HomeHigh School Spotlight: How A Cappella Transformed My High School Choral Program...

brodymcd's picture

By: Brody McDonald – Director of Eleventh Hour, Kettering Fairmont High School

This is my first column for CASA, so I thought I would start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). My name is Brody McDonald, director of choirs at Kettering Fairmont High School in southwest Ohio. My duties include 7th and 8th grade chorus at one of the two feeder schools, three high school choirs, an after-school show-choir, and the spring musical. But you didn’t come here to hear about any of that. I’m here because I also direct Eleventh Hour, a pop-a cappella group. A vocal band. CASA material.

Eleventh Hour began as many projects do – accidentally. I was hired at Kettering Fairmont to revive a flagging program. I’ll spare you those details, but the upshot is this: show choir was the only game in town. My challenge – to install a traditional curricular choir component and balance the program, while maintaining the show choir.

People would invite the show choir to sing at their church dinner or other community events, but only had a 20’x30’ room (our risers were 32’ wide), or they would want us to bring the whole show choir out to do a show for $75. We’d have to get two buses, an equipment trailer, 40 dancers, 8 band members and 4 chaperones for $75. The buses alone cost the school $150 to run, so we were losing money to go sing!

So in the spirit of “find the need and meet it,” I decided to form a small group – something mobile; something light. At first, I tried barbershop quartets.  At the time, I was doing a lot of this style of singing, and I thought the kids would like it. Not so much. 

My second attempt was something else more reminiscent of The Voices of Liberty. I thought there was great potential in having a group like Voices who could sing pop-ish choral lit – Derric Johnson, King’s Singers, or even some Moses Hogan. I auditioned for an octet, and had 11 kids show up. They were really decent singers, and it was hard to make a cut that wasn’t arbitrary, so I took them all at the last minute – hence Eleventh Hour.

We spent a year doing that light choral stuff. It was okay, but it wasn’t gathering speed. I thought maybe the kids just needed some exposure to different styles, so I started passing my CD case around the bus on show choir trips.

One of my CDs was the “Voices Only” sampler from Primarily A Cappella. One of my show choir boys was a drummer and was really intrigued by all the “odd” sounds on the recording. He put together a male group who sang “Johnny” by 17th Avenue All-Stars on our variety show. It brought down the house! That was it. The switch was on.

I told the kids we would work on more contemporary acappella material for the next year of Eleventh Hour, which led me to find and purchase the Deke Sharon CASA books. The first two volumes had lots of material within reach for our skill level, and I still recommend them every time someone asks me where to start.

The next surge of momentum we owe to a freak accident. Tiffin University’s Up In the Air (www.upintheair.us) cold-called me for an assembly gig. After my kids saw UITA live, it was a done deal. My kids were all ga-ga: “These guys are cool. They sing songs we know.” This is who we wanted to be.

The coolness factor went up yet again with that addition of vocal percussion to our program (“Here, Tim – watch this Wes Carroll video.”) I was a drummer in college and always made weird mouth sounds. Beatboxing was already in me. When we put it in the group, we began to find our stride.

We were rehearsing 90 minutes once a week. It was enough to be entertaining, but not enough to really make much happen.  I heard about the NCHSA, and we entered. We decided to take extra time: two nights a week for three hours each. Kids who were doubled in show choir were excused from that show cycle to focus on NCHSA. We spent more time on microphones and got a custom chart from Deke Sharon (we were moving up in the world). Then we got the best news of all… We were invited to open for LeAnn Rimes as part of a fundraiser for the Kettering Education Foundation. We not only needed 15 minutes for NCHSA – we needed 20 minutes for an arena full of people! Nothing says “get ready” like performing for a crowd of 3,000. The group, in effect, got serious about this stuff.

These events led to the parents bankrolling our first CD. It’s not the best thing walking. It is basically what RARB says it is – two days in a basement doing a “yearbook” CD – but it paved the way for more excitement, more talent coming to auditions, more everything.

That yearbook CD helped us land an opportunity to open for the Beach Boys, backup duty for Kenny Loggins, and more money for our second CD, “How Sweet It Is.” This time, we took our time and went the studio route. It was much better, and won 2008 CARA awards Best High School Album and Best High School Song. One of the songs was even selected for BOHSA 2008.

We sent that CD in to the Ohio Music Education Association, and we were accepted to sing on their 2008 State Conference. Imagine a room full of 250 music teachers who have little idea what high school kids can do with contemporary a cappella. It was offensive to a few, intriguing to some, and completely spectacular to most. One of the coolest things was doing a demonstration of Freddie Feldman’s “Thumper” throat mic for the teachers, as well as our bass octave pedal (we stole that idea from The Fault Line). We love our toys.

So why the “life story?” To illustrate not only that acappella music has tremendous motivational power with high school students, but to let people know that great things can happen. They won't happen overnight – patience is required to move from one goal to the next – but students will develop a positive culture of improvement.

