Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Choir in the Age of 'The Voice'

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Choir in the Age of 'The Voice'

Article excerpt

I don't sing because I'm happy. I'm happy because I sing. William James

Introduction

Murray and Ouellette (2009, p. 3) define reality TV as a pervasive and popular medium that provides "non-scripted access to 'real' people in ordinary and extraordinary situations... presented in the name of dramatic uncertainty, voyeurism, and popular pleasure" This type of television extends across many genres, one being 'specialised formats' that include 'the ever popular talent contest. Jenkins (2009, p. 343) notes that the genre represents an 'intersection between old and the new media' where audience 'asynchronous participation' is pivotal to success.

The genre has become one of the most popular and enduring genres to emerge in the 21st century. One of the most dominant of the genres is 'American Idol', which Jenkins (2009, p. 343) notes, "was receiving more than 20 million phone calls or text messages per episode, casting verdicts on American Idol contestants." Jenkins (2009) claims that this has much to do with the notion of interacting with the show and being part of determining the winner. Jenkins (2004) defines the show thus,

   ... for those without a television or teenage
   offspring, American Idol is a showcase of unknown
   singers--some good, some very bad-from around
   the country. Each week, the finalists perform and
   the audience votes out one contestant. In the end,
   the surviving performer gets a record contract and
   a promotion deal. (p. 344)

The vast popularity of this show has influenced similar copies to be made globally, for example: 'Australia's Got Talent', 'The Voice' and 'Australian Idol.

This paper investigates choral programs today through the reflections of their choral directors. It is a qualitative study examining the choral practice of twelve Australian choral directors from educational and community settings. This research examines the methods they adopt to maintain a successful choral program in the age of popularity of reality television shows. This paper offers an insight into how choral programs are shaped by philosophy, repertoires and practice choices in the age of 'The Voice'. Technology and media have become dominant influences in a young person's 21st century life, not least of all in access to music and participation (Dillon, 2001; Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2007). With this in mind, the project aims to find out how traditional choral programs often characterised by traditional and sacred repertoire exist or adapt to suit the needs of young choristers.

Using a structured in-depth questionnaire, the research offers an overview of the professional choices made by choral directors, from a variety of backgrounds (primary school to church settings) in managing their choirs in terms of repertoire and pedagogy. This initial phase of the research intended to gather preliminary data from each member of the participant group in order to determine whether or not this is a consideration in terms of maintaining and engaging adolescent choirs. The participants have been selected as they are recognised in their community as representative of an existing school or community choral program. They were invited to complete a questionnaire.

Literature Review

Educational literature supports the need to align educational and developmental needs of adolescent learners to curriculum and pedagogy and much has been written about the adolescent learner and how successful learning outcomes are influenced by this alignment (Pendergast & Bahr, 2010; Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2007). Research in music education also mirrors this claim that aligning curriculum to the needs of the adolescent learner can be beneficial to music making and appreciation (Drummond, 2010; Dillon, 2001; Barret & Smeigel, 2003). This paper aims to determine whether or not in the context of choir, this needs to extend to repertoire when determining repertoire and pedagogy. …

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