HomeBlogsJustinAdamsMusic's blogFirst Tale From the Spit- Value of Contemporary A Cappella in Choral Classroom (from my perspective :-))

JustinAdamsMusic's picture

Hello out there!

I just wanted to take a moment to express the value of a cappella music in the classroom.  Two years ago, I had the opportunity to present a session Contemporary A Cappella in the Choral Classroom at the NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) Winter Conference.  My conference time was set for 8am, BRIGHT AND EARLY on a SATURDAY MORNING.  Now... I have attended this conference for years as college student and professional, and I know one thing... Saturday at 8am is typically the LEAST attended session time.  So, I was very pleased to have over 40 attendees (in a room with 55 chairs or so).  In the room were music educators from across New York State, as well as some students from college a cappella groups.  It was then, that I realized that a cappella in our classrooms is on the rise. 

We have seen the growth of a cappella music in mainstream society.  Take a look at Pitch Perfect... it grew to be one of the better box office successes of 2012, and the song "Cups" has been on the top of the charts as of late (albiet with some instrumental accompaniment, but still!).  The Sing Off is COMING BACK for Season 4.  The rise of Pentatonix through social media and continuous touring have helped our own organization, CASA see a rise in membership!  Why is this important?

From the viewpoints of performer and teacher, I can tell you that just the challenge of staying in tune within a group is a difficult one.  It takes continuous concentration and focus from all members, even the guys like me, the vocal percussionists and beatboxers.  If we as the backbone and driving force of tempo and rhythm (yes, bass singers (low altos included in SSAA) are included in this) lost focus, you are looking at a love song or  ballad turning into the next song on your "house music" playlist.  Matching vowel sounds, saying the correct syllables ("Mr. Glodich, how do we pronounce "jzhen-na-na- jzhen-no-no?"), and locking in on cadences and resolutions can be mentally taxing sometimes.  It forces students to practice harder and focus more. 

I have the luxury of teaching K-12 and I get to see the growth and development of each students minds.  It truly is fascinating to see the joy on a 2nd graders face when I play Pentatonix or Rockapella in the classroom.  My older students are huge Pentatonix fans, but they have also been exposed to The Nylons, Take 6, Street Corner Symphony, and Peter Hollens.  Contemporary A Cappella can act as a supplement to teaching the classics in a choral classroom.  Compare a Bach Chorale to an a cappella arrangement.  We are essentially looking at the same thing in its simplest form.<p>

Last year, I was able to take advantage of CASA's Tunes To Teens Program.  My school's a cappella group, the Eldred Key Elements, watched me bring this box into class one day, to open it and find CD's for them to KEEP and other materials for them to view and practice with.  This program is truly beneficial and helps support one of our main goals, to enrich and nuture the minds of our youth.  I can say from personal experience that with the use of a cappella in the choral classroom, my numbers in each of my choral groups (I teach 5 of them) rise in each of the past 4 years.

Now why would I post this on a website that is entirely made up of a cappella enthusiasts?  Simple, not all of us here are educators.  Many college students aspiring to be music teachers one day are here, as well as touring a cappella musicians.  I have toured across the country with The Fault Line and have seen the joy and excitement on a childs face when they get to hear some of their favorite songs performed in an entirely different way.  It is a refreshing feeling to know that we have the power to put a smile on a child's face with a cappella music.