I'm not an a cappella expert, but I have seen first hand how a cappella has impacted my students. Hopefully we can explore what works to improve the condition of the high school a cappella group. I haven’t invented anything and don’t know everything. Still, if I can help, I will. I look forward to talking with you. Shoot me ideas or questions at brody.mcdonald@ketteringschools.org.

Thanks for reading,

Brody

Comments

That's an awesome story,

That's an awesome story, Brody- thanks for sharing it with us.  Wow- those are amazing opportunities to open for those big acts!

There is so much vocal talent in high schools, and if the students only knew what they could do with a cappella music, it would change their lives.  Hopefully other directors and students will be inspired by your story.

I'm also hoping they take advantage of CASA's Tunes To Teens program, which sends a cappella CDs to choruses for free.  Please let other directors and choral students know about this unique opportunity- http://www.casa.org/ttt

 

Chris Tess - chris@casa.org
Tunes To Teens - http://www.casa.org/ttt
A Cappella Mega-Sale - http://www.casa.org/content/cappella-mega-sale

Turtle Jewelry

Gold Hawaiian Turtle Jewelry is appropriate for both everyday wear, and special occasions. If you have visited the islands or are a former resident, wearing a Hawaiian Turtle Pendant will evoke fond memories of the warm Hawaiian beach.


Hawaiian Stickers

Eco friendly gifts

Eco friendly gifts Eco friendly gifts will give your business a positive impulse! Be inspired by our amazing range of eco promotional items!

Wow!

I only knew a small part of this story, but it's what I've been trumpeting when I tell directors that a contemporary a cappella component to a choral program can work wonders. No doubt, I'll be sending people to this article on a weekly basis.

And a special nod to Brody, who captained his choral program through several changes - your commitment to your students is highly commendable. We need many more people like you. 

- Deke Sharon • 800.579.9305 • http://www.dekesharon.com

Very Educational

Thanks for sharing this, Brody. I'm currently getting my master's degree in Ireland in music technology at the University of Limerick in Ireland and I've started to introduce contemporary a cappella music out here to people in the department and my programme (UK spelling). I wish I would be here long enough to start a rave of a cappella out here, but alas, I'll be back in the states in August. I've taught middle school music for a couple of years myself and I can't wait to go back to teaching. I KNOW I'm going to start an a cappella group at the next school that I teach at and this is very inspiring to read in confirmation about its educational prospects. There is something about contemporary a cappella that starts a fire in people to want to be more educated about music in general.

employer of record, payroll funding

TFI provides employer of record, payroll funding, and payroll processing services to independent recruiters in all states and Canada. It also holds itself responsible for any errors in payroll and is a quickie in identifying and rectifying mistakes. TFI has an in-built error checking system to catch errors before issuing cheques and money transfers. The money transfer complies with all local, state and federal employment and tax laws, and ensure you stringent checks. The employer of record could also transfer data online for smooth payroll processing and timely delivery of payroll data by TFI. You can trust it for honest fee structure, as its services are hassle-free and affordable, with no hidden costs. You could enable your employees to view and print their salary slips and forms with the online tools provided by TFI, and that require unique identification code for each and every employee. Their other services are enrollment and monitoring of life insurance, health care and other employee benefits programs.

wall mount workstation

Proximity Systems provides an affordable custom computer workstation or a wall mount workstation with a perfect fit. The provided custom wall mount computer workstations are lockable, retractable, adjustable and affordable. It also provides you with a clear and concise Product Description Sheet (PDS) with drawing details, dimension and conceptual photograph, while considering your proposed workstation use, work flow, current or proposed equipment, ergonomics, aesthetics, site conditions and any safety or health regulations with which you need to comply. Proximity Systems also provides you with a warranty of 2 years and on-going customer support, while eliminating the middle man and control costs. It also enables you to adjust both the keyboard and monitor height from a seated to standing position, which makes it convenient and easy option. The wall mount computer workstations are good to look, and make your workstation neat and clean.

industrial concrete floor contractors

Panther Concrete Restoration, Inc. is one of the leading industrial concrete floor contractors, who recommend the proper surface preparation method and provide quality seamless floor solutions for any size project, and have top national product brands and environmentally-friendly practices. It is the provider of seamless concrete flooring enhancements and structural repairs for industrial and commercial facilities throughout South Texas. The methods and techniques adopted by the company are proper surface preparation method, shot blasting, and using concrete scarifiers. Its concrete enhancement solutions ensure safety, productivity, aesthetic value, sanitation requirements and industry production standards. The company has vast resources of people, equipment and vendors, who ensure to meet critical deadlines and short time frames, and has already completed more than 2,000 foundations, pools, tilt-walls, parking garages and industrial structures.

