The Phoenix Children’s Chorus (PCC) provides rich and rewarding experiences for its members where singing is the major focus. Each director will move their ensemble toward meeting its goals as stated in the PCC mission statement, goals, purpose of each choir, and learner outcomes. The choristers study and perform a variety of music from simple unison folk songs to complex contemporary choral literature. Both sacred and secular repertoire is selected to encompass all historical periods. Music from all genres will be selected in order to provide a comprehensive choral education. Music literacy is also an important component of the curriculum. Each chorister is assessed and placed in the music literacy class where they will be most successful. The curriculum focuses on three areas: vocal technique, music literacy, and performance.

singing_lessons

Vocal technique is the ability to manipulate the vocal instrument in a healthy manner in order to produce an aesthetically pleasing sound including audiation, alignment, breathing, onsets, tone, resonance, and expression. Each rehearsal will include various vocal exercises designed to help develop the voice. These exercises increase in difficulty and require more skill as the chorister progresses through the program.

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A PRO ART

Vocal Technique Mnemonic Device (Adapted from the work of Donald Brinegar, Pasadena City College by Dr. Judith Durocher)

Audiate:

To hear music inside your head. You can only sing what you hear in your head. Singers talk about audiating in terms of “having a good ear” and they usually mean the ability to hear music, remember it and perform it accurately. With enough practice everyone can match pitch, however, individuals’ ability to audiate lies somewhere on a spectrum from exceptional (“talented”) to weak (“remedial”).

Posture:

The ability to line up the muscles and bones of the skeleton so the body can produce a free and resonant sound with the LEAST amount of effort and tension. It is important to remember your muscles hold up your skeleton, not the other way around. The simplest way to line up posture is to determine if your ears are over your shoulders, which are over your hips, which are over your knees which are over the center of your feet. Find places in your body where you ‘brace’ or ‘hold’ unnecessary tension. Release tension and create a balanced alignment. In singing, the opposite of tension is motion. Put movement into body parts that are tense. Consider aligning students’ posture from the feet up paying special attention to knees (not locked), hips (aligned) and AO joint free (bobble-head feeling).

Respiration:

Breathing for singing. At birth you knew how to breathe correctly, but the tensions of life often result in changes to breathing patterns. If you watch a baby or a pet sleeping, you will see a wonderful example of a deep, easy breathing cycle. Your breathing should begin low in your body and your inhalation should be silent. If you hear a gasping sound when you breathe, the walls of your throat are tensing. When you inhale, you want to feel a sense of expansion in the ribs of your back or side and the lower abdominal muscles in the front of your body. Once you begin using your air for singing, the ribs and abdominal muscles are energized but flexible to respond to the demands of singing. The muscles of your face, mouth, neck, chest, and arms should not look or be tense. Depending on the amount of muscle energy you generally have, you might need to use less or more energy to breathe correctly for singing. Many singers take in too much air (packing air). Efficient respiration feels very quiet and small in the body.

Onset:

The moment your body creates sound. There are three kinds of onsets:
1. Airy: where too much air is pushed through the vocal folds. It sounds like Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mister President”.
2. Glottal: where the vocal folds are banged together with too much force
3. Coordinated: where the vocal folds come together cleanly and gently and there is no excess ‘noise’ in the sound. Coordinated onsets result in little or no sensation in your throat, in fact, you begin to feel like the sound begins nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Once again balance is required between the air pressure, the muscle energy, and the correctly energized support musculature for clean onsets to occur. Offsets, or the moment your body ceases making sound, must also be monitored. Learn to stop singing by initiating a breath rather than squeezing or ‘whomping’ the sound.

Articulation:

The act of learning to control the shape and quality of the tension in your articulators which are: jaw, tongue, lips, teeth, and spaces in your head: naso-pharynx, oro-parynx, and laryngo-pharynx. Learning to control airflow with your respiratory muscles instead of the articulators is an important first step. Your goal is to pronounce words correctly without creating unnecessary tension in your articulators. Issues of regional accents and speech
impediments such as lisps must also be addressed.

Resonance:

The ‘ring’ in your voice. When you sing in resonance you produce the maximum sound for the minimum effort. A resonator needs to be hollow and have an opening for the sound to escape. Therefore, you will learn to maintain an open throat, to lift your soft palate and to learn to sing by feel, noticing where vibrations and pressure occur in your body. Resonance enables singers to make sounds that can project throughout an auditorium or over an orchestra. Different kinds of resonance are utilized for different styles of music. Learning to manipulate internal structures to create resonance that fits various styles of music is part of becoming a skilled singer.

Technique:

The act of coordinating all of the elements listed above to reliably produce a free and efficient sound. Over time, one hopes that healthy habits form so that your voice ‘works’ because your posture, breathing, onsets, articulation and resonance function without requiring too much conscious thought. Remember when you first learned to drive? Every single action took thought and concentration: foot on brake, turn the key, adjust mirrors, look behind you, foot on gas pedal, etc. Now you handle the ‘technique’ of driving with very little conscious thought. Hopefully your singing will develop similarly. Keep in mind it takes years of practice to develop solid technique and constant attention to keep the voice functioning at its best.

 

Music literacy encompasses many skills similar to learning a new language. Choristers develop aural skills/oral skills and symbolic association through echoing, improvisation, dictation, composition, and reading. Choristers will learn to read music notation by recognizing and performing standard tempo, stylistic, and dynamic markings, along with the ability to find normal phrasing points in a musical line independently.

Performance in a choral ensemble is the ability to communicate the greater meaning of music through engaging stage presence. Developing this skill allows choristers to demonstrate professional performance etiquette both on and off the stage.

Singing is a powerfully personal means of expression. It is our hope that participation in PCC will form the foundation of a life-long relationship with music and the arts for choristers and their families.

MUSIC LITERACY CURRICULUM

The Phoenix Children’s Chorus staff has developed an innovative music literacy curriculum that allows instruction to be tailored to meet the needs of each individual chorister. The music literacy classes are small “break out” groups that occur after rehearsal each week. Choristers are assessed every year on music literacy concepts in various levels. The concepts are:

1. Solfege
2. Rhythm (Aural and Written)
3. Tonal (Aural and Written)
4. Music Reading
5. Musical Notation
6. Terms and Symbols

The instructors use the data from this assessment to place choristers in groups according to individual ability. Instructors can then differentiate the instruction to focus on a chorister’s particular needs within each concept. The curriculum taught in each class evolves depending on the deficiencies in the data. This allows the instructors to spend the most time on concepts choristers need the most help with. The program has proven to be very effective and the achievement of the choristers has risen every year.

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CHORAL PROGRAM AND DIVISIONS

The Phoenix Children’s Chorus (PCC) choral program consists of three children’s choirs and two youth choirs. The children’s division consists of Presto, Vivo, Canto, Vivace, and Cadenza. The youth division includes Bravo and Encore. PCC choristers range from 2nd through 12th grade and each ensemble is dedicated to excellence. Conductors help choristers develop the skills outlined for each ensemble. Advancement into a higher-level choir is dependent upon mastery of the Learner Outcomes and demonstration of physical and mental stamina as it relates to participation in rehearsals. Attendance and music literacy assessments are also considered when determining a child’s placement.

PURPOSES AND LEARNER OUTCOMES

Poco Voce 1

The purpose of the Poco Voce 1 is to develop basic musical skills. Choristers will explore the fundamentals of steady beat, melody, and rhythm through imitation, exploration, creation, and improvisation. Choristers in Poco Voce 1 meet weekly and will perform two parent/guardian demonstrations per season. Poco Voce 1 does not participate in PCC camp, Saturday rehearsals, or concerts.

Poco Voce 1 Learner Outcomes

  • Sing in head voice
  • Demonstrate an understanding of beat, rhythm, and pitch
  • Develop music reading skills
  • Demonstrate knowledge of solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate class behavior

Poco Voce 2

The purpose of the Poco Voce 2 is to refine basic musical skills that will enable students to be successful in Presto. Students will explore the fundamentals of steady beat, melody, and rhythm through imitation, exploration, creation, and improvisation. Choristers in Poco Voce 2 meet weekly and will perform parent/guardian demonstrations and may have small performance opportunities. Poco Voce 2 does not participate in PCC camp, Saturday rehearsals, or concerts.

Poco Voce 2 Learner Outcomes

  • Sing with a clear and pleasant head tone
  • Refine understanding of beat, rhythm, and pitch
  • Expand music reading skills
  • Demonstrate knowledge of solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate class behavior

Presto

The purpose of Presto is to introduce and teach the fundamental elements of vocal technique and music literacy which are required for advancement to Canto. Choristers are encouraged to develop self-control, discipline, and stage presence as each relates to the music, rehearsals, and performances. Choristers will realize a sense of pride in their work through learning basic choral techniques, music of all genres, movement, and performance.

Presto Learner Outcomes

  • Echo short rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment
  • Produce a clear and pleasant head tone
  • Read simple rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Improvise simple rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate knowledge of solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor pentachord in tune using solfege syllables
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

Vivo

The purpose of the Vivo is to introduce and teach the fundamental elements of vocal technique and music literacy which are required for advancement to Canto or Vivace. Choristers are encouraged to develop self-control, discipline, and stage presence as each relates to the music, rehearsals, and performances. Choristers will realize a sense of pride in their work through learning basic choral techniques, music of all genres, movement, and performance.

