BIJA CHILDREN'S CHOIR PARENT HANDBOOK
(updated Sept 2019)
II. About the Bija Children's Choir Season
III. Annual Performances
IV. About our Nonprofit Status & Fundraisers
V. Rhythmics: Movement-based Music Education
VI. Description of Choir Levels, Entry & Advancement
VII. Community Connections
WELCOME to the Bija Children's Choir, where we are deeply dedicated to educating and inspiring your young person who loves to sing, as well as enriching the Sonoma County community through our quality multicultural performances.
Bija is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning creative seed, which represents the Bija Choir's mission of sowing and nurturing seeds of musical skill and creativity among our community's youth. Creating in the arts is what defines us as human, and the music skills that students learn in choir classes are life skills, as well. They learn how to listen, how to use their voices with confidence, how to work in harmony with others, among many other things.
Just as it is with any seed, the growing conditions are essential, and this is where you, the parents, play a crucial role in your child's success. Although it is very helpful for parents to have musical skills to share at home (such as being able to sing in harmony, play an instrument, read music, etc), it is not at all necessary in order for children to develop choir skills of their own. What IS important is that you support your child's class learning by bringing them regularly to class on time, playing the provided song references for them to study at home, and by participating in choir productions and fundraisers that are held throughout the season.
The following pages describe in detail about how our program works, expectations around events throughout the season, descriptions and goals of each choir level, and FAQ's. If there are any further questions please feel free to email anytime at email@example.com. Thank you for investing your family's time and energy into our program this season. Singing is a gift that lasts a lifetime!
Truly, Maria Ana Bija Creative Director
ABOUT THE BIJA CHILDREN'S CHOIR SEASON
As for Fall 2019, the new Bija Choir season begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. In lieu of weekly classes, other special projects happen in the winter & spring, such as recordings and local school outreach through online song source access.
New students may join at the start of the season upon meeting the following requirements:
Be age 8 or older (students turning 8 during the fall semester may be considered)
Show the ability to sing consistently on pitch
Show the ability to keep a steady beat, demonstrated through movement such as stepping side to side and clapping the off-beats
Demonstrate focused behavior composure and strong listening skills
Have a positive, cooperative attitude
As of Fall 2019, the NEW Bija Choir costume consists of a burgundy vest (ordered through the Bija Choir for a fee of $20), plus students’ own black pants, black shoes, and white top. The type of white top is dictated by the venue — holiday tree lighting or other outdoor performances require a white long-sleeved turtleneck, while indoor venues require a short-sleeved white tee.
*There are several vests available on borrow instead of purchase, in the case of financial hardship. Please request in advance if possible.
OPEN AUDITION / TRIAL CLASS DAY:
New students should attend the Open Group Audition / Trial Class Day for free. This day happens the week preceding the start of the season, and results of acceptance are given the following day.
There is also a week of Community Holiday Classes in December where Bija Choir students invite friends/siblings to attend, bring an item for the food/clothing drive, and learn songs & choir games with us. Auditions are not needed at any level for these spirited open classes.
ANNUAL PERFORMANCES & EVENTS
All Bija Choir students perform in early December, usually for the Sebastopol Tree Lighting Ceremony, or for local benefit or senior communities. Exact dates and venues are posted on the Bija Choir website calendar at the start of the season.
In past seasons, and in future seasons when we are able to, another main performance happens in March: the annual Bija Cultural Storyconcert, which is a unique choral performance woven into a spoken folk tale, highlighting a selected world cultural tradition. As we are operating under the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, who is still rebuilding their main performance space from last winter’s flood damage, we hope to resume this spring performance once repairs and upgrades have been completed. Your voice of support to Sebastopol City Council for approving much-needed funds for the Community Center rebuild is extremely helpful!
Special guests including a storyteller, musicians and dancers from the local and Bay Area, are also incorporated in the Bija Story Concerts, illuminating the rich cultural resources that exist in Sonoma County's own backyard.
Storytelling is an important art form for teaching lessons and reinforcing morals, and when threaded together with traditional choral and dance elements, make the Bija Cultural Story Concerts a rich, multicultural performance event for the community each year.
