Working with parents in your choral music classroom Part 2

Working with Parents in your Choral Music Classroom, Part 2:

Parent Volunteers are an invaluable resource in our music classrooms.  In part 1 of this series, I wrote about how to get started.

In part 2, I am going to write specifically about three characters I’ve encountered along the way and how I carefully dealt with the difficulties that arose so that I could utilize the incredible gifts they were willing to share with my students.

The key ingredient parent volunteers bring is passion, and they often have many things to teach us. 

We only have to be willing to learn…

…and we have to be assertive and set boundaries.

Mama Rose from Gypsy

The ultimate stage mom…

I’ve encountered several stage moms during my 25 years teaching choral music and musical theater.

Their children are the most talented of the group (in their view…and sometimes in mine.)

They usually come to us with lots of experience and many talents.

One of the parents wanted to pick our musicals around her child.  Another parent wanted to co-teach my musical theater class.

So, I let them.

…because I knew they brought lots to the table that would help my students.

I was also fully aware that I needed to be assertive enough to carefully set the boundaries when they were needed.

It isn’t always easy to do, but the outcome is worth it.

These involved parents have edited music, altered keys to songs, built sets, helped students prepare auditions, prepared videos, organized chorus shirt sales and so much more.   One of the parents actually coordinated other parents to sew 65 pink dresses and hats for a song from one of our shows. 

Does it come with difficulty? 


As educators, we have to learn to be politely assertive when the time requires it.  Just like we do with our students, we have to be respectful when we need to have the tough conversation, and we must respect the free time they are offering to help enhance the work we are doing.   

If you haven’t watched the episode listed in the link above, you should do it.  It’s hilarious. 

I suppose Cam is similar to “Mama Rose”. 

My “Cam” hid his talents from me during his son’s 6th grade year. 

However, I vaguely remember that he came to the first musical rehearsal of the year and sat in a prominent position in the room. 

He just watched. 

At that time, I didn’t know him at all, but I didn’t respond in any way to his presence other than to say hello and introduce myself.  I didn’t feel threatened by his being there. 


That was my way of setting a boundary. 

After that, I didn’t see him again for months.

Then, about one week before the show, when the stage director I had hired was struggling to come up with some costumes, Cam went home and whipped them up.  She gave him permission, and he seized on it!   When he brought the costumes in the next day, I was astounded.  They looked totally professional in every way. 

The next day was “tech” rehearsal.  The sound person was struggling with an issue with microphones, and Cam stepped right in and fixed the issue.

I pulled Cam aside and said, “What is your background and why have been holding back?”

He was nervous to cross boundaries…probably based on the way I carefully set them with my physical response on the first day of musical rehearsals. 

At that point, I decided to empower him.  He had awesome skill sets that I did not have, and the experience we can give the students through his expertise combined with mine is an amazing one.

Fast forward one year later…

I had a new stage director. 

She was young…and quite territorial. 

Since I’d empowered Cam the previous year, he was ready to share his talents.  I was grateful, but she was not. 

Tough and very tense situation…

I did a lot of listening and gentle guiding for both of them.

In the end, my stage director relented and let Cam do some costume work, and she loved the result.  When she was overwhelmed and uninspired with the staging of a couple of songs, she ended up handing the songs over to him, and he did a magnificent job bringing them to life. 

She was not happy to admit it, but she gave him “props” in the end.  I don’t think they will be life long friends, but that isn’t what is important. 

The essential piece of the puzzle is the experience the students were able to have on the night of the show.

Over the years, I’ve invited choral conductors into my classroom to teach my students.  Middle school students aren’t always open to new ideas, so this can be a tricky situation.

One of my parent volunteers in recent years is a choral conductor at a local church in our community.  I had heard wonderful things about her teaching, but because of past experience, I was nervous to ask her to come into my classroom to teach my students on a day when I was going to be absent even though she’d willingly volunteered.

I prepared the students the day before…

“There is more than one way to teach singing to children.  My way is one way.  There are many other ways that are great.  Whatever you are taught by the volunteer tomorrow, even if you think it’s opposite of what I’ve taught, do it and give it everything you’ve got.”

I’ve said that many times before to my students when I’d hired folks to come in, and it didn’t matter.

Fast forward to the day I return to my classroom…

I didn’t get a single complaint from a student when I allowed this parent volunteer to teach.

In fact, I think they might have thought I should go and take lessons from her!

…which is super.

I just had to be willing to let go and receive the help.

