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Iowa Choral Directors Association, Inc.

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Choral Vision

ICDA's Choral Vision

Believing that ICDA stood on the threshold of opportunities to create dynamic new ways of teaching and learning choral music, the Choral Vision Committee (then composed of Aimee Beckmann-Collier, Ryan Beeken, Dianne Braymen, Lauren Fowler, Vern Haagsma, Roger Henderson, and Brent Peterson) began work in September 1999.  Their goal was to consider the challenges faced by choral professionals in K-16 learning environments across Iowa and to bring new approaches to teaching and learning which would invigorate choral professionals and their singers.

The result of the committee's discussions and planning are two-fold: the Music Literacy Project and the Comprehensive Musicianship Project.  Both are designed to provide continuing education opportunities that will impact the depth and breadth of teaching and learning in Iowa choral music classrooms and rehearsals.  The Choral Vision Committee realized that ICDA historically has provided a huge number of opportunities for the singers taught and conducted by ICDA members but, except for the Summer Symposium, has done little to enhance the musicianship and teaching skills of its members.  The Summer Symposium has been a tremendous resource for ICDA members but because it consists of many brief sessions on a variety of topics, it cannot provide the breadth and depth needed for ICDA members to become truly proficient at new ways of thinking and doing.  Both the Music Literacy Project and the Comprehensive Musicianship Project are means to that end.

Music Literacy Project

John Armstrong, a high school teacher in suburban Syracuse, New York, caused a number of ICDA members to reassess their teaching goals and strategies when he appeared as a headliner at the ICDA Summer Symposium in 2000.  Armstrong, who had created a K-12 music literacy curriculum for his school district, focused on building musicianship skill independence and the ability to be come life-long music learners, via his system of hand-sign solfege and related teaching strategies.

The Choral Vision Committee realized that Armstrong had the ability to teach choral music educators a systematic approach to sight-singing and other musicianship skills.  They decided to invite him to return to Iowa in the summer of 2001 to teach a course in music literacy. Subsequently, ICDA and Drake University entered into an agreement to co-sponsor the workshop, which attracted  30 choral specialists teaching grades K-16 in Iowa.

Following the completion of the course, participants became linked, via email, in what they referred to as a "solfege support group," which enabled them to seek Armstrong's help as they implemented his teaching procedures and adapted them to their specific teaching situation, to share their successes and to make suggestions for use by their fellow solfegers.  The course itself and the subsequent follow-up via email were so stimulating that ICDA and Drake chose to sponsor another Armstrong workshop in the summer of 2002.  That workshop was attended both by a number of teachers who had already implemented the use of hand-sign solfege and other literacy techniques in their rehearsals, as well as "newbies" who attended the workshop for the first time.  As a result, the number of Iowa choral professionals who committed themselves to enhancing their singers' musicianship skills, and thus, their choirs' rehearsal and performance capabilities, rose to more than 50.

Comprehensive Musicianship Project (CMP)

As the Choral Vision Committee sought to provide opportunities for learning and growth in teaching, it realized that a model for developing master teachers already existed in the Wisconsin Comprehensive Musicianship Through Performance Project, which has a twenty-five year track record of success.  Committee members decided to investigate the Wisconsin model, with the hope of adapting it for Iowa's purposes.

The Comprehensive Musicianship Project is dedicated to fostering music learning with understanding for students in grades K–16 in choral, band, orchestra, and general music settings. CMP is a planing process which teachers can apply to any level and type of musical learning situation. The process leads to a program of teaching and learning which emphasizes the interdependence of musical knowledge and musical performance. It is not a curriculum, but rather, a means to assist teachers in selecting good repertoire, planning effective classes, rehearsals, and concerts, clarifying long-range goals and short-term objectives, developing new teaching strategies, and applying appropriate assessments of the learning process. CMP engages students actively in the learning process as they become more musically independent. Teachers become more effective and experience a higher level of personal and professional satisfaction.

All of Iowa's music organizations (ICDA, IBM, ISTA, IMEA, IAAE) have become sponsors of the development and implementation of the Comprehensive Musicianship Project. The following guiding statements have been formulated by the Iowa CMP steering committee, made up of representatives of the afforementioned music organizations:

  • The study and performance of music is valued because of its intrinsic qualities.
  • Opportunities for in-depth instruction occur in all musical learning environments.
  • Learning is guided by careful planning, stated intentions, and assessment of results.
  • Guiding students toward musical independence is an important outcome of the program.
  • Instruction utilizes a variety of process-oriented strategies, creating an active learning environment.

Further Information

Drake University hosts CMP workshops during their Summer Music Institutes. Please refer to the Drake Music Department website for further information; you may also contact Dr. Aimee Beckman-Collier <aimee.beckmann-collier@drake.edu>."
June 11-14, 2007 Workshop Information (pdf file)

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