The Chorus School
The SFBC Educational Philosophy
The SFBC’s Chorus School nurtures the belief that boys succeed in a concrete, non-competitive learning environment in which faculty and staff honor children’s learning styles by using kinesthetic, auditory, and visual methods in their instructional approach, combined with sequential, age-appropriate, reward-based learning. Music education benefits include the development of cognitive, personal, and social competencies, including: significantly improved critical thinking, problem posing/solving, and decision-making skills, communication, manipulation, interpretation, and understanding of complex symbols (much like language and mathematics), higher-order thinking skills analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, simultaneous employment of multiple skills, and development of a child’s imagination and judgment.
Four Chorus School Levels
Preparatory Chorus (Level I)
The Preparatory Chorus is an early-childhood program designed to encourage enthusiasm and appreciation for music in the SFBC’s youngest choristers ranging from grades K-1, with an emphasis on interactive, creative play and self-discovery. Children will work with recognition of pitch and basic music symbols, explore the differences between speaking and singing voices, musical characterization, and concepts of posture, breath control, and diction.
Preparatory choristers learn vocal placement in the head voice, as well as basic repertoire through age-appropriate games. They also learn the balance between fun and focus, with a curriculum designed for short attention spans.
With that in mind, Preparatory choristers do not perform in the SFBC Winter Concert, but instead present what they have been learning during the term to their friends and families through Sharing Concerts. These give the boys an opportunity to showcase the games and songs they have been learning in a safe, familiar environment. The Preparatory Chorus boys will have their debut performance on stage with the rest of the Training School in the Spring Concert.
Juniors (Level II)
Junior Apprentices meet in an expanded early-childhood training setting that fosters focus on a chorus director, further development of head voice, rhythm through kinesthetic learning, and early sight-singing and music theory concepts using the Kodály & Orff methods.
Choristers, ranging from grades 1-2, begin learning part-singing through rounds and canons, early training devices used to train the ear to independently hold pitch and eventually be able to harmonize with fellow choristers – a hallmark of any chorus. Juniors also begin to learn score reading.
Apprentice (Level III)
The Apprentice Chorus, split into smaller Apprentice 1 & Apprentice 2 groups, represents a chorister’s progression into more complex music sung in multiple languages. Apprentices build on the concepts of polyphony learned in the Junior level until choristers are able to sing in two- and three-part harmony. Pitch, rhythm, and an ability to sing easily and clearly in the head voice must already be a solid skill for an Apprentice. Ability to follow a conductor (entrances, cut offs, interpretation) and teamwork are Apprentice concentrations, with additional development in independent singing and decision-making as related to a group. Differentiated Kodàly-based sight-singing and musicianship classes are designed to help Apprentices meet the developmental music needs of long-term choristers, as well as students who enter this level with no formal training. Apprentices typically range from grades 2-3. Apprentices must be able to read.
Apprentices appear annually at SFBC’s Winter and Spring Concerts, and begin throughout the Chorus year to appear in community concerts that are chosen especially to help encourage their growing performance experience.
Apprentices are required to attend the SFBC’s week-long day camp each summer to prepare for the coming Chorus year, begin their journey toward overnight camp, and prepare for international touring. Day camp attendance is required for promotion consideration.
Intermediate (Level IV)
The Intermediate Chorus is one step away from the semi-professional touring Concert Chorus, and represents a chorister’s ability to sing consistently, clearly, and flexibly across his vocal range. Choristers study and perform highly complex three-part literature with consonant and dissonant harmonies, reflecting their ability to hold a vocal part in three-part harmony using a strong, focused sound, and ability to read extended pentatonic melodies and passages.
Intermediates rehearsing at each of the SFBC’s three rehearsal locations perform together for concerts. Newly-minted Intermediates further their music education with increasingly complex music and theory lessons.
Intermediates are required to attend summer overnight camp and to audition for the Concert Chorus. Throughout the year, Intermediates sing at sporting events, in Bay Area festivals and peer-Chorus activities, and public, private, and civic engagements. Intermediates also tour domestically – their most recent tours include trips to Vancouver, the Pacific International Children’s Choir Festival in Eugene, Oregon, and The Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim, California.