Teaching choir in a virtual setting certainly creates a number of challenges!
Two of the challenges that you may encounter are:
1-Getting students to sing at home
2-Getting students to interact virtually in an appropriate, productive way
In this post, I’m going to discuss how I’m addressing those to challenges with my students and their parents. Here we go!
Guidelines for Singing at Home
This can be a tricky subject to address with students. Singing can be such a personal experience–our own body is our instrument! But more than any other musicians, singers tend to take an assessment of their singing as a reflection of their value and who they are as a person. And it can be hard, especially for young singers, to try to separate those things.
I remember growing up that I did not want to practice at home when there were others around. Particularly my mother, who was a music teacher. While she sometimes would offer suggestions, and I know that she meant well, I felt like I was under a microscope. While it certainly wasn’t the case, it was my feeling at the time that if I sang around the house, that I was going to be judged.
With our new world of virtual learning, for some of us, home is the only place that students will even have the opportunity to sing! Because of this, I am discussing this issue with my students, as well as providing guidance for parents as to how they might support their singers at home.
To do this, I created a set of “Guidelines for Singing at Home”. I am talking through these in class with my singers, but I am also sharing these with their parents. While it’s important to emphasize the learning process with students (it’s okay to make mistakes!), it’s also important to give guidance to parents on how they can be supportive. Offering advice, while on the surface might seem helpful, can often make our students embarrassed and less likely to share their work. Parents can help by staying positive and giving their singers at home space. When singers are ready to share their work, or if they need assistance, they will usually let their parents (or you) know! Here’s what my “guidelines” look like:
You can get your PDF copy by clicking on this link (no email address required):
Guidelines for Singing at Home
Best Practices for Zoom Rehearsals
One would think, that as advanced as young people are with technology, that this Zoom think would be a piece of cake. If you ever have a problem with technology, all you usually have to do is ask a kid. At home, I start with my 8th grader!
However, just because students know how to utilize technology does NOT mean they know how to use it APPROPRIATELY.
My first meeting with my 9th/10th Bass Choir was the perfect example. Students coming into the Zoom with random usernames. Students who would continually be un-muted. At one point during my presentation, there were over 300 messages in the Zoom chat! Nothing terrible, but just silly and incredibly off-task. This was my sign……
that I was going to have to spell it out for them! So, I created some “Best Practices for Zoom Rehearsals”. Whether you use Zoom or Google Meet or something else, these are all good practices to utilize for your virtual rehearsals. They include:
-Use the “Waiting Room” feature. This is an extra layer of security to keep those unwanted folks out of your meeting.
-Keep everyone muted during rehearsal (there’s actually a setting where you can automatically mute students as they enter the meeting).
-We are not allowed to require cameras to be on, but we strongly encourage students to have their video on. It just makes it a better experience when everyone can see faces. We do allow virtual backgrounds, as long as they are school appropriate (that’s always the big caveat, isn’t it? 😉
I also discuss the use of the chat feature, and give a basic description of how rehearsals will work in a virtual setting. It certainly is a different experience than singing in-person, but it CAN be done, and it CAN still be a productive, rewarding experience for everyone involved. Here’s what my “Best Practices” look like:
And if you’d like a PDF copy, you can download one here (again, no email address required):
Best Practices for Zoom Rehearsals
I hope that you find these two graphics helpful! If you have other “best practices” that you have found beneficial that you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear them! Send me an email at:
And if you are looking for a choir activity that you can use for both virtual and in-person instruction, check out The Choir Room is LAVA! Solfege Game!
Hope your rehearsals are off to a great start!
And for more great content and a fantastic online community of choir directors, head over to our FREE Facebook Group, The Choir Director Corner Private Group! You can find it at: www.ChoirDirectorCornerGroup.com.
Very helpful. Such a different rehearsal w do little feedback. I’ve always taken for granted live sound from my conducting gesture. Now… no attack no cut offs no dynamics no expression. I feel like a robot. I’m really trying.
Hi Carolyn, I totally understand what you are feeling. It definitely is a different experience. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on the positive, which is that our students are still able to keep singing. Mine have been very appreciative for the opportunity to sing again, even though it’s different from the experience that they know. Trying to keep that positive energy going! But it definitely is difficult–remember to give yourself grace. You are the best teacher for your students, and I bet they will just be happy to sing with you again 🙂
Thank you x 1000.
You are most welcome Julie! If there’s ever anything else I can do to help, just let me know! 🙂
I know how hard it was and still is for those who are having to teach online. Having these kind of guidelines is so helpful! I appreciate you also having guidelines for the parents to help them better support their students. I think this is great to help the students communicate what they need from their parents, and the parents to actually be helpful with their students in their musical progression. I know it is so hard to get the students to participate in the classroom, but keeping an honest and positive learning environment, especially online, is so helpful! Thank you for all of this!
You are welcome Samantha! Here’s hoping that we won’t need this type of content next Fall 🙂 Best of luck with the rest of your school year!