time with the panelists. I left the auditorium feeling invigorated and inspired.
-Nicole Cronin, IC ACDA '20
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