High School Choir Online Learning Options: Growing as Musicians

If this helps anyone, here is how I am going to proceed with online learning for my high school choirs in the next weeks (approximately 130 students).  My school uses Google Classroom, so this assignment will appear there and students will be able to submit.  But this would also work through email.  Many of these ideas are industry standards.  I’ve only compiled them in a way that I think would work for my students.  Feel free to be inspired, borrow, or expand on this format.  Many thanks to all of the people who have already shared their resources and support.  We can do this!!!

And if you haven’t read it, check out my previous blog which informed this assignment: Don’t just assign crap: Questions to consider in this bizarre time

Greetings, singers!  For this assignment, please pick ONE thing to do and submit by Friday at 2:30pm.  We will continue to use this list going forward, so just pick your favorite for now.  This is your opportunity to direct your own learning and interests. There is no way for us to replicate the beauty and benefits of singing together in real-time at this point, but we can do things to continue to thrive as musicians.  Realizing that you all have different prior experiences and different ability levels, I have provided learning experiences that allow you to:

  • Create
  • Analyze
  • Perform
  • Explore
  • Process
  • Practice
  • Learn from others
  • Learn by yourself


You will be graded as a pass/fail on this assignment.  In order to receive a passing grade, you need to submit your work, along with answers to the following questions:

  1. What did you do?
  2. Why did you pick this experience?
  3. How do you know if you learned anything from doing it?
  4. What could you do next to extend this experience?

Be prepared to receive feedback from me and be willing to answer any additional questions I have for you based on your experience.

Here are your CHOICES (PICK ONE):

Be a conductor:  Pick one of our pieces that we are working on and record a video of yourself conducting to a recording of that piece (be sure to have the audio playing out and not into headphones/earbuds).  Move beyond just keeping time and conduct using gestures and cues that you believe would help a choir perform that piece. And answer the four questions.


Be a composer who uses music technology:  Make a piece of music using garageband.  Include a vocal line and at least three other sound layers.  Tell me about your composition process either by writing up a short summary or recording an audio response that is between two and five minutes long.  Your garageband piece should be at least 30 seconds long. And answer the four questions.


Be a choral composer who uses traditional notation:  Make a piece of music using MuseScore (free online).  Compose either a warm-up exercise (complete with lyrics) or a piece for choir (SATB with or without other instrumentation). Tell me about your composition process either by writing up a short summary or recording an audio response that is between two and five minutes long.  Your piece length is determined by you. And answer the four questions.


Be a performer:  Record audio or video of yourself performing your favorite song to a karaoke track.  Tell me why it’s your favorite song right now and why you like singing it. And answer the four questions.


Be a performer/creator:  Record an audio or video of yourself performing your own harmony parts that you have made up to a recording of your favorite song.  Imagine you are a back-up singer and be creative! Tell me why it’s your favorite song right now and why you like it. And answer the four questions.


Be a teacher:  Find a video online that would be valuable for your peers to watch that is related to singing/choir/music.  Write up an explanation of why it would be beneficial for anyone in our class and what you learned from watching it.  Provide some prompt questions that could help students think about the content in the video. And answer the four questions.


Conduct an interview: Ask a family member you’re stuck with (or call someone) about their music making.  Some possible questions are: Did they/do they have formal or informal music education?  How do they prefer making music? What impact has music had on them? Do they think that all students should be exposed to music education?  What memories do they have about music making? Write up a summary of your findings with any insights you have about this interaction or record an audio response that is between two and five minutes long.  And answer the four questions.


Create a playlist:  Assemble a playlist of at least ten pieces on your favorite music listening app or provide a list with links.  Pick a theme for your playlist. For each piece, provide a short and specific description of what you like about that piece.  Your playlist can include any medium of music (choral, vocal, instrumental, any genre). And answer the four questions.


Do a comparative analysis:  Find two recordings of the same piece by two different artists (you could use one of our choral pieces we are preparing or a song recorded by two different artists).  Analyze how they are similar and how they are different and why you prefer one over the other. Write up an analysis (at least two hundred words). And answer the four questions.


Explore music careers:  Consider all of the ways that you consume music now that you are social distancing.  Explore and pick a music career that is responsible for bringing music into your home (e.g. sound engineer, commercial artist, film composer, jingle writer, youtube artist).  Write up a short summary of what this person does, what type of schooling would be helpful for this career, skills necessary for this job, and your thoughts on that profession. And answer the four questions.


Listen to Song Exploder:  Pick your favorite artist or explore someone new.  Listen and respond to one of these Song Exploder episodes. http://songexploder.net/episodes   What is their creation process like?  What surprises you about this episode?  Write up a summary of your findings with any insights you have about this or record an audio response that is between two and five minutes long. And answer the four questions.


Keep a listening log:  Pick three pieces of music and journal about them. Include your thoughts about personal connection to the pieces, as well as insights into how the pieces are constructed.  Use the Writing about Music grid to guide your listening. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dJBhfvOWCQlMIFR_NUjr-vUfJH5KCljW/view?usp=sharing

Maybe consider how the pieces are similar or different to each other.  Either provide your journal entries or record an audio response that is between two and five minutes long. And answer the four questions.


Make a presentation:  Using a slide presentation, share with me your favorite piece of music.  Format your slides like this: slide #1 title and artist, slide #2 an analysis of the piece from a construction standpoint, slide #3 why we should listen to this piece, slide #4 a link to a recording. And answer the four questions.


