This year members of the Field School Boys’ Choir signed an agreement as part of their commitment to the team. Here it is. We are a non-auditioned middle school boys’ choir with 31 members, grades 5th-8th, performing in the community approximately once a month.
The Field School Boys’ Choir is built on the basic understanding that all are capable of singing. I’ve met many adults who were told in middle school that they “cannot sing” – for boys whose voices may be changing, it seems to make little sense to me to stop boys in their singing before they even get started. At Field School we seek to create a supportive and inclusive singing environment.
The agreement (below) is based on things I left last year realizing I should have said at the start, things I’ve commonly found myself saying to students in light of the more common fears, misunderstandings and objections, and it explains some basic logistics.
I’m posting this here as a resource – borrow or adapt as you please.
Field School Boys’ Choir 2015-16 Choir Member Agreements
I, ___________________________________________, agree to and commit to the following:
I understand that we play like we practice so I agree to approach every opportunity we have to sing together – including every rehearsal – as if it is our last.
I agree to be ready to make music as a team member from the moment I walk in the room.
I agree to take chances and give it my all, knowing that sometimes I might fail.
I agree to support my classmates in trying their best, taking chances, knowing sometimes they might fail.
I agree to lift up my classmates with encouragement and a generous spirit at all times because I understand we are only as strong as the weakest of our team at all times.
I agree to be punctual to choir rehearsal and all performance call times, arriving at all performance call times 5 minutes early.
I agree to take care of my personal needs BEFORE entering choir or performance lineup.
I agree to bring a water bottle to every rehearsal and performance.
I agree that if I have personal needs during class I will take care of them in a way that does not disrupt the task at hand. (i.e. I will leave the room one at a time, I will leaving the room silently to go to the bathroom without announcing myself, I will enter and close the door quickly and quietly, I will see Mrs. K for if I have health needs, I will excuse myself if I have a coughing attack or need to blow my nose for a long time).
I understand that sometimes I will struggle, sometimes I will not immediately know what Miss Hightower is asking me to do, and sometimes I will get frustrated by not getting it on the first, second or third try.
I agree to try my best anyway.
I agree to stick with it until I’ve got it (the rhythm, the notes, the harmony, etc).
I agree to take responsibility for my own learning by practicing outside of rehearsal with fellow choir members or at home. I agree to inform Miss Hightower of the challenges I am facing so she knows how best to support me.
I agree to help my classmates outside of class if they come to me for musical help. I agree to stick with them until they’ve got it.
I agree to manage my academic responsibilities and choir rehearsals actively and thoughtfully, which might mean completing an assignment early or attending Tuesday/Thursday study hall.
I agree to maximize our singing time during every rehearsal. If it is FUN FOR ME but interfering with any other choir member’s ability to learn or taking away from what the team can achieve, I agree to choose different behavior. If I have a musical idea or insight, I will use my best judgment before speaking and sometimes I will choose to remain silent and share my idea later in the interest of the group learning process.
When we sing written music I agree to follow the notes on the page and take advantage of the opportunity to improve my music-reading skills because I understand this is how I grow as a musician. I will take notes on my music with pencil that I bring to class, keep track of my sheet music, stay organized and keep my folder in excellent condition.
I agree to take musical chances even if I’m “not feeling it,” am nervous or uncomfortable because I understand this is how I grow as a musician.
I agree to follow the dynamics of the music with integrity and with respect to the group at large.
I agree that if it would not be said or done in front of my mother, grandmother, younger siblings or Dr. B, I will not say or do it in choir. (or as I answered in class, your father or grandfather!)
I understand that part of the choral experience is singing music that is new to me and that I might not totally like. I agree to commit to every song regardless of my personal feeling about it and I commit to performing it whole-heartedly because this is how I grow as a musician.
I agree to attend all required performances, wearing the appropriate attire for all performances (see performance schedule).
I agree to prepare my clothing myself, including washing, ironing, packing and transporting all items without forgetting anything. For dry clean items I agree to actively remind my parent or guardian what is needed by when.
I agree to be well groomed for performances, including having showered, brushed teeth, applied deodorant and will make sure that in no way does my personal hygiene draw attention to me or distract from making music. I will avoid strong scented deodorants like Axe, which can make Miss Hightower feel ill, and I won’t wear cologne. I know my music is more powerful when the audience sees my eyes so if my hair is falling in my eyes or needing to be brushed from my face, I will either secure it or trim it.*
I agree to honorably represent Field School during all choir events, including events off campus.
I agree to enjoy my classmates and this opportunity to sing with each other.
I understand that inability to honor any part of this agreement will result first in a warning from Miss Hightower, second a conversation with Mr. M and parents, and on the third offense my expulsion from choir. I understand that this agreement exists to protect and support the musical experience of the whole group, and that my personal skill, talent or desire does not outweigh the choir experience as a whole. I understand that Miss Hightower agrees to all of the above as well.
Signature of Student Date
Signature of Parent Date
*After I wrote this and distributed it to the choir, I felt this point necessitated further clarification. The point of this agreement is not to inhibit personal style, but more to guide the boys with enough specifics to consider their overall presentation. If they are constantly sweeping their hair out of their faces as they sing, then a solution is called for – ponytails, gel, growing it long enough that it’s not in their eyes, or a hair trim…whatever works that allows us to see their faces!
There it is.
Reviewing the agreements took a fair amount of rehearsal time but the goal has been to slow down now and make sure we are truly on the same page before progressing. Students had valid questions and commentary which sparked valuable discussions such as:
- The meaning of whole-heartedness
- How to support a fellow choir member who might be having a tough day
- How to handle yourself if you’re having a tough day
- What being there for each other in and out of choir class might look like
- How to manage their school responsibilities proactively
Do you have a set of agreements you use with your middle school choir that has worked well over time? Share them in the comments below.