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Dr. Lyn Schenbeck of Newnan, Georgia wrote the following review of Patrick K. Freer‘s three-DVD series. Throughout her 40-year career, Dr. Schenbeck has taught music at every level from kindergarten through college and adults. Prior to moving to Newnan, she was Director of Choral and Orchestral Activities at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. She currently teaches middle-school general music in the Coweta County, GA schools.

Success for Adolescent Singers ~ unlocking the potential in middle school choirs

Patrick K. Freer, Ed.D., ed. Piero Bonamico, Fayston, VT: Choral Excellence Inc., 2005. Single set (3 DVDs + booklet): $49.95  Library Set (Each DVD in separate box with a booklet) $99.95.

Every student who plans to teach music and some of us who are already teaching music should plan to view this excellent set of DVDs. The visual information is presented on three DVDs: Disc I: The Singer, Disc II: The Choir, and Disc III: The Individual. Each disc is valuable both individually and collectively.

The accompanying booklet has a wealth of material and resources. Not only is there a well-annotated bibliography, but Dr. Freer includes exercises, suggestions, and methods for each of the types of activities he presents. In addition, he provides a list of the repertoire he teaches in the video, along with composer and publisher information. The booklet is also valuable as an independent tool for students.

A group of randomly selected middle school students were brought together for a week’s worth of choral training. No one was auditioned and Dr. Freer did not know any of the students until they arrived; they did not know each other. As he says on the first disc, the purpose of this set of DVDs is to teach the process of education with performance as only one of several outcomes.

On the first disc, “The Singer,” Dr. Freer demonstrates a series of non-threatening physical activities to determine the vocal level of each student. It is important to use a constructivist approach—to determine the level on which the student is functioning and build on that.

“The Choir” spotlights the choral rehearsal: attention and focus, learning music, and matching challenges with skills. Freer stresses the importance of focus on musical content and transferring learning responsibility to the student through a process of self-evaluation and constant input into the rehearsal process. He reminds us that our techniques should constantly be evolving and that repertoire should be instructional material that accurately reflects student needs.

One of the most challenging aspects of secondary music education is the changing voice. Disc II, “The Individual,” highlights the value and excitement of working with individual voices to help give each student (both male and female) a physiological and psychological understanding of the voice change. He addresses the areas of vocal confidence, personal success, flexibility, and the importance of continuing to sing through the changes. He builds on the dynamic and important work of Lynne Gackle for the female voice and John Cooksey for the men. On this DVD we see Dr. Freer working vocally one-on-one with different students, talking with them to ask for input. His work demonstrates his wonderful sensitivity to the individual’s feelings and his positive approach to everything he does.

I strongly recommend this DVD set to all those who are preparing music teachers, students of music education, and those of us already teaching. Dr. Freer has provided a comprehensive, active presentation of student-centered learning, knowledge, strategies, and accomplishments.

To purchase this set please go to the Shop Now! page. Teachers who purchase an individual set may show the video to students in their classrooms without danger of copyright infringement. Books may be purchased separately: 10 for $14.95. However to be within the law, teachers who wish to put it on reserve in the library must have the library purchase the Library Edition.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City wrote this to Donald Neuen in a letter following a Carnegie Hall concert:
“. . . presently from UCLA and the Crystal Cathedral Choir — you have had a lasting impact on the lives of young musicians across the country.  New York is proud to have you perform here.”

J.W. Pepper, the largest sheet music retailer in the world, has this to say of the Donald Neuen video series “Artistic Musical Conducting” and “Choral Techniques and Methods”:

“If you take your conducting seriously and want to ‘sit at the feet of the master,’ this is what you’ve been looking for.  Furthermore, the high quality of the audio and video production of these products is equal to their superb content!”

Dr. John Boozer of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, D.M.A. Choral Conducting, recommends the Donald Neuen videos:

“The depth, energy and inspiration of Don Neuen’s classes come alive on these videos.  The comprehensiveness of technique and artistic musicianship will be valuable to the novice AND the professional conductor.”

Rick Rayfield,  PhD in Neuroscience,  singer in Blackfriars, Mad River Chorale, Cafe Noir Cabaret,  Forbidden Christmas, Green Mountain Opera Festival, Waitsfield Church choir,  and the Mad River Masonic choir, and Central Vermont Scottish Rite drama director, college teacher and book shop owner tells this tale:
“The University of Chicago Interfraternity Sing is the oldest in the nation.  In 2002, I was asked to conduct my college fraternity (Phi Gamma Delta) in our three minute harmonious medley.  Why me?  Because I was an enthusiastic singer who had once stepped in to beat the time when our revered long-time conductor was ill.    No formal music training.   My community chorus director, Piero Bonamico,  lent me the new Choral Excellence conducting videos, handed me a baton, and pushed me onto an airplane to Chicago. With little confidence or pretense, but surprising expertise due to the Choral Excellence videos, I rehearsed and led 150 singers in competition.  It was our fraternity’s centennial, with alumni ranging 21 to 91.   We won the  “Best Overall” trophy, and I was carried on the shoulders of my brothers out of the Sing.  My peak physical remembrance was the power of 150 men singing in harmony,  reverberating off the stone walls of the courtyard, with me modestly, efficiently, and enthusiastically keeping them in tempo together.  What I learned from Choral Excellence was both effective conducting technique, and also how to evoke in our limited rehearsals the best singing from the older seasoned and the younger inexperienced singers.  Intonation, attention, phrasing, dynamics, gentle glee.  Now I go back to Reunion every year to conduct at the Sing, using on-line tools to prepare my singers for our precious twenty minute rehearsal.  And  I serve on the Sing Committee for the University to promote the joy of singing by college students and alumni together. Choral Excellence was the key to this success.