I was.  My students learned.  It was good for everyone.

As teachers, we can’t do everything.  We have certain gifts.  When we combine those gifts with the gifts of other people who are passionate about helping their children and who have enormous talent, the students gain experiences they will always remember.

And isn’t that what it is all about?  

Click here to read part 3!


Check out my blog!

End of the Year S-Cubed News!

S-Cubed End of the Year News!

I hope your holiday concerts are going well!

I have lots of news to share… New blog posts that may help you with your holiday concert if yours is yet to come, Level TWO Sight Singing Examples ONLY, giveaway winner, 20% off sale,  and news with Music Prodigy!

#1:  Giveaway winner and Two-Day Sale
Congratulations to Brandon G!  He is the winner of the giveaway of the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program!  I notified him this morning!  Thanks to those who entered!  Starting today and ending tomorrow, December 14th at midnight, my entire store will be 20% off.  Take advantage of the savings!

#2:  On my blog, I’ve shared this document that I give my students and parents regarding the attendance policy for the holiday concert.  Perhaps you can use it too!   I sent it to my students via  I also emailed it to my parents, and I handed a hard copy to my students and went over it orally in class.  I did my best to “dot” the i’s and “cross” the t’s to ensure the best attendance, and it worked!  I hope it works for you!

#3:  Also on my blog, I’ve begun a series about working with parent volunteers.  I’m sharing ideas about my own approach, and I will end the series by sharing some information about how to have a successful parent conference that results in behavior change in your students who need it.

#4:  In my TPT store, I’ve added Level TWO Sight Singing Examples ONLY!  This product is designed to help teachers who are using Level TWO and who do not have a projector or for those who wish to hand out the sight singing examples to their students.

#5:  As you know, I love using the homework assignments I created on Music Prodigy as a supplement to S-Cubed. I enjoy the practice time and the accountability if offers, and I love being able to listen to the children individually without having to force them to sing in front of others. If your students can figure out how to play video games on their iPads, and use Snapchat and Instagram, they can figure out Music Prodigy!  Until December 31, 2016, if you have purchased S-Cubed, you can add the Music Prodigy Supplement to your program for only $100.  Starting January 1, the cost of the renewable annual subscription will be $150, so if you’ve been thinking of trying it out, do it!   For more details about how Music Prodigy works, click here.  

Happy holidays!

Mr D

For Parents and Students: Holiday Concert Information

Holiday Concert Information for Parents and Students

This week is your holiday concert!  Looking forward to hearing you sing while you spread the first bits of holiday cheer with your beautiful voices!

Thanks for your hard work!

Here are some details:

Concert date:
Thursday, December 1

Your Arrival time:
Between 6:30-6:45 PM

Concert start time:
7 PM

Concert end time: 
About 7:40 PM.

What to do once you arrive:
*Use the restroom and get water before heading to the gym.  Once you are in your spot, you must stay.
*Go to my room and place a check beside your name.  This is how attendance will be taken.
*Get a candle
*Get your flashlight.
*If necessary, you can refresh your flashlight paper, but only do so if the paper is ripped badly. 

What to wear:
Tucked HMS chorus shirts with black pants/skirt and black shoes

On that day, what standards am I expected to meet?
You are expected to be “little professionals”. 
Since August, we have learned what that means.  Here is a list of some of the expectations:
*On time arrival and check in as described above.
*Watching the conductor
*Proper response to conductor’s signals
*Quiet between songs
*Quiet when the lights go out
*Proper use of flashlights
*Safe use of candles
*Proper respect and quiet when other groups are singing
*Dealing professionally with the unexpected
*Proper return of candles at the end of the concert (Quietly handing them down to the right).

When the concert is over, please take all flashlights home.

During “Light the Candle”, HMS chorus alumni may come up and sing “Light the Candle” with you.  They will stand in front of you or beside you.  Please make room the best you can and be flexible.

Missed Concert:
This concert is required of all chorus students.  It is not optional.
The only acceptable reasons for missing the concert:
1)    Death in the family  (Note required on the day your return)
2)    Illness (doctor’s note required on the first day your return to school).

If you miss the concert and fail to meet the above requirements, the consequence will be a grade that is significantly lowered.

If you miss the concert and meet the requirements above, you may be assigned a makeup assignment.  When you bring me the note, I will let you know whether you have an assignment and what it will be.  The makeup assignment, if assigned, will be due no later than December 16 at 8:45 AM.    You can bring it to me during homeroom, or you can email it to me at (Your email address)