Pitch an idea:  If you would like to create your own music learning experience, pitch your idea here.  I will review your suggestion and give you the go-ahead or offer suggestions for making it viable.  Be sure to make your case for why you would benefit from your own idea. You will receive credit for the assignment (not the pitch- so pitch early). And answer the four questions at the conclusion of your work.


Practice music theory skills:  Pick three lessons from http://www.musictheory.net and complete the corresponding exercises.  Screenshot your score, once you get over an 80% passing rate for each of the three exercises.  Be prepared to answer a few theory questions I direct at you related to your exercises (don’t have someone else do these for you, actually practice them yourself).  And answer the four questions.


Propose a choral program:  Create a choral program of your own.  Decide how to structure your program and pick pieces that fit your vision.  Explore music publishing or distribution websites for ideas. Include at least five choral pieces.  Create a slideshow with a slide for each piece that explains why you have chosen that piece and a link to a recording of it.  Have one additional slide that explains your vision. And answer the four questions.


Research:  Pick one of our pieces we are preparing and do some research on it.  Things to consider might be intent of the composer, context of time and place, lyric interpretations, and/or structure of the composition.  Write up a detailed description of the piece that demonstrates your understanding of it from a deeper perspective. And answer the four questions.


Watch a Tiny Desk Concert:  Pick your favorite artist or explore someone new.  Watch and respond to one of these Tiny Desk Concerts.  How is their performance here different from their previously recorded versions?  Does the format of the Tiny Desk Concert help or hinder their music making? https://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/  Write up a summary of your findings with any insights you have about this or record an audio response that is between two and five minutes long. And answer the four questions.


The intent of these experiences is for you to grow as a musician.  Email me with any questions you have. I’m happy to help support your learning.  Be well, stay home, and keep music in your life!





21 thoughts on “High School Choir Online Learning Options: Growing as Musicians

    1. Just wanted to say thanks for this! Gave me some new ideas for my classes as I put out learning experiences. I like your attitude and your style!


  1. Doreen Thank you. I’m going to be visiting this post with my Choral Practicum student who are without children to teach at the moment. Hoping they might be inspired to create some opportunities for those children and figure out how to deliver them… 🙂

    Any interest in an online visit with my students sometime in the next 6 weeks? Setting up some cyber visits with teachers to talk about their experiences with all of this.

    Be well,
    Andrea Maas
    Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam


  2. This is simply brilliant. Structured choices for every student!
    Not enough thanks for sharing with all of us!
    Very grateful!
    Barbara Retzko, Choral Director
    Basking Ridge, NJ 07920


  3. This is by far the best resource I have found so far for what do with my high school choir during this time, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Would you mind if I used these same options for my students? I will be sure to give you all the credit. 🙂 Also, I was wondering what that “Writing about Music grid” was?

    Thank you so much!

    -An overwhelmed first year teacher


  4. Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas with us! I am using these ideas for my HS choir kids. I know they will love the opportunity to be musical and creative and have some choices as to how they demonstrate their musical expression. Thanks again!


  5. Thank you for this! I was sort of lost trying to come up with something meaningful for my choirs, this was a Huge Help!


  6. I hope you don’t mind if I use this. I was struggling on how to connect with the kids, keep it relevant yet not overwhelming. I thought this was a wonderful way to keep them involved.


  7. Dear Doreen;
    This article has been a great help in creating substantive online learning for my very unnerved high school music students! My classes include 3 levels of Choir, 2 piano classes, Music al theater and Voice. Our state and district are coming up with new guidelines for teachers nearly EVERY DAY – and so far, these projects seem to meet the criteria. Best of all, kids are starting to dive in and CREATE. I believe that these Performing Arts students need to experience daily music in order to grow and thrive in ALL areas of learning.

    I am asking my students to sing Vocal Warm-ups and spend time sight reading and sight singing for 15 to 30 minutes each day. It is so wonderful to conference with them, see their bright shining faces, and hear their brilliant ideas! I’m pumped!

    Thank you SO much again, Doreen, for your shared ideas and encouragement. Praying for your good health, safety and happiness!
    Susan Evans
    Mountain View High School Choirs
    Bend, OR


  8. This is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! I love all the choice, the creativity, the variety, some simple, some complex and I didn’t know about SongExploder–how cool!

    I’m planning to borrow your stuff and make it my own as well. Wondering if you might share your Writing about Music Grid with me? I’m not able to view it right now.
    Thank YOU!!


  9. These are fantastic ideas and I’m already using them for both my choirs. Thank you thank you thank you!!

    R. Farver
    Largo, FL.


  10. Just wanted to say thank you! Mom over here trying to supplement a failing remote learning curriculum for my 8th grader. This is such a wonderful guide- and I appreciated the blog post you referenced. Thank you for thinking of thoughtful ways to continue their musical education while outside the classroom.


  11. As we enter the school year virtually, I can’t thank you enough for helping me navigate creating curriculum for students my students. Some are new and will not have a desire to perform so this gives them some viable options on how to be engaged until their level of confidence increases. Thank you! This is excellent material!


  12. Thank you so much! These musical projects have me so excited because I know my students will respond well to them. If was a high school music students I would be excited about these musical projects. A million thanks!


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