From the Ground up: How Youth Choirs Are Like Baseball Teams

I’m going to make a confession: I am not the biggest fan of baseball—way too much stoppage. I like sports that move. I played soccer for 6 years during my middle and high school years, but even that sport doesn’t move fast enough for me. I enjoy watching kickboxing, boxing, MMA, etc. I can also stand to watch volleyball.

Back in my school-teaching days, I decided to watch the Varsity baseball team play a game. Sports games are good times to mingle with folks. My theory is that this is the primary reason for sports: they give people an excuse to socialize.

I began talking to a fellow teacher during the baseball game. He made a statement that struck me as odd, but made sense the more I thought about it. He said that the kids had to start baseball in little league, otherwise, they were behind.

His point was that good baseball players have been playing since they were young. They have to train and train and train. Thousands of hours of practice go into creating one great baseball player.

I began to think of other similarities between baseball teams and youth choirs. Contrary to popular opinion, there are some. Here are some that I have thought of.

  1. It takes years of training to develop talent.
  2. There is an emphasis on building talent.
  3. People see the finished product, but they don’t know what goes into it.

Training Choirs Takes Time

When I direct choirs, I don’t see them as separate groups. I view them as stages of the same product I am trying to develop. My end-product is good musicians who sing. That is what I am trying to create.

This philosophy has worked well with my different jobs. When I taught at a school, I taught from third grade to twelfth grade general and choral music. This provided a unique opportunity to organize a program from the ground up.

I had a wonderful elementary program. My predecessors had successfully pushed for music classes. I taught third and fourth grade twice a week for 30 minutes of Kodaly training, and my coworker who taught band also had them (3rd-Recorders; 4th-Beginning Band) twice a week. I trained my fifth and sixth graders once a week for 40 minutes. I also had an optional choir time with the different grades. My band-teaching coworker had band twice a week. Needless to say, by the time they finished sixth grade, they were able to make some good music. These musicians were finally graduating up into the junior (yes, those still exist) and senior high choirs and bands by the time I left.

This was my Elementary Chorus (5th & 6th Grade choir). They met once a week for 30 minutes.

In my experience, it is the same with community groups. If you want a large, talented top-level group, you need to start growing it from a very young age. You give tons of vocal, music-reading, and part-singing training. Offer one on one training to those who need it. You build young musicians from the ground up.

In other words, you must be ready for the long haul if you want to create a great choral program. You play the long game. There are no short-cuts. Anyone who tells you there are is trying to sell you something. Anyone who thinks there are is deluded.

Image Source: Creative Commons (Schyler at English Wikipedia)

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