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Popular Styles of Music in the High School Choral Program: Rationale, Methods, Resources, and Curriculum

by Matthew A. Armstrong

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There are different schools of thought among vocal music educators as to the legitimacy
of popular music in the school choral curriculum. By inclusion, brief inclusion, or exclusion of
the popular music idiom, choral methods books reflect such diverse ideas. In some areas of the
country, "popular" vocal groups such as show choirs and vocal jazz ensembles are not an
optional duty for the choral director. Instead, they are a requirement of the individual that
desires to teach vocal music in the area. In the Cedar Rapids Public School District, Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, the contractual agreement for high school vocal music instructors reads, “9-12
Vocal Music and Show Choir.” Signing this contract and noting similar job descriptions
advertised in Iowa's Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette newspapers led me to the
topic of this research project: Popular Styles of Music in the High School Choral Curriculum.
One problem faced by many vocal music educators is that they were only trained in the
classical style in their undergraduate music teacher education programs. The term “Classical
Music” is a generalization for art song and choral music styles that do not include Pop,
Broadway and Jazz. It is not the intent of this project to argue against the importance of classical
music education for aspiring music teachers. However, it is intended to research and discover
ways to include popular vocal music education because many vocal music educators are likely to
instruct students in popular music as part of their contractual teaching assignments. Therefore,
some music education students would benefit from the inclusion of popular music in methods
books and college music education curricula as a viable component of the choral music program.
It is my belief that we need to develop a consensus regarding popular vocal music
curriculum, literature, methodology, and its effect on students and choral programs as a whole.
The subsequent pages of this project will include a brief discussion of the rationale for popular
music in the high school choral program, information based on the results of survey of vocal
music educators, a discussion of interviews with vocal music educators, a comparison of sample
choral methods books and the manner in which they present popular music, descriptions and
reviews of sample popular vocal music resources including books, CD's, and videos, and finally,
a sample curriculum for vocal jazz ensemble and show choir.
  vcmprojects | May 8, 2024 |
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