Starting a Homeschool Choir

The first step, in my opinion, is to secure a location. Some churches are open to having their facilities used in this way; just check the yellow pages to find which ones. However, if you intend on charging for classes, I would suggest using a venue other than a house of worship. (I think Jesus would agree with me.) You might find that a fine arts studio in your area would be willing to work with you. In fact, they may also have several clients who are already homeschooled, and may like to offer your services as a branch off of their own. If you are able to bring new homeschoolers into the venue, they stand to gain a profit in private lessons, the sales of material, etc. Some colleges will even work with you. Or you could check anywhere you can think of that has a large room available (community centers, church recreation facilities, etc).

The second step is to decide what ages you will cater to, what kind of program you would like to offer, etc. You may want to work with children and sing mainly simple songs and folk songs. Or, you may want to work with junior high or high-schoolers, and perform works written for SATB, or anything in between. On the side, you may want to teach sight-singing, basic theory, Kodaly, etc. Teach what you know, and don’t be afraid to learn new things. Just be sure you know what you’re doing before presenting it to your choir.

The third step is to find a good accompanist and offer her good money. No matter how talented a musician you are, you cannot offer your choir the undivided attention and eye contact that they will need if you are staring at a piano score. Keep your accompanist happy by keeping her up to date and by giving her all music in advance.

The fourth step is to find homeschoolers to fill up your classroom. Place an ad in the paper, join homeschool forums in your area, join email groups, and look around for websites that serve area homeschoolers. Brainstorm businesses and organizations that cater to homeschoolers. Some local colleges offer classes just for homeschoolers. Instead of looking in their main class catalogue, check “continuing education” or other promising areas of their website. Check with studios, hobby shops, 4H clubs, Boy Scouts, and churches. Don’t feel like you are bugging people asking for references; you will soon discover that you are offering a sought-after service to homeschoolers in the area. Many homeschool parents participated in band and choir when they were in school, and they desire these same experiences for their children, but not at the expense of putting them into a public school.

The fifth step is to find a college that hosts competitions for homeschool choirs. Check with the local Christian colleges and universities. Because a good percentage of their enrollments consist of homeschoolers, it is in their best interest to introduce new homeschoolers to their campus. If you cannot find a college, check with the Christian schools. Sometimes they allow homeschoolers to participate in their own music festivals.

Check back, because I intend to give you tips about what kinds of music to select, how to organize your time, how to teach parts, etc. If you have any specific questions, be sure to leave them in the comments section of this post.

11 responses to “Starting a Homeschool Choir

  1. This post is timely for me, Amy. Thanks!
    I do have some questions:
    1. Our church is looking for a way to reach out to its low income, mixed heritage/language neighborhood. If the children are from moral backgrounds, do you think this could work for that purpose? Not so much for excellence, but for corralling kids to learn a bit of English, Scripture, and of singing.
    2. Given a lack of a musician during the week, could the children practice with recorded accompaniment until closer to time for performance, and then add practices with live music near the end? Does a capella work? Guitar?What is a good pay rate for a low-skilled pianist, in an economically depressed area, for a few sessions and one performance?
    3. Do you find that the style of music changes the behavior of the children during practice? For instance, would a peppy piece cause mischief or a slow piece cause boredom?
    4. What ratio of children to adults do you recommend? Should parents be required to attend/assist?
    5. Are auditions meaningful? I mean, is it good to try using children who just cannot sing?
    6. What about misbehavior?
    7. Should singing lessons be available, or should they be required, or just part of the total experience, as needed?
    Thanks so much for putting this out and offering your advice! 🙂

  2. Sounds like a great idea! These are great questions. Let me put my thoughts together, and I’ll try to post my opinions tomorrow. When are you planning on starting up? You’ll definitely have to let us know how it goes!

    • I love to start this week, but have to wait for approvals. 🙂 Some people will joyfullly jump into anything without thinking it through, and some will balk at anything that is not their own idea. We shall see.
      Still, I need to present a plan in as professionally-thought-out a manner as I possibly can, if after considering your answers, I decide I could do this. Lots of “if’s” there, but I do tend to count costs forever!!

      • Good luck to you! I’d love to find out how things work out for you. It sounds like such a fun and unique idea! Makes me wish I lived in a multicultural area so I can try it. 🙂
        What area are you hailing from?

        BTW, I posted the answers as a blog post today. I wanted other people to find them easily, and didn’t want them to have to look in the comments.

      • I’m in the Deep South, lots of language barrier here with the Spanish and African heritage. The church once was in the heart of the downtown prosperity, but gradually as the older buildings around it are abandoned and fall into disrepair, it finds itself in the heart of the poverty area. Not knowing English is a huge obstacle to financial success in the US. Mostly, the parents know this and probably will be glad to lend their children to such a project, especially once they realize it will be conducted carefully and with Godly music. (No Santa Claus mischief!) Mostly, the parents hate the worldliness they see in their children but feel powerless to do anything about it, since they feel they so need the education in English they can achieve at a public school. That WAS one big original purpose of organizing the schools, here, anyway: to create a single-language populace so we could better work together. Sure did get out of hand!
        Anyway, I think the relative slowness and the articulation required for singing would help their speech and their grasp of spelling, grammar, etc.
        Another queston: I’m guessing some of the older children might own musical instruments and be skilled on them, such as guitar. Some may be in band at school. Would it be feasible, to use them? Do you ever work with the older ones? Do you set age parameters?

      • I have a K-6th choir and a 7th-12th. I occasionally ask the older kids for help in the elementary choir. It’s a great idea to get them involved! A brother or sister of one of the littles might be a primary target if you’re looking to find someone who is always available. You may even find a reasonable accompanist among the older children. Other instruments are great, as long as you don’t try throwing it on them at the last minute. Be organized, and when you are including people in your performance who aren’t members of the group, ask them to come to as many rehearsals as posslibe.

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  5. I am a choir director that would like to start a homeschool choir in my area. I loved reading your post! My hope is to start in January. My target age group is an older choir 12 and up. What type of music would you suggest? Do you use any music curriculum to teach any music fundamentals? Thanks!

    • It’s so exciting that you a starting a choir! I use “Sing on Sight” to teach sight-singing. It will also teach them note values and rests, etc. In the past, I have also enjoyed using Nancy Telfer’s Successful Warmups. For beginning choirs, I like to use rounds to get them used to hearing parts, and then progress to folk songs, teaching them to hear and use harmony on their own. I’ll also throw in a song that everyone already knows and loves (such as A Million Dreams), and write in a few harmony parts as soon as the choir can handle it. If the choir already knows about music and is used to singing in harmony, you could use 2- or 3-part pieces, or even SATB, if you have enough boys to split them. I will try to look back through some of my choirs’ favorite octavos from the past and get back to you. Here’s a few that I can think of off the top of my head: Disney Dazzle, Riversong, ‘Cross the Wide Missouri, Sing Me to Heaven, Ani M’amin, and Riu, Riu, Chiu.

    • Here are more student favorites:

      Disney Movie Ballads
      Where the Wind Goes
      Hushabye Mountain
      You Raise Me Up
      Song of the Lonely Mountain
      For Good
      The Melody Within
      Headed for the Promised Land
      Oh, No!
      Seize the Moment
      All Ye Who Music Love
      Hallelujah (Mount of Olives)
      The Mouse Madrigal
      Who Is This Child?
      O Holy Night
      I Wonder as I Wander
      Jazz Gloria
      Midwinter’s Chill
      The Sleigh (A La Russe)

      I hope you find something you like! Let me know if you have any more questions!

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