Choices From A To Z

by Teresa Jennings

Just about anyone can learn just about anything if they set their mind to it. Depending on whether you want to learn something simple (like knitting) or advanced (like rocket science), there are a variety of ways to achieve knowledge. From lessons to classes to workshops to training to all manner of schooling, options exist to fill the need. And yes, digital sources like apps and videos are plentiful as well. And that's where choices come in. We all have a lot of them.

The song, "Choices From A To Z" dips a tiny toe into the water of the bounty before us all. The music is set in a halftime groove, atmospheric, yet somehow energizing. The style marking says "Confidently," which should give you a good idea of how to present the tune. From the beginning, it starts with a strong young soloist (Erin Cox on our recording) to state the case using a part of the alphabet to make the point. This solo is optional, but it works better if you can do it so that when the full chorus joins in on the repeat, it is more impactful. The sung portions of the song are actually pretty easy to feel and pick up, especially when you let your singers listen to the recording. It's all unison except for the solo, but there is a bit of a challenge in the heart of it. That is, of course, the spoken section.

You are going to want to practice each word of this section together, first just to be sure you agree with the pronunciation and emphasis. For example, did you know zoologist had a long o sound at the beginning? This threw a few of us, so we actually added a note to the music. Look for other potential problem spots for your singers.

Next, practice with the notated rhythms on the music. Besides learning the song and its content of choices, this is a terrific reinforcement of reading rhythms. There are three spoken sections, each broken up with a two-bar interlude. To teach these, we suggest taking one section at a time, just chanting the words together a cappella. Clap or tap a steady beat slowly for students at first, then increase the tempo until they get it. That way, when you add the music, it will be instantly gratifying. If you prefer, you can just play the recording with our kids performing over and over till your kids learn it by rote. But have them look at the rhythms and the words so that it becomes a lesson in reading (words and music) as well. The rhythms are also reinforced on the recording with a high synthesizer, by the way. See if your students can pick it out when they listen. The accompaniment version might be easier for this.

During each interlude of the spoken sections, there is a moment to feature a brief spoken soloist saying simply, "Yeah." Choose a different student each time to give as many chances as possible (there are six total). Tell them to say it with confidence. It's not meant to be cheery or upbeat, but rather, strong and powerful. In retrospect, while we were working on the mix of this piece, we thought it might have been cool to let all the kids say, "Yeah" at the very end as well. Alas, we did not think of it while we still had them in the studio, so it's not on the recording. But you can certainly add it if you wish.

After the spoken sections, the song repeats to the verse. The last time through, it is accompanied by a cool high guitar solo, duplicated in an equally cool high synth voice. Use this as an aural cue for singers to prepare to go to the coda at the end of that phrase.

As we are always telling you that you can adapt any of our music any way you like, we want to note that this song is no exception. While we have a good list of possibilities, there might be other things you or your kids want to say instead. For example, you might prefer an artist to an actor, or a pilot to a proofreader. Obviously, if you make a change like the latter, it means changing the rhythm, too. And that's another good lesson to learn.

One more thing about this song and the next one is that they are not specific to this revue. So you can mix and match them with other programs, collections, or revues as you like. You could also share them with the regular classroom teacher to make them cross curricular, always a positive for music classes.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.