Small Ensemble Guidelines
I. Forming A Group
A. When starting a new group, use the following questions to figure out what your initial goals are.
1. What type of ensemble do you want to start? Jazz, A Cappella, Barbershop?
2. Members: How many people and in what voice types do you need? Maybe look for music first!
3. Rehearsals: When and how often will you rehearse?
4. Is this a one song trial group, or are you looking for something more permanent?
5. Performance opportunities: What type? How many?
6. Money: What type of financial commitment are you asking of members?II. Auditions
A. For established groups, auditions should be held either at the end of the school year to establish the new members before the summer break, allowing the new group to bond, hold a retreat, pick new music, and start learning music over the summer, OR at the beginning of the year with the open mind that new choir singers might bring unknown talent (and unknown baggage).
B. Joint Auditions
1. Auditions may be held for all groups at the same time by establishing a standard audition form and test requirements.
2. If more than one group is auditioning, the auditioner should mark their choice of ensemble on their audition form.
3. To do a joint audition, all groups must meet, collaborate, and create those standards. Auditions can include:
a) Warm Ups / Range Check
b) A Solo
c) Tonal Memory
d) Sight Reading
e) Blending Test with Current Members
f) Physical Performance (dance, facial expression, body movement, comfortable on stage)
4. Once the auditions are completed, the ensembles may discuss their top picks and extend offers to students.
5. Auditioning students should have the final decision as to which group they join if given more than one offer.
6. You may need to extend offers over time to wait for students to choose between groups.
C. Who to Choose
1. Keep in mind that not only are you looking for the right voice and skill level, but also the right personality, someone with the same goals and motivation.
a) Many groups fail because people joined without discussing what the groups goals and expectations would be before signing up.
b) The best way to succeed is to ask the auditioner what their goals are and see if they match yours. Otherwise, they might say whatever they think you want to hear and will regret it later and quit.
2. You should have a number in your mind of how many people will be in your group. Do you want one person per part or more? Have you looked at music yet?
3. Male, Female, or Mixed? Barbershop sounds best in Male / Female groups because of the tighter harmonies. Jazz can go either way especially if you add a combo band for some songs. A Cappella can also go either way. It’s up to you. Keep in mind gender identity and voice types/ranges don’t always match the old standards.
4. Always choose quality over quantity.
5. Someone who can read music will learn faster than someone who is always waiting to hear what their part sounds like from the group leader.
6. Are they in it for the long haul? Or did they audition because their friends made them?
A. All music should be purchased legally for performing rights.
B. One copy of sheet music per performer must be owned or purchased before any performance.
C. Learning Tracks must be legally purchased from the creator if used.
D. Sheet music and learning tracks in the Heritage Choral Library can be used for free if available and with Mrs. Shanker’s permission.
E. Sheet music and learning tracks can be donated to the Heritage Choral Library for future use by any Heritage student after your group has retired a song.IV. Rehearsals
A. Small ensembles should plan to rehearse about 1-2 hours once a week.
B. Establishing a regular rehearsal time will encourage members to take the group seriously as well as allow you to learn music at a steady pace.
C. Music should be memorized a month before any performance so you can work on interpretation and get coaching.V. Coaching
A. Once music is learned (off paper), you may wish to get coaching from someone to work on interpretation, style, performance practices, blend and balance, etc.
B. Mrs. Shanker & Mr. Ernest are obvious choices for coaching within Heritage HS. However, there are many qualified individuals that could provide coaching, especially if you are looking for a specialist in a particular genre.
C. Establishing a main coach that you can return to several times to work on improving towards a goal is a great game plan.
D. You can also work with a specialist on occasion to get a deeper look into a particular aspect of your performance or skills.
E. Working with many coaches only once each will give you too many perspectives and you will loose your focused set of attainable goals.
A. Heritage Choir & Band Concerts: To perform in any choir or band concert at Heritage, you must audition for Mrs. Shanker or Mr. Ernest (respectively) at least one week before the concert. Audition time should be at the discretion of Mrs. S and Mr. E.
B. Community Performances: Any opportunity to perform in the community is up to the ensemble to take or leave.
1. Songs to be performed should be first performed for Mrs. Shanker or Mr. Ernest for quality control. Any poor performance or negative behavior in the course of a community performance reflects negatively on the Heritage music program.
2. Paid Performance: If someone is offering to pay your ensemble for a performance, see the pricing guidelines below:
a) Only accept or ask for payment if your ensemble performs 4 or more songs.
b) By song: For every song performed, ask for $10.
c) For a 30 minute set, ask for $50.
d) For an hour set, ask for $100.
e) You can pad a set by adding songs by individuals from the group, or duets, etc.
f) All money earned should go through your Treasurer, then the Choir Club Treasurer, and into the Choir Club account.
A. You may wish to establish leadership roles in your ensemble to streamline the business aspects of the group. Here are some possible roles:
1. Musical Director
3. Financial Coordinator / Treasurer
4. Performance Manager
5. Wardrobe CoordinatorVIII. Finances
A. Student Ensembles are member funded. Any expenses should be approved by all members, then split equally between the members to pay into a fund.
B. Expenses may include:
1. Sheet Music
2. Learning Tracks
3. Performance Attire
4. Contest Entrance Fees
5. Travel Expenses (Gas & Hotel) to Away Gigs or Contests
C. Income Opportunities
1. A small ensemble may take a (donation) paid performance opportunity in the community to help cover expenses.
1. Each small ensemble should assign or elect a treasurer to keep track of all money going in and out.
2. The treasurer should be a trustworthy individual that can maintain a cash bank with their parents if needed.Here are a few chapters on how to start an a cappella group, from a book by Deke Sharon: