Newton Choral Society Blog #1

Things have been very smooth with Newton Choral Society this semester.  We are working on Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” for a concert in November, and I regularly run warm-ups, and do a lot of sectionals.  Currently, my goals this semester are very self-centered, so to speak.  I am taking this opportunity to learn more about myself as a conductor and educator.  I am trying to learn more about working with different ensembles, and more specifically, ensembles at different levels musically.

This choir is auditioned, but volunteer only, and so I have to be careful about my teaching techniques, because these singers do not have to be there.  They are there by choice, and can leave at any time.  There are certain techniques I have put into practice that have been all but rejected by the choir, and one of the things that their conductor, David Carrier is teaching me is, when to let it go and move on.  This choir does very well in rehearsal settings,  but I have noticed in observing David at work, that he does less intense work on trouble areas that I would normally rehearse to death.  It is also very interesting to have an opportunity to work with a choral conductor who has a very different conducting style from both my own, and my mentor’s here at NEC.  We use different conducting gestures in teaching and performance practice, but we also have different interpretations of the music, and I have needed to adjust my interpretation for a choir that is not always completely flexible to different conducting styles.

More recently I have, through a very unfortunate accident, been called to lead large majorities of rehearsals.  David recently had an accident, resulting in surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.  He is recovering well, and has been attending rehearsals, but, as he is still recovering, is unable to stand for long periods of time.  Having to step up to this responsibility has actually been a great learning experience for me, in knowing that anything can happen at any given time, and I need to be prepared to pick up the slack and take over, and teach/conduct as effectively as the conductor himself.

The choir has been nothing but gracious to me, and has welcomed me into the ensemble with great enthusiasm, and I regularly get comments at how great it is to work with me, and what a wonderful job I am doing.  Things are going quite well, and I have great confidence that this choir will put forth a great concert.



Final Thoughts on My Club Passim Internship

Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of 3 by NEC voice student Lauren Flaherty.

As another semester at Club Passim’s School of Music begins to end I am submitting my portfolio and this final blog. Our program continues to expand and shows no signs of suffering from people’s anticipation of good weather and potential travel. I feel confident that we will finish the school year strong and will be very busy next Fall!

My students have continued to grow in lessons with me as well as through participation in school ensembles, local performances, auditions and personal music projects. I continue to teach students of different levels and goals but feel everyone is making progress. Most importantly, the music school, specifically my private studio, continues to be a positive place to learn, take risks and be respected by other music lovers.

Voice Class for Non-Majors: Final Blog

I can honestly say this has been the busiest semester of my life. On one hand I am pleased with the work I have accomplished. On the other hand, I have definitely learned a valuable lesson about the law of diminishing marginal returns.  I put a lot of time into my internship, spending one hour of lecture plus preparation per week, and approximately eight hours of private lesson time per week. I would like to come back to my documentation as I begin work on my cumulative portfolio for additional reflection. I have a great deal of material to work with and I feel I was just able to scratch the surface of all the lessons inherent in this experience.

My biggest lessons with this internship were about meeting students where they are and continuing to find tools for engagement in learning.  I feel a lot of responsibility to give students everything I can and I felt there were times I fell short of that goal. If I lose interest in a student, or get frustrated with what I perceive to be a lack of effort, I lose the opportunity to reengage them. I also have begun to recognize that the student-teacher relationship and subsequent student progress is a process. Patience with this process is something I have to keep working to develop. Fortunately I will be teaching the same class next semester! I’m excited about this and very eager to apply what I’ve learned.

In the end I was very pleased with the student performances in their final exam, which consisted of a quasi-promotional in front of the official instructor and the two Teaching Assistants (including myself). I sent an email to all of the students in the class congratulating them and expressing that I hoped they were proud of their accomplishments.

My internship portfolio can be viewed at the link below. This link leads to all of my current portfolios; click on “Guided Internship” to preview the right one. Thanks for following my blog!


Voice Class for Non-Majors; Blog 2

This is my first semester as a T.A. for the undergraduate class, Voice for Non-Majors.  So far it has been a challenging but rewarding experience. As I stated in my first blog, the learning curve is pretty steep.  As the semester progressed I found myself getting more comfortable with lessons, but continually challenged by the lectures.  The mid-term exam was an insightful experience. I found myself frustrated with some of the students’ preparation and effort on the mid-term, but also reflected on things I can do better.  I think I learned something about how to present material next semester, including providing better handouts, doing more demonstrations, and trying to make the class generally more interactive and engaging.

