Standards to Empower

I’m always seeking ways to further empower my students, and one way I discovered this year builds on the back of the seven or so “Aces Standards” that are in our folders. These are songs that we sing every year, forming the backbone of a repertoire to enable them to sing a 30-minute set on only once-a-week rehearsals.

This year, I didn’t spend more than a few minutes on any of the seven: introducing them, catching any known trouble spots. And then I turned them over to their student-run Thursday sectionals. I gave the entire of September sectionals to those seven pieces.

So the sacrifice was, they didn’t spend any time on new repertoire between our weekly rehearsals. But in return, I got:

  • A repertoire of ten pieces by Oct 1.
  • Ownership of the music. They prepared these pieces, solving problems on their own.
  • Leadership in the group. Veteran members helped newer members, so everyone had something to work on.
  • Confidence in their skills. They were able to surmount this challenge, proving their ready for bigger ones.
  • A new twist. For students who have been singing these pieces for four years, there was the opportunity to approach them in a fresh way.

Of course, this is only possible because I have students who already know the music – the “standards” programming strategy proves itself again with another bonus.

At first I was concerned about potential pitfalls: Would losing that rehearsal time on new music put us behind? Would they be able to prepare this music with little or no input from me?

In the end, though, it was a very successful experiment. Not only did they memorize and polish this music, but they gained new skills in the process that they can use going forward, both in this musical experience and for their entire lives.