Everyone Can Sing
We are a Title 1 School in the state of Illinois. Our school has the philosophy that student involvement in the arts leads to better student attendance, behavior and academic achievement. In the extracurricular choral program, all students are welcome to participate regardless of talent or financial circumstances. Students attend two or three before school rehearsals at 7:30 a.m. and participate in three or more concerts per year, a musical production and are also taken on two or more field trips per year to perform, as well as to see professional performances. Over the past ten years or so, more than one third of the school (approximately 150 students) has participated in one or more aspects of the choral program, and has also made up between one third and one half of the continuing participants in the high school program out of seven feeder schools. We wish to help students to have a means to express themselves creatively, to learn how to work well with others, to learn and experience empathy and problem solving. The musical in February is a big draw, since students must be a member of choir to participate. However, if they are a choir member they are guaranteed at least an ensemble role in the show. Over the past three years close to 150 students have participated in Disney’s Aladdin, Lion King and Mary Poppins, Jr. In addition, many former students from high school age to adult, return to help with the production by playing in the pit orchestra, helping with hair and makeup and working behind the scenes during the shows. This has not only become a favorite school event, but also a community event with many future students and families as well as former students returning with their own children to see the shows. There is also a scholarship fundraising event in conjunction with the musical to raise money to help send choir members to a summer music camp at the University of Illinois.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
In the middle of the musical preparations, we also repeat our 7/8 grade portion of the fall concert the third week of January at the high school for the annual high school recruitment at Leyden HS called “Sing ‘n Share”.
In December, the select chamber group called BASSically TREBLE does several performances at local community events such as the Chamber of Commerce holiday luncheon and perhaps a nursing home or hospital. In February, they sell and perform Singing Valentines around the school as a fundraiser for the chorus scholarship fund.
The large chorus then has six or seven weeks after the musical to prepare for the annual Variety and Chorus Awards Concert. We perform this concert in the evening for parents, and then for all three elementary schools as a recruitment tool for the upcoming year.
After this concert, 8th grade chorus members have six or seven rehearsals to prepare two songs to sing for graduation.
Specific Budget Breakdown
- 1200 – choral music for three choirs and two concerts
- @800-1000 royalty fees and materials for the musical
- 900 – choreographer
- 1500-2000 – costumes made by seamstress and parents
- 800-1000 – extra musicians/professional and high school
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New or recurring project?Recurring
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Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
Our parent group has shown great initiative over the past several years to help with the cost of costumes and other expenses for the musical. They have implemented a silent auction as well as other concessions and homemade souvenirs to be sold at the door for the musical and other concerts. They have also brought in concessions to be sold at the fall school open house to help raise money for the music department.
This past year we performed a Junior version of Mary Poppins, and I was able to convince my superintendent to bring in an outside company to fly Mary, Bert and Miss Andrew during the production. This was the first time we had tried something like this, and it did take some convincing, especially as relates to liability and cost, to get the administration to agree. The effect, however, was spectacular and an amazing experience for the students who were flown as well as for the audience. Two former Hester students who are currently in college also came in to learn how to work the equipment and fly the characters. Since it is not a usual expense, the district agreed to cover the $4000 cost outside of my regular budget.
It is also always a challenge to help students learn the amount of material that we perform in the short amount of rehearsal time that we have. I have learned to use online rehearsal recordings and video of choreography and the students, so that they can review and work on materials at home.