Preparing Your Singers:



      Email: For using web forms and for purposes of general communication, each of your singers needs an email account. Many people already have one. If some people do not, show them how to set up a free email account, such as provided by hotmail, or another provider. Set a deadline. Have each singer send you an email. Or, set up a "Personal Introduction" bulletin board. Here each singer briefly introduces him or herself and provides an email address. One way to make sure that everyone participates is to make this a required activity. Many times I have gone one step further and devoted some rehearsal time to a "personnel scavenger hunt." Here, salient facts or comments about each singer gleaned from the personal introduction bulletin board are xeroxed and handed out. In the timeframe you decide, singers mingle and interact with the goal of filling in the appropriate chorister name beside each fact. You might even offer a prize to the singer who completes the hunt first with the most accuracy. This sort of activity, though it takes some time from rehearsal, encourages choir members (1) to post their introductions and read what others have posted and (2) to physically associate a face with a name or comment during the hunt. You have also introduced them to such tasks as finding the web page, and posting and sending a comment. You will know if (1) they have a workable email address and (2) if the comment form you send them saying their post had been received is read (especially if you announce details of the personnel scavenger hunt in your reply).

      If the electronic learning you design uses video or audio files, be sure to offer an explanation of the software required to see or listen to such files. Not every computer will have them. It is a good idea to provide a link to such free downloads as QuickTime, etc.

      For many singers, either navigating the internet or using web forms will be a new experience. As with any skill, you will want to do a task analysis and explain the necessary steps to take. One of the most frustrating experiences a chorister may have when first using web forms is to have all answers completed, only to have the computer or server crash before sending. Be sure to encourage your singers to write their responses first in their word processing program and save them. They can then cut and paste their responses onto the web form. In this manner, their work is saved should a glitch occur.

      In most contexts, it is probably advisable to introduce electronic learning slowly. You might offer it first as extra credit, for example. Most singers will come to appreciate the confidence they gain from score markings and diction practice, and soon see how these activities allow the ensemble to sing better more quickly. You might take just one composition to do these activities with the first semester. Then as confidence and enthusiasm increase, gradually add more. In other contexts, singers have already been doing these sorts of things in other classes. Here, the only roadblock may be doing it in choir, normally thought to be a simply show up and sing event.

      If you teach in a university setting where singers meet three hours per week but get only one hour of course credit, you might consider providing "comp days." Here, no synchronous rehearsal is scheduled. Singers are given that time to complete their web work. Of course, they may complete it any time before the announced deadline, but this is a concrete recognition of the expectation that they will do so, and that you value it as class time. In my experience, giving one day of comp time is worth it: It saves two or more days of taking rehearsal time to do the same thing. Both you and your singers should find that you get into music-making much more quickly and that rehearsal time is more efficient.