Lessons have been going pretty well. I need to work on improving my documentation and reflection on students’ progress. I feel with a few students we tend to get a bit “stuck” and I think if I had a better record of their progress that would help us shift gears and keep lessons engaged and interesting. I also think observing some lessons with other teachers would help with giving me more ideas for techniques, warm-ups, and repertoire. This may be something to pursue next semester as I’m not sure I will have the opportunity to observe before the break.

Attached is a video clip of a breathing exercise with one of my students. We’ve been working on getting her to feel her breath in order to use her support more fully.

Teaching Voice for Non-Majors

Editor’s Note: This is Shannon Kelly’s first post in a series of three regarding her internship this semester. You can view follow-up posts to this one, and her internship proposal, here

My internship this fall will be teaching a section for an undergraduate voice class at NEC, titled in the catalogue, appropriately enough, Voice Class for Non-Majors. I have eleven students in the class. Each week I teach a 50 minute group class, and each week I give each student a 45 minute lesson. The size of the class has been a challenge so far, just in providing each student individual instruction time. With all of our overscheduled time it can be tough getting a lesson in each week even though we try to stick with pre-set days and times. I’m beginning to see each student’s personality and needs. One of the exciting things is seeing even the bit of development that has occurred in the first few weeks of lessons. The classroom setting is another challenge in itself. I had the opportunity basically to structure my own course however I saw fit which was scary and great at the same time. I feel with each lecture I’m learning something new and I’m glad I get the chance to teach the class again next semester and apply this experience. My learning curve is pretty steep. Lessons so far: Keep it specific, bring examples, use handouts, communicate frequently and often (email is your friend), repeat and re-emphasize, use multiple delivery methods (audio, visual, kinesthetic), to encourage retention. Whew. More to come.

Return to Club Passim

Editor’s Note: We welcome back Lauren Flaherty for her 2nd MIE Guided Internship! Lauren is a Master’s student in voice and also works in NEC’s Financial Aid office.

I returned to my voice lessons at Club Passim around the start of NEC’s fall semester. I am in the process of teaching two back-to-back six week sessions to accommodate the upcoming holidays and possible snow cancellations. (Not what anyone wants to think about while we’ve been enjoying an Indian Summer!)

This semester I will be teaching four students, including three brand new students and one returning student. Most of my students sing and play and about half of them enjoy performing in the area. One suffers from a lack of confidence. Another is extremely new to music and requires more ear training than vocal coaching. It is difficult to control my expectations when their abilities differ so wildly, but I remind myself that I am there to teach, not to act as a judge.

Aside from helping my students grow at their own pace, I am focused on trying to create more of a formula for my teaching, specifically geared around our six week semesters. I have begun creating my own exercises that I think will help them warm-up and drill correct techniques into muscle memory. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile that will hopefully reflect everything I’ve learned since I began teaching several years ago and during my past internship at Passim.

More composing with the students at JQUS

I asked the 7th graders to bring their interesting sounds again this week.  We arranged the chairs in a circle and organized ourselves so that everyone with similar sounds was sitting together.

Without a clear idea of what was going to come of our improvisation, we began by doing an inventory of the sounds we had in the group and brainstormed ideas of what they might represent in a plot-based improvisation.  With some clicking, lots of key rings, and the help of voices, we came up with a composition telling the story of a 20-car pile-up on a busy highway.

The high schoolers had a great time with the shapes game the 8th graders did last week.  Speaking of the 8th graders, they began small group compositions.  I gave each group the following paper:

Your group’s composition should include:

  • Clear examples of legato, staccato, accents, crescendo and decrescendo.
  • The composition should highlight a recurring shape, just like we did in the game last week.
  • Everyone’s piece should begin and end in rhythmic unison, but should break from it in between.
  • Similar to the shapes game we played last week, shape, articulation, and rhythm are more important than precise pitches.

They got to work right away (something that usually takes  a significant amount of coercion) and both their teacher and I were thrilled by their enthusiasm with the project.  As usual, the bell rang too soon, so they’ll continue their work next week until they’re ready to perform.