I know I promised to put my research results on here…..so here they are! This is the MUCH shorter version. However, if you are interested (which most of you are not, I’m assuming) in reading the full project, let me know and I’ll be happy to send you an email! Also, Tables 1 and 2 were unable to be put on the blog due to technical difficulties – and Micah isn’t home to help me!!!
My research topic is the area of sight-singing in the choral music classroom/rehearsal. I plan to further this research for my thesis by obtaining information on how each state selects music for the sight-singing components of their large-group contests.
PRESENTATION AND INTERPRETATION OF DATA
Initial attempts to obtain responses to the above questions were made by surveying MENC affiliate web sites, state ACDA web sites, other state music associations, and/or state interscholastic activities associations. Links related to the governance of large-group choral festivals were sought first. The most common documents found were handbooks pertaining to the organization of festivals and all-state activities. When clear answers or information related to the research questions was not available via the web site documents, e-mails explaining the purpose of the study and the research questions were sent to the primary executive officers of each remaining state. After a 2 week period, unanswered e-mails were followed up with a second e-mail to executive officers and choral chairpersons of the remaining states. In the end, a 100% response rate was obtained. Percentages of “yes” responses were tallied for each research question. Percentages for questions 3, 4, 5 and 6 were figured in relation to those states that require sight-singing at their large-group adjudicated choral festivals.
Analysis of the data related to question 1 [Is there a state large-group choral festival at the middle school level?] indicated that 27 of 50 states (54%) offer a middle school large-group choral festival administered and overseen by an MENC affiliate or other state school activities association. Of those 27 states, 12 states (44.4%) require a sight-singing assessment [Question 2 – Are there different levels or classes within the sight-singing component?]. North Carolina offered adjudicated sight-singing, but did not require it. Therefore, North Carolina was categorized as not requiring sight-singing.
Data related to question 3 [Are there different levels or classes within the sight-singing component?] relates to the content standard five of the national standards. Results revealed that 11 of 12 states (91.6%) that require sight-singing have established various levels of proficiency. Many of these levels were dependent upon the size of the type of ensemble and the grade level of the ensemble. Responses to question 4 [Is there a specific method that is required for use (fixed-do, moveable-do, numbers, etc.)?] revealed that all states that require sight-singing leave the method of instruction up to the director. Results of question 5 [Is there a rating for the sight-singing component?] indicated that 11 out of 12 states (91.6%) rate the sight-singing component of the large-group choral festival. Question 6 [Is the rating combined or averaged with the performance rating, or are there two separate ratings (one for the performance, one for sight-singing)?] revealed that of the 11 states that rate the sight-singing component, 6 states (54.5%) combine or average the sight-singing component with the performance component. The 5 remaining states (41.6%) have separate ratings for the performance and sight-singing components of the large-group festival.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Research results have supported the idea that group achievement in sight-singing at large-group choral festivals is not indicative of individual assessment (Demorest & May, 1995; Henry & Demorest, 1994; Nolker, 2001). However, it is possible that assessment at large-group choral festivals may result in increased time given to sight-singing instruction. Support for this idea is evident in studies regarding the attitudes of instructors in the states of Florida and Texas (Brendell, 1995; May, 1993; Smith, 1998). Sight-singing achievement in these two states has been identified as not only being assessed at large-group choral festivals, but also designed for varying levels of proficiency.
The presence or absence of assessment affects the amount of instructional time devoted to sight-singing has been noted in states of the ACDA North Central Division, where both absence of assessment and lack of provision of instructional time given to sight-singing seem to have gone hand in hand (Johnson, 1987). The results of the current study support Johnson’s conclusions in that not one state in the ACDA North Central Division (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) presently require sight-singing assessment at large-group festivals.
The above conclusions support Demorest’s (2001) informal web survey, which suggested that instructional time spent in sight-singing instruction was related to whether choral ensembles would be assessed in adjudicated festival situations. However, not all schools in all states attend choral festivals, and there may be choral directors who are dissuaded from participation in festivals as a result of sight-singing requirements. Furthermore, for choral directors who choose to attend festivals, a sight-singing assessment would seem to increase the possibility that instruction is taking place.
While the information obtained from this study provides an overview of the sight-singing requirements associated with middle school adjudicated choral festivals, additional research would be helpful in the area related to sight-singing practices, procedures for the selection of sight-singing literature and exercises, the formulation of policies regarding the inclusion or exclusion of sight-singing assessment, and the attitudes of choral music educators towards adjudicated sight-singing. Choral music educators must become more comprehensive in sight-singing training. Research suggests that choral music educators must do more to develop music reading skills. Broadening experiences with technology within the classroom is just one way that can help students’ development in this area. Teachers are able to use technology through the use of keyboards, aural skills trainers on computers, etc. These options should be explored as supplements to the performance experiences that are offered in today’s choral classroom.