Leading up to this concert (in years that we are able to produce them), we try to offer workshops in dance or fine arts that are related to the concert theme, and there is sometimes a choir-wide fundraiser to help pay for costs. The Story Concert is the one ticketed event of the year, since the production costs (for the hall, sound/lighting, guest artists, publicity, etc) run high.
ABOUT OUR NONPROFIT STATUS & “FUN”DRAISERS
There's a popular myth claiming that nonprofits are not allowed to make any profit at all. If this was the case, nonprofit businesses could not exist! While it's true that nonprofits have an unpaid Board of Directors, they do have paid employees/contractors, and in fact the organization itself is allowed to make quite a lot of money. However this money must come from a broad community support base (ie lots of small donations from the general public versus a few major private or corporate sponsors), and employees receive low to modest wages rather than lofty stipends as in the private sector. The primary focus of the 501c3 nonprofit is to serve the community-- which in our case is through youth choral education and cultural performances-- rather than on financial profit.
That being said, all businesses including nonprofits must have a healthy flow of revenue in order to thrive. The Bija Children's Choir maintains healthy revenue by holding fundraisers from time to time, including a silent auction, a prayer flag fundraiser, or a pie sale & raffle. All Bija Choir families are expected to participate on some level, whether to help bake an item, work at a table, help set up/ clean up at an event, find business sponsors or auction items, or perform other tasks. Participation in fundraisers is intended to be fun and social, and not at all meant to break the family bank.
RHYTHMICS: MOVEMENT-BASED MUSIC EDUCATION
One of the unique aspects of the Bija Choir program is that the music theory learning at all levels is based on the movement-based methods of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, otherwise referred to as “Rhythmics”, not to be confused with Eurhythmy of Steiner's Waldorf education. Eurhythmy is an interpretive and somewhat-spiritual art form, whereas Rhythmics is a method of music education created by Swiss Professor Emile Jaques Dalcroze at the turn of the 1900's. Dalcroze found that a strong rhythmic sense is one of the primary factors underlying musicality, and the key to developing a strong sense of rhythm is movement. Both Kodaly and Orff methods grew out of the Dalcroze pedagogy, with Kodaly focusing on the Solfege singing/ear training aspects of the Dalcroze approach through using visual hand symbols, and Orff focusing on the compositional aspects using xylophones.
Musical instruments do not play themselves, however. Bodies play them; hearts & minds play them. Rhythmics teaches the body as “the first instrument,” and builds a vocabulary of listening and movement experiences (both habitual, such as walking, jogging, skipping, to more creative uses of time, space, and energy) to draw upon for musical literacy and performance skill.
For a most primary example, beginner students are asked to march to the beat (of music played skillfully by the teacher), and then are asked to add hand claps with the marching, to then using only hands, maybe at times with a partner, to vocalizing on “ta” and gesturing in the air... The next step is for the beat to become visual on the chalkboard, where a student is asked to make percussive beat marks as they march alongside the chalkboard, which the teacher then turns into standard notation of musical quarter notes. Over time and practice of this cyclical process, ranging from the simplest to the most complex of rhythmic motifs or musical expressions, when the student reads the notation, the movement connection has been logged into the body, and the rhythms are played or sung with steady pulse, whole-body vitality-- one of the defining elements of being “musical.”
All aspects of music can be taught through Rhythmics movement activities. Meter, accent, phrase, dynamics, articulation, harmony, texture, mode, character, syncopation, polyrhythm, form, and so on. More refined levels of expression require more refined movement abilities, so Rhythmics also develops a student's fine movement skills and spatial awareness, muscle control and balance. To move gracefully and intentionally, to have command of one's body, also builds self-confidence as an important element of performance.
Rhythmics also recognizes that music-making requires social awareness and skills, such as leading, following, adapting, listening, working in groups of different sizes. This is all part of the teaching agenda in class, where students are invited to create and contribute ideas, or other times listen, watch and follow, or adapt to changes in the music, or work in partners or trios or larger groups.
