Making the Case for School Choirs

A Free Resource from Chorus America Can Help

There is plenty of evidence that singing in a choir helps students succeed in school, work, and life. And yet, today choral programs are under siege—competition for school dollars, time in the school day, and a narrow focus on just a few subjects covered on standardized tests all pose significant challenges to the future of school choirs.

Now more than ever, we must all stand up for school choirs. To make it easier, Chorus America's offers this valuable online tool, Making the Case for Your School Choir: An Advocacy Guide.

I grew up in the era when most public schools had thriving music programs that made a difference for kids each and every day. This has not been the experience for my daughter's generation because, over the years, music education began to be seen as an expendable luxury. As former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia has said and most of us know through experience, increasingly a child's access to music education is largely a function of his or her parents' income. The Chorus America Chorus Impact Study reports the following key findings:

  • More than one in four educators surveyed said there is no choral program in their school. One in five parents surveyed said that there are no choral singing opportunities for their children.
  • Of the educators who said that their school has no choir program today, 31 percent said their school used to have such a program.

Making the Case Is Vital for the Choral Field

Chorus America is devoted to sustaining and advancing the whole choral field and, given the situation today, we are especially concerned about guaranteeing that generations of young people don't miss out on the advantages that singing in a school choral program is uniquely positioned to deliver to them. Multiple studies have shown that adults who are exposed to the arts at a young age are most likely to participate actively in the arts throughout their entire life. We know that one of the most meaningful ways to carry out Chorus America's mission to "build a dynamic and inclusive choral community" is to support choral music education in our schools. According to the National Endowment for the Arts and our own Chorus America data, choral singing is by far the most popular form of participation in the performing arts today and we need to act now if we are to keep it that way.

"Making the Case is a very helpful resource for those who
need persuasive data at their fingertips about the value of school choral music programs." —Cheryl Scott Williams, Executive Director, Learning First Alliance

Making the Case Is Now Easier

This guide is offered as a tool to make it easier for independent choruses and school choirs to work together to be effective advocates.  Access the complete toolkit online for free on Chorus America's website and share the link with your local school choir directors: Making the Case for School Choirs. Every school, school district, and community presents a unique set of challenges and not every tool will fit every circumstance. Our hope is that from this compendium of resources, culled from the best practices of other successful advocates, you will find something pertinent to your situation.

"Chorus America has created a useful and well-crafted advocacy tool." —Christopher Woodside, Assistant Executive Director, Center for Advocacy and Public Affairs, MENC: The National Association for Music Education

The guide includes:

  • Advice on understanding the impact of school choral programs and building a strong network
  • Ideas for working in partnership with school administrations
  • Advice on forming partnerships between school choirs and community choruses
  • Strategies for making every performance an advocacy opportunity
  • More than 40 studies ready for download in an annotated bibliography
  • Data from notable, quotable sources that illustrate the value of singing for children and support these facts:
    • Choral singing is an integral part of arts education , which is a necessary component of a comprehensive and competitive education. Singing in choir promotes academic achievement and develops success skills
    • Choruses build community
    • Singing in choir provides a sense of real belonging, offers new opportunities for learning, encourages student engagement, and promotes civic engagement.
    • Choral singing has intrinsic value
    • The collective expression of a chorus singing together has the power to lift spirits and transform lives

I urge you to download the Guide to find the tools and ideas that are most relevant to you. Together we can make the compelling case for keeping choral music where it belongs—in the lives of our young people.

This is an arts service organization at its best. The work overall on Making the Case and on each additional tool is clear, strong, inspiring, and immediately useful to make a practical difference for so many." —Eric Booth, Senior Advisor, Music National Service Initiative (MusicianCorps); Senior Advisor, El Sistema USA; co-founder, Mentoring & Arts Education Program, The Juilliard School



This article is adapted from The Voice, Summer 2011.

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