2-Year College

Welcome to the Two-year college Repertoire & Resources page

Two-year college conductors serving on the California ACDA board:

  • Lou De La Rosa (president) – West Valley College
  • Arlie Langager (Two-Year R&R) – MiraCosta College
  • Eliza Rubenstein (Cantate Editor) – Orange Coast College
  • Ian Brekke (Vocal Jazz R&R) – Las Positas College
  • Jeffe Huls (Women’s R&R) – Santa Monica College
  • Lori Marie Rios (past president) – College of the Canyons

Helpful Links & Resources for Two-Year College Conductors

Do you have a community college choir festival you would like to advertise here?   Please e-mail Arlie Langager at alangager@miracosta.edu if you would like your event to appear on this calendar.

“Structuring Practice as a Workout: Using Sport Training Models for Student Success”

Walk down the hallway of any music department, and you’ll hear the sounds of individual students in tiny practice rooms working diligently on their instruments or singing. It’s impressive to think of those students spending hours perfecting their craft – playing the same section over and over until they get it right.

Impressive or not, some music teachers complain that their students don’t know how to practice.

Often, this may be the case. Students may arrive at college with basic artistic talent but are unfamiliar with the kind of discipline necessary for academic success. The incoming freshman student may initially think that practicing is mostly a simple byproduct of loving music so much that they will want to practice regularly.

We know that “practice makes perfect” but HOW we practice is as important as WHAT we practice.

The centuries old model of musical practice is still the most prevalent in our current studios. Simply, musicians work individually with a “master teacher.” The master teacher gives guidance and direction during the lesson, and then the students is on his or her own to somehow take that information and build on it until the next lesson.

Perhaps that model worked more effectively in generations past, but it is not the most effective method for college students today. Of course, many students still successfully grow as artists and continue through their academic studies this way. But is there a more effective way?

Instead leaving students to muddle through on their own, we can provide those who don’t have the experience of structured practice with more tools needed to progress faster and more efficiently.

Building Training Plans

A couple of years ago I trained for my first triathlon. I joined a group of other amateur athletes, got a coach, and paid for training sessions.

I followed the plan (mostly), and as a result of my (generally) consistent training, I enjoyed the feeling of success that came with being prepared enough that the triathlon was accomplishable. The confidence I gained from that experience motivated me to do subsequent triathlons.

It struck me that everyone in our group of average adult amateur athletes had a very specific training plan that they followed. I was intrigued, because I knew all of these people were entirely capable of either devising a plan for training on their own or copying one available online. And yet, each one of them hired a coach for the guidance of a daily training schedule, and committed to weekly group training.

It seemed an unfortunate contrast that we music instructors often send our students into their week and into their practice rooms without any kind of guidance at all! I realized I could not expect novice students – who are often overwhelmed and inexperienced in time management and self-directed learning – to succeed without any guidance or plan for working on their own.

I began searching for “training programs” that musicians could use to structure their own practice. Over the course of my research, I found methods to report about their practice, such as practice journals practice logs and various apps and websites were students could do that and share that with their instructors. There were even some sites that prescribed specific daily exercises for pianists and other instrumentalists. But there were few resources of that nature available for a singer.

When students and teachers talk about singing, we most often talk about the musical and technical aspects of this art form. To the general audience, it is mainly the musical and emotional aspects. In that context, it is easy to overlook that singing is skill-based, physical activity in which regular practice is essential for development.

The further complication for singers in particular is that their practice sessions are not only designed for skill building, but they are in fact a place for students to create their instrument. Singers need to practice HOW to create a sound, not just what pitches to sing.

Many young singers spend their time in a practice room reviewing the melody and the language of their pieces, but do not have a way to evaluate their own tone. They “warm-up” the voice, and they work on technical skill such as building range, but it’s difficult to know what to do in a practice room besides those two things.

So, I decided to used a model I created for my middle-school voice students

One Hour of Practice

The most basic plan I use is the “Practice for One Hour.”

It’s a common mantra that musicians should practice one hour a day.

With student success in mind, I propose to students that they set a goal of accomplishing only one hour of practice in the whole week! The concept is simple: they choose five days of the week on which they will practice, and on each of those days, practice for a minimum of 12 minutes. At the end of the week, they will have successfully accomplished one hour of practice.

The challenge is that students must practice on at least five of the seven days.

They can practice for longer than the 12 minutes, of course, but they cannot add missed minutes to another day.

It’s not just a matter of the amount of time spent practicing, of course. I work together with students to create a “training plan” that will focus their time on what they will be working on in the practice room. The goal is that they are more effective in their practice time by getting down to the work of practicing instead of expending extra mental energy just deciding WHAT and HOW to spend their short time.

Keeping Appointments

Another key factor is for the students to commit to a specific practice time. Training programs for athletes are often geared around appointments with coaches or gym times, and I asked the students to have that same kind of commitment. The following is an example of a grid a student created for one week between lessons.

Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday
            9:30-9:42

Room 2218

Tech req #6 and #8 [i] and[o]

        12:00-12:12

Room 2220

Tech req #5 and #7

   
2:10-2:22

Room 2218

Song p. 1

2:00-2:12

home

vocalize [i] and [u]

      2:10-2:22

Room 2218

Song p.2

Lesson

 

It’s easy to let the external demands and deadlines of other classes take the place of practice. I recommend that the students input these appointments into their phone and set an alert prior to the scheduled practice time. With one group of students, I asked each to find a partner who would agree to send an encouraging text message or email at some point during the week. Each student then would both send and receive encouragement during the week.

When introducing this grid to new students I asked them to write down their reflections from using the grid at the end of the week. Inevitably students comment that they got more satisfaction from their practice time and almost all expressed how many times they decided to practice longer than the minimum required 12 minutes. In some cases, students practiced more it over the course of a week with the goal of one hour each week and they did with open self-designated practice times.

There are shortcomings to this model. As with training plans for athletes, we are assuming that the students know enough good technique to use in the practice room on their own. And, we hope that the students will be focused on their tasks rather than simply mindlessly following a checklist of things to do.

Another significant challenge is the extra time for the instructor to guide the preparation of the grid. Although a common training plan might be used for athletes in a similar skill level, training plans for instrumentalists and singers are very student-specific and it may be difficult to use a common grid for each student.

The effort to focus on student success in higher education falls largely on the instructor to guide our student musicians.

Ultimately, we all want our students to grow as young artists and having additional tools helps us help them succeed.