Monday, April 1, 2013

Cool video: Church of Apostolicity choir

I was at a Regional Fellowship Service last month and one of our own newsletter readers, Sis. Angela Whitfield, was featured in the service with the choir she directs from the Church of Apostolicity (The Apostolic Doctrine) in Los Angeles.  I wish I had been thinking faster and pulled out my iPad sooner because I missed the opening section of the medley of spirituals they were doing.

Angela started out a few years ago with no choir directing experience.  She was working with people who were new to choir singing and they didn't have a musician.  The results you see here clearly show the time and effort that they have put into their ministry and how Angela has grown as a director.  They still sing all a cappella, and now they're not sure whether they even want a musician. :-)

(By the way, the preacher who comes up after them is my dad.  He was emceeing the Fellowship Service that night.)

Why it's important to space out rehearsals

Remember in school when you would cram all night for an exam that you had the next day? (If you never did this, someone you know did it.) You studied the materials over and over through the night up until the break of day. You took your test in the morning and you passed it! Hooray!

How much of that material did you remember a week later? Probably very little. Here's the reason why. The folks who do brain research say that the evidence shows that rehearsing information over and over on only one occasion is good for getting the information into your short-term memory, but it won't transfer into your long-term memory. To remember it long-term, you have to rehearse it on different separate occasions. Spacing out the learning helps you learn better.

If you want to look at some of the scientific literature, here are a few links:

So what does that mean for us as choir directors? It means that your teaching of any song will be more effective if it's spread out over time than if it's done all together. Have you ever had the experience of learning a song in a rehearsal, feeling like you've learned it really well while the rehearsal is going on, and then barely being able to recall it the next day?  I have.  But if you practice it over a series of weeks, it will stay in your long-term memory much better.  And you won't need as many repetitions!

For example, if you teach a particular part at three rehearsals, and at each rehearsal the choir goes over the part four times, that's a total of 12 repetitions. But the choir will remember what they learned BETTER from those 12 repetitions spread out over three rehearsals than they would if you had them do 20 repetitions all in one rehearsal!  Check out the American Educator article above to read more about these findings.

This is a reminder of how important it is to get an early start on any music that you teach. Give yourself a few weeks at least before you plan to sing a new song and go over the song at several rehearsals. This is the way to get what you're really after, which is for the singers to make the song a part of them and remember it in the long-term.