Chorus – Starting from Scratch & Rehearsal Tips

Why Chorus?

  • More chances to sing than in general music class.
  • More chances to rehearse and perfect a song.
  • More chances to perform.
  • More chances for pride, sense of belonging.


  • I have parents and students sign a contract before joining.
  • Take attendance or have attendance board they check when they arrive. I have also found it helpful to have some of the older, more responsible students take roll by having students check in with them every time.
  • Make a rule about how many they can miss or they start to lose privileges.
  • Educate parents about the importance of attendance. Phone or email parents if students miss more than a certain number of rehearsals.
  • I have 2 chorus sessions per school year. This way students don’t have to commit to an entire school year. We have chorus during lunch recess, so the students often have peer pressure to go outside to play with friends.
    • Session 1 = September to December
    • Session 2 = January to May

Elements of a good rehearsal

  • Start with a song! It limits talking and gets them engaged in singing right away.
  • Warm ups
  • Use Solfege and Curwen hand signs to help them learn difficult pitches.
  • Sight singing (if time allows)
  • Varied activities to keep interest:
    • 10 minute rule: Only rehearse each piece for 10 minutes, usually. Don’t drill the song into the ground.
    • For each piece, rehearse in this order: Whole, Part, Whole (Do the whole piece – or section – then pick one part to work on – then put whole piece or section back together.)
  • Add body motions during rehearsals to help students shape their mouths, sing long phrases, etc. Click halfway through this video to see what I mean.
  • Vary musical styles and tempi.
  • Vary amount of time you spend on each piece.
  • For long rehearsals, include break: silly song, 2-minute talk, student “recital”, announcements, birthdays

Inspiring Rehearsals

See also

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2 thoughts on “Chorus – Starting from Scratch & Rehearsal Tips”

  1. How do you handle kids who want to drop out of choir before the end of a session? Our choir is not during recess. The kids who aren’t in choir are in study hall. Sometimes kids say their parents want them to drop out of choir so they can get their work done in study hall.

    1. Oh, I feel your pain! It happens all the time – and parents don’t support the idea of sticking with something that they committed to. I would say, truly you have very few options. If the parents insist, you probably need to acquiesce. Here are some things you could try, which have sometimes worked for me and sometimes not. The problem with doing nothing (as you probably have discovered) is it can be a domino effect with several other kids following suit.

      (1) Get your administrator involved and see if he/she can impress upon the kids the importance of completing a commitment.
      (2) In the future, have Chorus be a shorter period of time, say a “Fall Chorus,” a “Winter Chorus,” and a “Spring Chorus” (depending on your concert schedule). That way you can more easily INSIST they continue, because you are only a few weeks away from your concert, etc.
      (3) Use positive reinforcement to those who STAY in Chorus. Verbally praise them and think of other ways to make them shine in front of the others. Could they get T-shirts? Wrist bands? Perform at an assembly? Perform before or after school as kids are walking through halls? During lunch? Just some ideas to have the kids feel special.
      (4) Make sure in your introduction materials (before they sign up) that you tell them they are committing to something SPECIAL and that you EXPECT them to stay. Make them AND the parents sign something.

      Does that help? 🙂

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