Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Musical Madness

Wow! The end of the school year is always crazy in the life of a music teacher. We always have two large programs scheduled for the end of our school year: one for 4th grade and one for 6th. Typically, our 6th graders perform a musical in May. It is a tradition that the students look forward to from the time they are in kindergarten.

Memories from last year's musical, "Disney's The Jungle Book Kids":

This year, our state testing was moved to May, which put a kink in the works for our musical. In addition to regular testing, our 6th graders participated in pilot testing for the state. When the testing schedule was set, our principals made the decision for us to change from a traditional musical to a  simpler choral program. The only prerequisites were that it couldn't require a lot of extra rehearsal time, and it had to be "fabulous." 

It took a while to decide on a plan, but we finally decided on a choral production that focused on the sixth graders' time at our school and the fact that they were moving on to the junior high school. The theme of the show was about reaching for dreams. Although the students were disappointed that they weren't doing a musical with drama, they worked hard on challenging choral music and enjoyed learning choreography for several songs. 

One of my favorite choral numbers was Rollo Dilworth's "The Dream Keeper." We did the two-part version, which you can listen to below. Our kindergarten students even loved it and asked to sing it in class the next day. :)

Other choral numbers included Schram and Staggers' "Dreams that Children Dream" and "The Beat of a Drum," arranged by Jay Althouse. Choreographed numbers included "Anything is Possible," arranged by Althouse, "On My Way," by Phil Collins, "Reach," arranged by Roger Emerson, and Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten."
The program was called "On My Way," and we used brightly painted doors as stage decorations. At the end of the Phil Collins song, students exited the auditorium, changed from dressy sequin tanks and white dress shirts, and later returned in their "On My Way" t-shirts to complete the program. One student said that changing clothes was her favorite part of the program. You just never know what will be important for each individual!
While the rest of the grade level was changing clothes, a few students performed Philip Phillips' song, "Home." They did a great job!
Every student completed a questionnaire prior to the program. We used their answers to create a script for videos and live spoken parts to bring the show together. Every student had a spoken part, either live, or in a video.

One of the biggest issues we had was finding room for 117 students to have space to dance and be seen on the stage. We set up risers on the stage and two sets on the outer edges of the floor. We assigned each student one choreographed number for which they would leave the risers and perform on platforms in front of the stage. Although it wasn't perfect, it allowed the students on the risers to have enough room to move, and it gave each student a chance to be featured in a dance.
The choral production was a success, but most people missed the traditional musical. Our principals have agreed to let us bring it back next year. I'm looking forward to it, but for now I am going to enjoy my break!

Happy Summer!


  1. Beautiful!!! What kind of microphones do you use for your musicals?

    1. Emily,
      Are you asking about wireless mics for leads, or choral mics? Sound is one area that we seem to struggle with every year. We have some overhead choral mics, but they are rarely in the right spots and they pick up sound from the overhead monitor and create so much feedback that we have to turn them off. I would love to find some good choral mics to put on stands and move wherever we need. If you have good suggestions for that, I'd love to know what you recommend.

      We have 6 good wireless mics for leads. 4 came in a set together in a hard case that I can keep in my room until it's time to set them up. They are Audio-Technica. We added two more wireless a couple of years ago, but the brand escapes me at the moment. I think they are actually a little better than the Audio-Technica mics. Depending on the show, we sometimes have to add an old Shure wireless and rent something else.

      Getting all the wireless mics to work at the same time is sometimes a challenge. My sixth graders run tech for our shows, so they are in charge of making sure everything is up and running. Between low batteries and actors muting mics or turning them off, it can be quite an adventure! :)

  2. Hi Laura,
    I love the blue girl's choir shirts ( the sparkly ones). I am starting a Grade 5, 6, 7 choir and would like to borrow your ideas for the choir outfits. Did you buy the shirt already made or did someone make them for you?
    Nancy Baxendale

    1. Nancy,
      We bought the shirts from Justice, which is a clothing store for girls/early teens. One challenge with this age is that you need such a variety of sizes. Justice has shirts that range from small girl sizes all the way up to size 20. This is a girls' 20, so I guess it's more like an XXL girl's shirt, but it was large enough for an adult female.

      The shirts were in the store, but there weren't enough for everyone. The manager was very helpful and called other stores and had them shipped in. They run sales for 40% off quite often, so we took advantage of that. You can shop online at

      I hope your choir has a successful first year!

  3. Where did you get the Kaa snake prop?