API vertical centrifugal pumps

PumpWorks has recently acquired Centrifugal Technologies (CTI), a recognized manufacturer of Horizontal Multistage Pumps and service provider to the Oil & Gas Market, based in Shreveport, Louisiana. This acquisition ensures that PumpWorks is committed to be a leading new pump original equipment manufacturer (OEM) focused on building high quality API 610 process pumps and API vertical centrifugal pumps with short lead-times. The models offered by PumpWorks are Model PWH - API 610 type OH2 centerline-mounted single-stage overhung end suction, Model PW-11 - API 610 type OH2 power frame upgrade kit for all OEM pump brands, Model PWV - API 610 type VS6 & type VS1 vertically-suspended multistage vertical turbine pump, Model PWM - API 610 type BB3 axially-split multistage between bearing side-suction, side-discharge pump and Pump Test Facilities. API 610 centrifugal pumps manufactured and tested in USA by PumpWorks 610 are delivered in less than 16 weeks.

containerized freight

World Trade Distribution, Inc. is specialist in Container Freight Station (C.F.S.) and U.S. Customs Central Examination (C.E.S.) that ensures the loading of standard ISO containers to transport, supply, store and handle international cargo from source to user. It also offers container freight services, containerized freight, freight handling, bonded, secure storage and transportation. All warehousing and trucking operations are radio controlled with web results in real-time, and on time and also ensures pick-up and delivery service for containers, LTL, and O.D. cargo anywhere. There is a concrete bonded container yard with over 17 acres of bonded storage (450 container capacity). The company has bonded warehouse with 165 loading doors in 200,000 square feet, and is situated on a 20-acre site. With such large space, it ensures to have a capacity to store more than 400 containers on its bonded concrete yard.

With an online education, you

With an online education, you can surely take your career to greater heights. Before you start enrolling, have you already decided on the degree that you will be taking? If you are still uncertain about what you want, this online education review can give you more insight and help you make an informed decision. Here's a list of Post Graduate Degree Programs from an online college.

Business Administration - Doctor of Business Administration (DBA): To be able to complete a doctorate degree in Business Administration, each student must be able to complete a 90 quarter credit program revolving around two main portfolios: Professional Activity and Scholarly Activities. Both are aimed to help you learn more about real business issues and develop competencies such as supervisory skills and working independently.

Online shopping 4 books |

Carbon Fiber Hood

Carbon Fiber Hood Carbon Fiber Hoods distributes VIS, CFH and SEIBON Carbon Fiber Hood Bonnets. We also carry Carbon Kevlar Hoods and Body Kits

Gift shop London

Gift shop London Gift shop London has all kinds of gift varieties needed for any sort of occasions like wedding, birthday, holiday, festivals, gifts for men, gifts for women etc. Collectables and gifts offered by London Gift shop souvenirs are available for delivery to customers situated all across the world

Tell everyone you’re gay, get

Tell everyone you’re gay, get TV deal” in your Moleskine, I think the true lesson to be gleaned from Dave’s story is that comedy is predicated on honesty: Without it, you’re just stunting your potential. Thesis AND Dissertation AND Essay

When asked whether a gay

When asked whether a gay comedy scene exists, Rubin explains, “There is a gay comedy community, if for no other reason than there are suddenly a lot of gay comics. I think we’re like gremlins, you throw water on us and we multiply.” I bet this community has some great “Men are like this, other men are like this” knee-slappers. Term Papers AND Research Paper

Teaching assistant

Education in Africa

Education in Africa Ladbel Education and Health Organization

SEO company Colorado

Affordable, Dependable, and Experienced WordPress Drupal Joomla Magento Virtuemart Ecommerce Web Design, Top Domains, Best Grid Hosting, Managed SEO Marketing, SSL Certificates, Database Programming, User Interface, Flash, 3D Design and more. SEO company Colorado

 

Book publisher

book publisher Affordable Self Publishing, Book Printing, Print on Demand and Bookbinding Services. High tech equipment for quality soft and hard cover books

Are you looking for specific

Are you looking for specific buses according to your need or have used buses to sell then check out our classified section. Used buses for sale

Eine Rechtsschutzversicherung

Eine Rechtsschutzversicherung privat abschliessen.
Wieso ein Test Rechtsschutzversicherung so wichtig ist.

Einfach Festgeld vergleichen.
Wie ein Riester Rente Vergleich funktioniert.

Einen Kreditrechner

Einen Kreditrechner testen.
Eine Autoversicherung günstig abschliessen.
Wie ein Vergleich der KFZ Versicherung funktioniert.

Eine Autoversicherung

Eine Autoversicherung berechnen und sparen.
Eine Billige Hausratversicherung abschliessen.
Einen PKV Vergleich machen.

Wie ein KFZ

Wie ein KFZ Versicherungsvergleich funktioniert.
Eine Günstige Gebäudeversicherung abschliessen.

Hier einen Vergleich machen.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.