I think we would all agree that the thought of assessment in the choir classroom leaves many of us frustrated, overwhelmed, and with a massive headache. Last week at the NCDA conference, we had the opportunity to discuss amongst our peers many topics…and one that came up focused on assessment.
We know that our class is a skills based class. We teach a musical skill set. We teach an etiquette skill set. Many of us feel it is important to teach a relational skill set. But the skill set that I believe we all agree needs to be assessed accurately is the musical skill set. During our conversation, Jason Stevens (choir director at Millard South High School) shared with us a way to provide an assessment that I feel was worth passing along. So I shot Jason a facebook message to get the correct information so I can pass it on to you.
I feel that what Jason does is simple yet appropriate, while also showing to his administration that he is embracing 21st century learning and incorporation technology into his classroom. Here is what you need to complete this assessment:
a computer system of some sort
platform appropriate software (GarageBand for MAC or audacity for PC)
XLR to USB audio interface (Jason uses the Alesis iO4 24 bit Recording Interface)
XLR chords (mic cables)
With the above set up, you can have your students sing in the mics while the rest of rehearsal is still going on. This way, you can hear how they fit with the sound of the group, while also having the option to isolate a single voice in the recording due to the use of multiple mics.
I really like this because you are able to assess what a student sounds like when they are singing with the ensemble. Quartets are great, but they still don’t give us a sense of the “ensemble” sound. You can then take this a step further and keep a digital portfolio for each student, saving their audio examples to be shared with parents at conferences.
When I asked Jason what interface and programs he used, he said that he used garageband with a lot of success. Everything seemed to work pretty seamlessly. He also tried with audacity, with less luck. I tried to find some tutorials on youtube for the Alesis iO4, but didn’t have any luck. Either way, if you are interested in this approach but don’t feel like I explained it well or that you have the background expertise, I would encourage you to contact your local music store to get some input and local advice from them!
Alesis iO4 4-channel, 24-Bit Recording Interface
Nathan Helzer will be beginning his third year of director of choral affairs at Omaha Burke High School. Prior to his time in Omaha, he taught 6-12 vocal music with the Ogallala Public School District for 4 years, and K-12 vocal music at Elm Creek Public Schools for two years. Nate is passionate about creating a collaborative organization that does not let distance dictate communication and growth.