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Watch Me or Include Me?

The Association for Body Mapping Education had a brilliant conference in June. We are fortunate enough to have captured most of the content on video for post-conference review (or purchase). In preparation for teaching the What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body course beginning Tuesday, I was reviewing some sessions for fresh ideas and inspiration.

My colleague Jennifer Johnson, had a wonderful way of talking about attention which inspired me to consider more ways to approach this subject when working with choirs.

Too many times, we say to our choirs "watch me." But are we asking for their concentration and sending a signal that they should block out other things? As Jennifer contends, this is akin to eating concentrated frozen orange juice straight from the can. It's not the way it was intended, it's not the best use of our resources, and it's not very enjoyable.

The easiest way to address the attention of your choristers is by being mindful of your language, modeling, and asking them questions.

Language: Remind your singers to be aware of themselves, their bodies, their feet, the support from the floor (or riser), balance, bouyancy, ease and freedom. Then ask them to include in their awareness everyone else in the choir, the space immediately around them and the larger space you are singing in. This kind of noticing and reminding can be verbally cued during your warm-up. After this, remind them to include you in their wide awareness, shifting their focus to you but not to the exclusion of anything else.

Side note: If your choir has ever experienced any of these symptoms

  • Falling off the back of the riser

  • Poor spacing in rows

  • Lack of choral sound

they will undoubtedly benefit from awareness language.

Model: As the director, it is critical for you to model not only free and easy movement, but awareness. The score, the sound, your gestures, your accompanist, your choristers, the venue and the audience are all part of your own awareness, with a shifting focus as needed but never excluding any other element. Modeling makes a perceptible difference, although your choir may not be able to name what you are doing.

Ask Questions:

  • "What did you notice?" This is my favorite question. Tell them in advance that you will be asking this, and they will be more engaged in noticing from the beginning. Their answers may range from the weather to the sound. There are no wrong answers, the reward is simply the noticing.

  • "How did that feel?" If the answer is anything in the category of easier, better, or more comfortable, you are on the right track.

The point of teaching awareness is to make your choir feel better, sound better and be better. The reality is that it will make your job easier and the experience much more enjoyable for all.

Don't hesitate to reach out with questions or to share your experiences.

Happy mapping!


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