DESCRIPTION OF CHOIRS, GOALS & ADVANCEMENT
Just as with developing any skill -- such as playing soccer or dancing ballet or painting-- there are specific techniques, skills, and muscles to develop for singing. And of course, this development takes time. Ideally, students begin taking music & movement classes at toddler ages and enter the Bija Choir program starting age 8 to begin choral training through teenage years.
The Bija Concert Choir is for early intermediate singers ages 8-14 by audition or invitation. Students find it fulfilling to work in 2 or 3 part harmony and be among other capable and focused singers, making the energy of this group inspiring and enthusiastic. There are opportunities for students to give ideas and help create certain aspects of performances, and students look forward to working with professional guest artists in annual concerts.
To enter Concert Choir, students must be able to sing consistently on pitch in a freely flowing head voice, show solid rhythmic ability (such as stepping a steady beat side to side & clapping the off-beats), and show a focused behavior and positive attitude composure in class and in performances.
Goals of the Bija Concert Choir include:
Basic Music Literacy (a home workbook / video series is in the works!)
Achieving and maintaining choral blend at different tempi and dynamics
Intermediate level Rhythmics, movement canons, mixed meter, syncopation
Hearing and singing modal solfege scales & repertoire
Reading solfege melodies step & skip-wise, finding “doh” in 1-sharp/1-flat keys
Hearing & singing all major, minor, and perfect intervals
Group dance coordination and expression
Singing rounds and songs in 2 and 3 part harmony
Self-evaluations after performances, watching video recordings and giving group critique in a positive, constructive manner
Building students' confidence and sense of fulfillment through participating in vibrant multicultural performances for the community
The Bija Select Choir is a subgroup of those most advanced and committed from the larger Concert Choir group, who meet at additional times throughout the season for special projects. Participation is by invitation by the Director, and Select Choir students are mentored by our older teen and women’s vocal collective, “Kindred Voices”. By the time students reach this level they are committed young musicians and can advance to levels of choral excellence.
The Bija Children's Choir demonstrates its commitment to the community by:
… being a GO LOCAL Sonoma County Member and shopping/hiring locally
… donating Bija Choir Gift Certificates to local school auctions
… performing for the community several times a year at low/no ticket cost
… participating in events such as holiday tree lighting or other ceremonies
… opening our choir classroom doors to friends and family at the holidays
… holding food/clothing drives for those in need
… offering need-based scholarships to low-income students
… employing local musicians, dancers, storytellers, graphic designers
… treading gently upon the earth by using reclaimed materials for artistic fundraiser projects, & saving resources by sending info & flyers digitally
… teaching young people to understand and appreciate a variety of cultural traditions, to serve the Sonoma County community and the greater world beyond as young ambassadors of harmony.
Q: Can my child's friend who is interested in Bija Choir come to watch?
A: We’re sorry but we don’t allow observers at weekly rehearsals in order to maintain best focus. The best way for friends to experience the Bija Choir is to attend a performance!
Q. My child's grandparents are visiting from out of town and can't make it to the concert-- may they come to watch the rehearsal?
A: Yes, grandparents have earned the golden privilege! Please let the Director know in advance about any grandparent visits, if possible.
Q: My child is 7yrs old and loves to sing. Can s/he sign up for Choir?
A: Children must be turning 8yrs old within the fall semester, and fulfill the other musical and behavioral requirements as outlined in the guide above, in order to participate.
Q: Can my child enter Concert Choir at mid-season?
A: No, there is no longer mid-season entry for the Bija Choir
Q: Are refunds available if we run into schedule conflicts and can't attend for a few weeks or need to discontinue for some reason?
A: Sorry, there are no refunds given for missed or discontinued choir classes unless the cancellation is on the part of the Bija Choir.
Q: Does the Director offer private voice or piano lessons?
A: Yes! Please inquire to firstname.lastname@example.org for private lesson fees and availability.
Q: I used to sing in college. Are there Bija Choir classes for adults?
A: Depending on the Director’s availability and interest among parents, the Bija Choir offers Adult Vocal Ensemble workshops to parents / adult family members or friends who have choir experience, to learn a handful of songs that they perform at the choir-wide Bija Concerts.
BIJA CHILDREN'S CHOIR
growing harmony for the world
LOVE TO SING