Monday, January 20, 2014

I Know Sousa Not Sopranos!

A Survival Guide for the Band Director Teaching Choirs

About a month ago, I was asked for an interview by Andrew Berman, a contributing feature writer for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) publication, Teaching Music, as part of an article for February, 2014, entitled Trading Chairs! The article is about music teachers who were trained in one area, yet ended up teaching in another area. I was reminded of my book with Heritage Music Press, I KNOW SOUSA, NOT SOPRANOS! A Survival Guide for the Band Director Teaching Choirs.

A few years ago, I was doing reading sessions and workshops for JW Pepper in Kansas City with Mary Lynn Lightfoot, Choral Editor for Heritage Music Press. I did one of my workshops, “Choral Music for Band Directors,” and afterward, Mary Lynn said, “Russ, you should write a book for us on that topic.” Hence, about 3 years later I wrote the book for HMP.

In the article, another interviewee, Ms. Crystal Sherd-Chew, who like me was a trained band director who “switched” to choral music, mentions that she had read the book as well. That is extremely gratifying for me, because my bottom line in all of my writing (books, DVD’s, choral music) is to help teachers do their jobs better, and if my teaching experience has giving me some insights to help them, it doesn’t get much better than that. My premise in the book is that if you are a good musician and teacher, you can teach any area of music. There are many qualities that instrumental music teachers have that directly relate to choral music. However, there are some areas that are different and necessary to learn, and I had to learn them “when I made the switch.” For example, 1. The treatment of text (which is one of the reasons I fell in love with choral music—text!), 2. How to teach diction—particularly vowels—and, 3. Selecting appropriate repertoire for the various age groups. These and many other areas are discussed in the book (hopefully in an interesting and sometimes humorous way). Again, I am pleased to have this book and other publications with Heritage Music Press. I hope that you will read the complete article in the February issue of Teaching Music with the opinions and recommendations of a panel of professionals. If you ever have any questions, or if you need any assistance, do not hesitate to contact me at

Dr. Russell L. Robinson is Interim Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Education Department at the University of Florida.

Highly in demand, Dr. Robinson has made over 300 appearances as a conductor and clinician at festivals, workshops, honor choirs, all-state choirs and state, regional, national and international conventions in the U.S., Europe, China, Singapore, Japan, Africa, and Australia as well as conducting venues which include: Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Boston's Symphony Hall, the White House and the National Cathedral.

He is a Past President of the Florida Music Educators Association, past National Collegiate Chair for MENC and is the current MENC Choral Adviser. Dr. Robinson is a published author, composer and arranger with over 250 choral arrangements, books, videos and DVDs in print.

You can visit his site at

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