Vivo Learner Outcomes

  • Echo short rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment
  • Produce a clear and pleasant head tone
  • Read simple rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Improvise simple rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate knowledge of solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor pentachord in tune using solfege syllables
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

Canto

The purpose of Canto is to teach and refine the fundamental elements of vocal technique as outlined in the learner outcomes. In addition, choristers develop melodic and harmonic recognition and music literacy required for basic musicianship and for advancement to Cadenza or Bravo. The concepts of good choral technique (phrasing, dynamics, tempo, etc.) continue to be developed. Each chorister receives 30 minutes of focused music literacy instruction in addition to rehearsal. The chorister’s sense of responsibility to themselves and to the ensemble is encouraged as is a sense of pride in their learning through music of all genres, movement, and performance.

Canto Learner Outcomes

  • Echo rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment
  • Demonstrate appropriate breathing for singing
  • Produce a clear and pleasant head tone
  • Read rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Utilize solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor scale in tune using solfege syllables
  • Apply dynamics and phrasing to choral literature
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

Vivace

The purpose of Canto is to teach and refine the fundamental elements of vocal technique as outlined in the learner outcomes. In addition, choristers develop melodic and harmonic recognition and music literacy required for basic musicianship and for advancement to Cadenza or Bravo. The concepts of good choral technique (phrasing, dynamics, tempo, etc.) continue to be developed. The chorister’s sense of responsibility to themselves and to the ensemble is encouraged as is a sense of pride in their learning through music of all genres, movement, and performance.

Vivace Learner Outcomes

  • Echo rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment
  • Demonstrate appropriate breathing for singing
  • Produce a clear and pleasant head tone
  • Read rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Utilize solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor scale in tune using solfege syllables
  • Apply dynamics and phrasing to choral literature
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

Cadenza

The purpose of Cadenza is to refine and cultivate the elements of good vocal and choral technique, and to provide a wide variety of performance experiences to its members. Cadenza members learn the skills necessary to advance to Bravo. Each chorister receives 30 minutes of focused music literacy instruction in addition to rehearsal. Choristers will represent the Phoenix Children’s Chorus in an enthusiastic and professional manner at all functions and performances. Cadenza members learn and perform music from all genres and enhance the literature through movement where appropriate. Choristers are role models in rehearsal, performance, and travel. Participation in the annual tour is required.

Cadenza Learner Outcomes

  • Echo rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment
  • Demonstrate appropriate breathing for singing
  • Produce an open, supported, and resonant tone with minimal prompting
  • Demonstrate appropriate onsets
  • Demonstrate appropriate vowels
  • Read rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Utilize solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor scale in tune using solfege syllables
  • Apply dynamics and phrasing to choral literature
  • Perform with stylistic accuracy in greater detail
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

All choristers are expected to complete at least one year in Presto, Vivo, Canto, or Vivace in the Children’s Division before being placed in Cadenza.

Bravo

The purpose of Bravo is to serve as a transition choir from the Children’s Division to the Youth Division, and for choristers new to the organization. Choristers learn the skills necessary for advancement to Encore. Choristers demonstrate the fundamental elements of good vocal and choral technique through a variety of performance opportunities. Choristers in Bravo demonstrate the fundamental elements of good vocal and choral technique through rehearsal and a variety of performance opportunities. Each chorister receives thirty minutes of music literacy instruction independent of the rehearsal. Choristers represent the Phoenix Children’s Chorus in an enthusiastic and professional manner at all functions and performances. Bravo members continue to learn and perform music from all genres and enhance the literature through movement and choralography where appropriate. Choristers will be role models in rehearsal, performance, and travel. Bravo will represent the Phoenix Children’s Chorus on a local, state, and regional level.

Bravo Learner Outcomes

  • Echo rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment, breathing for singing, onsets, vowels, and resonance
  • Produce an open, supported, and resonant tone
  • Read and improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Utilize solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor scale in tune using solfege syllables
  • Apply dynamics and phrasing to choral literature
  • Perform with stylistic accuracy in greater detail
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

Encore

The purpose of Encore is to raise the chorister’s level of aesthetic awareness by providing a continued comprehensive music education through vocal and choral technique, rehearsals, and performance opportunities. Each chorister receives thirty minutes of music literacy instruction independent of the two hour rehearsal each week. Choristers study music from all genres and enhance the literature through movement, choralography, and choreography where appropriate. Choristers will be role models in rehearsal, performance and travel. Membership in Encore is the pinnacle experience of the Phoenix Children’s Chorus. Participation in the annual tour is a required component of membership in Encore.

Encore Learner Outcomes

  • Echo rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Demonstrate appropriate body alignment, breathing for singing, onsets, vowels, and resonance
  • Produce an open, supported, and resonant tone
  • Read and improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Utilize solfege syllables and hand signs
  • Sing a major/minor/chromatic/whole tone scale in tune using solfege syllables
  • Apply dynamics and phrasing to choral literature
  • Perform with stylistic accuracy in greater detail
  • Sing unison and harmony (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Demonstrate appropriate rehearsal behavior
  • Demonstrate appropriate concert etiquette

All choristers are expected to complete at least one year in Bravo before auditioning for Encore. This includes choristers moving from the Children’s Division to the Youth Division.