"I can't wait to go home and practice my music!" — No choral singer ever
Practice is essential in producing high-quality choral music, and yet no singer really wants to do it. When it comes to youth singers, the challenge is even more prevailing.
How can we, as music directors, create an environment that fosters healthy practice habits and actually motivate our youth singers to practice? Here are a few suggestions.
Program Pieces They'll Want to Practice
To some extent, every music director programs music with their singers in mind. Finding musical programming that singers will enjoy learning can be a good motivational tool to get them to practice.
How do you know which pieces they want to sing? One way is to get your singers' buy-in.
You could ask your singers directly if there are any pieces they want to sing or any artists they particularly like. If you want to narrow it down for them, try playing a sampling of the musical selections you are considering for the program during rehearsals and ask your singers to vote for their favorite.
Let your singers have some buy-in to your musical programming and they just might buy-in to practicing!
Bonus tip for Chorus Connection customers: Use the Bulletin Board to start conversation threads with your parents and/or singers on their favorite artists and musical pieces.
Inspire Them Through Artistry
It's pretty simple: musicians practice because they want to be better. Our passion for music usually starts by hearing some amazing piece of music and thinking, I want to do that!
Showing kids the end result of what practice can do for them can be a good motivator. One way to do this is to show them what the most amazing choral ensembles and singers are doing. This gives them something aspirational to work towards!
Throughout the year, introduce your students to a variety of professional choral artists you like such as Voces8, The King's Singers, Pentatonix, Voctave, or others that you deem appropriate. You may even be lucky enough have the opportunity to take the students to see one of these ensembles in concert!
Another thing you can do is take the pieces you are working on, find an inspirational performer performing those pieces, and play their recordings during rehearsal. Ask singers to evaluate their performance and have them discuss together how they can reach that level of artistry.
You might even wish to share quotes or stories from performers who practiced their way to the top. Check out this piece where Ed Sheeran claims he's put in 30,000 hours of practice time!
Use examples of artistry to inspire!
Bonus tip for Chorus Connection customers: Include a few inspirational music recordings inside your Music Files in Chorus Connection.
Send Weekly Practice Recommendations
Kids already have a lot of homework to do, so the last thing they want to do is add a practice assignment to the list.
But, on the flip side, the process of identifying what to practice can feel overwhelming, especially to young singers.
You can balance this by sending out weekly practice recommendations and tips.
Identify the top places in the music that could use some practice time. Perhaps you'll include a few tips on practicing, an inspirational quote, or even post a "weekly challenge" that your singers can work to achieve.
Don't assign but do help provide structure!
Show Them You Notice
It's amazing what a simple thank you can do.
When one of your singers takes the time to practice and you notice it, tell them! If the entire group is progressing well and you think it's due to practice, let them know how well they are doing and verbally attribute their successes to the time spent practicing at home.
If you do report cards for your students, include nice compliments about the student's practice habits.
Everyone likes a little recognition and appreciation for their work!
Communicate Your Practice Expectations
Whatever your practice expectations are, communicate these not only to the kids but their parents and caregivers as well.
Share the expectations on your website, email communications, or in your member portal.
Throughout the year, give parents resources on how to help their students practice. Here are a few examples:
- 13 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Your Child to Practice Music
- How to Motivate Your Child to Practice Music
- How to Motivate Your Kids to Practice Music
- Practice Journal Templates
Keep your communicate about these expectations consistent and clear so everyone is on the same page!
Bonus tip for Chorus Connection customers: Create a "Practice Resources" folder in your Files for your singers and/or parents. Upload resources like the ones above to this folder throughout the year!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.