Save the Drama fo Yo’ Mama: Building Relationships in High School Women’s Choirs

Maggie Ashburn

R&R Chair for Treble Choirs, SWACDA

In every group of junior high and high school women (girls), there are always going to be issues with building relationships between students as well as between students and their teacher. Sometimes there will be students who are difficult to get to know, others might share a WEALTH of information about themselves to everyone, and others still may just seem to be uninterested in knowing their peers or their teacher. Some students enjoy starting the dreaded “drama” in class, and some just try to get by under the radar so that no one notices them. How can we bridge the relationship gaps and get rid of the ever-present “drama” in our women’s choirs? Here are a few guidelines that might help!

  • Rapport, rapport, rapport!!! Not only do we as directors need to build rapport with our students, but they also need it among themselves. Before they can properly sing as a team or a family, they have to know WHO they’re singing with. Try doing a few activities where students talk about their interests and make sure everyone knows each other’s names! Have a weekend retreat where they play games and share a meal and are forced to talk with people they don’t necessarily know. Give them jobs to do during class (handing out papers, greeting people at the door, etc.) where they see every person and must know their name. Make sure they know their choir family!

  • Time management is key! The longer students have to sit around, the more trouble will arise. Yes, play games and get to know each other, but make sure that it is structured and well-managed. Too much downtime = drama in class. Don’t even give them the opportunity to start anything negative with someone else!

  • Proximity! Sometimes being a Nosy Nelly can be helpful in a class full of women!  If you do not have a full-time accompanist (let’s be honest, most of us do not), most of the time you find yourself behind the piano. Get out from behind there and get right up close and personal! Okay, not TOO close. 

Sidenote: this can also help your students become better sight readers since you won’t be using the piano as a crutch!

  • Last but certainly not least, BE POSITIVE!! As their teacher, you are responsible for the tone of the class as soon as they walk in. Always be a positive, kind, and warm presence for your students so that they feed off of your energy. Nine times out of ten, if you are positive, they will be too! 

We can’t completely end arguments or dissention in our choir classes, but we certainly can help students build relationships so that it is significantly lessened. By using the tools mentioned above, we can make choir an enjoyable experience, even for the “drama queens!”