A Call for Student Opportunities

As another school year begins, I start preparing students for the opportunities that are available to them in classical music and musical theatre: Solo & Ensemble, Royal Conservatory Exams, NATS auditions, All-State Choir, etc. These are wonderful experiences for students each year. However, there is nothing like these opportunities (in my region) if they’re interested in popular and commercial genres. 

I would love to be able to direct my students to some opportunities where they can get the same benefits the classical, choral, and musical theatre singers are getting at their elite and adjudicated events: extra motivation to practice, meeting peers who are passionate about the same music, experiencing the rush (and motivation) of hearing lots of people performing at a higher skill level, making music with new people, getting helpful feedback from experienced adults, etc. Leaving this enormous hole in opportunities and experiences for our popular and commercial students sends the message that we don’t value this music. 

I’m not entirely sure what these would look like, but maybe…

  • popular/commercial categories at Solo & Ensemble and NATS auditions, with the opportunity to play an instrument while singing
  • Royal Conservatory / MTNA type exams where students have to perform in addition to demonstrating knowledge of theory, ear training, technique, and history: e.g. play blues scale, know Nashville numbers, identify chords/harmonies with examples from popular/commercial music, identify important musicians and genres in the history of popular music, etc.
  • All-State Contemporary Gospel Choir
  • a Battle of the Bands, starting with YouTube video submissions and finishing up with a live concert and competition

Should these opportunities exist? 

Do these kinds of opportunities already exist? I’d love to know about how they’re going and what they look like. 

If they should exist, how can we bring more of them about? Do the opportunities happen alongside the existing ones at music educator / choral director / singing teacher conferences? Does something new begin under a different organization where the study of popular and commercial music is the focus? 

What do you think?

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