If you can’t tell, I love sight reading, and I love teaching sight reading. I’ve written a few posts on the topic as well, because I want to shout my love for Solfege from the mountain tops. And here is another, but this is more of a challenge!
If you really want to challenge your students to be better readers, program a piece for your next major concert that they will learn ENTIRELY by sight reading. Yup, no piano, no practice tracks, no cheating via YouTube. Just solfege, ears, and tears…that’s my motto![Tweet “Just solfege, ears, and tears…that’s my motto!”]
I did this my very first year of teaching in the spring semester after reviewing our All State Choir audition sight reading scores. They were pretty rough, so when I was brainstorming ways to improve their skills, I wanted something more than daily exercises.
Enter, Esto Les Digo by Kinley Lange. One of my favorite pieces that was even performed in our wedding! It’s simple, beautiful, and an easy read. It’s in the key of C Major, and the only accidental is a Bb that occurs twice. (Ok, and the basses have an Ab quarter note but it’s walking down chromatically so it’s not life threatening!) The piece is primarily homophonic, making it accessible to practice reading as an ensemble or in sections. And best of all, it’s a great introduction to cluster chords and lush harmonies. I can’t gush over this piece any more!
When it came time to rehearse this piece, I would give Do, or middle C, and send them off into sectionals. Then, I stood back and watched!
Problem solving and team work filled the air, and what a beautiful scent it was! And they were finding success! The students who excelled in sight reading lead the way, and those who struggled got better, because they weren’t leaning on a piano! If they couldn’t figure out a pitch, they asked for me to sing Do again and they found it from there. When the tenors and basses had their accidental passages, I told them how to go about finding it, rather than singing it to them. They found it, eventually!
It was a great success! The piece wasn’t too hard, but it was something they had never done before; a challenge they had graciously accepted. And they did it!
I highly recommend trying this with your choirs. It strengthens them in more ways than you intend, and it gets you away from the piano! (And trust me, sometimes it’s better that way in my rehearsals…I can definitely be more of a hindrance than help!)
I would love for you to try this challenge this semester! Not only will it benefit your students, but it will benefit your ensemble as a whole! There can never be too much sight reading! 🙂
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Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/
Educators: Have you taught repertoire this way before? If you are giving it a try, please let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.