My name is Erin, and I’m the one who runs The Practice Room. I started this site about 10 years ago while I was teaching high school choir. I taught in Maine for 22 years, but left in 2011 to work as an educator for a software company, and that’s what I do by day now.
I’m not a software engineer or developer, I’ll leave that for people smarter than me. 🙂 I have a developer who helps me with the parts of the site I can’t manage myself.
This site is a labor of love for me. I’m passionate about helping choir kids read better. Over time, I’ve grown even more passionate about making that easier for teachers.
I can trace this passion back to a conversation I had when I was 22, fresh out of college and working through my first year at my first job. I was working in a middle school, and I had managed to recruit a bunch of kids very quickly. But very few of them could read music.
I was at a conference – somewhere – talking to another choir teacher – I have no idea who – and I posed the rookie question that had dominated my thoughts all year.
“How do you get your chorus students to read better?”
I was expecting suggestions for resources, strategies, or words of wisdoms. The answer floored me.
“Get more band kids to join chorus.”
Wait. What about the others? What about the ones who walked in the door expecting me to teach them? Were they just … hopeless?
No, most certainly not. But I understand the answer. If the chorus has more singers who read quickly, the others will lean on them and pick things up quicker too. And sure, over the years, I had lots of band kids in chorus. And yes, they were often (but not always) ahead of the “chorus only” kids. But it was not because they had more innate talent.
It was because they’d had more instruction. In fact, beyond rehearsal, they had lessons!
The differentiator is instruction.
I lobbied for lessons at that first job and was successful. What a gift! They were short – about 20 minutes or so, and they were small groups, not individual lessons. But I focused on literacy. I was using the Jenson series at the time, I can still see the blue book cover.
Is it still out there? Anyone still using that? 334 exercises, more than enough to chose from and work through.
I shared a classroom with the Gifted and Talented teacher, so sometimes my lesson groups met in the cafeteria.
I distinctly remember the first day it happened.
It was two 7th grade girls, and we were out in the cafeteria at a table. We’d worked through a number of exercises together – fairly simple stuff. I picked the next exercise and prepared to sing through it with them, when one of the girls said,
“Let us try it alone.”
That really surprised me. I was nervous. What if they can’t do it, and this breaks their confidence. But… what if they can?
“Ok, go for it.”
They worked it out, tapping out the rhythm, humming a bit, and then they started.
They totally nailed it.
I was so proud of them. They sight sang exercise after exercise, their confidence building with each one they nailed.
“Oh my gosh, I can teach this to kids.”
It was exhilarating. My approach has changed over the years, and I ended up developing my own resources, which are now here on the site. I’ll talk a little more about that in my next post. But for now, I wanted to share a little bit about how I got started on this journey.
Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments! 🙂