Voice for Life training scheme


Training a choir is both a challenge and a joy. The Voice for Life training scheme provides a framework for choral singers to develop their vocal skills, their musical understanding and their knowledge of repertoire. The scheme comes with a range of teaching material and supporting resources and gives plenty of advice on the practicalities of running a choir.

It is intended to enable choir trainers and teachers to train their choir or group more effectively, and to help singers grow as people as well as musicians.

Voice for Life involves the choir trainer or teacher, and each member of the choir or group. The scheme is designed to be flexible so it can fit around your choir’s schedule. Much of the training will become part of your usual rehearsal time; for example, the vocal exercises can be incorporated at the beginning of your rehearsal as warm-ups or to break up the rehearsal, and you can provide training on posture, breathing, diction, etc.

F0121The Voice for Life resources for choir trainers contain all the information and advice you need to launch Voice for Life with your choir or group of singers. There are also other support materials available to help you motivate, encourage and assess your singers including singers’ workbooks, medals, badges, song collections, and wall-charts.





How Voice for Life works

LevelsThere are five levels in the Voice for Life scheme, for singers of any age from beginners through to advanced singers, starting with a preparatory level for brand new, inexperienced singers.
•White (preparatory level)
•Light Blue
•Dark Blue

White Level

The F0099 White Level Workbook, for new singers (ie, probationers/trainee choir members, both children and adults), introduces and assesses very basic choral skills and understanding.

On completion of this preparatory level, the singer is admitted as a full member of the choir, and there is an RSCM Chorister’s Admission Card that can be given to mark this special occasion.

There is also a Voice for Life White Lapel Badge that can be awarded to acknowledge formally the singer’s achievement. For robed choirs, it may also be your custom to award a surplice at this stage. Some choirs also choose to present singers with the Voice for Life Chorister’s Companion on joining the choir.

Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow levels

Once the singer has become a full member of the choir, they move on to the four main levels of Voice for Life: Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow. At each level of Voice for Life there are graded targets which are assessed informally by the choir trainer or teacher. Once a singer has completed the necessary training for that level, reached the targets and finished their workbook they can be awarded their RSCM Voice for Life medal and the appropriately coloured ribbon (for robed choirs) or coloured lapel badge (for non-robed choirs). The singer then moves on to the next level.

How singers are trained and assessed

To enable choir trainers and teachers to train and assess their singers with confidence, each level of Voice for Life comes complete with:
•Teaching material to provide the appropriate training for each level. This includes practical exercises, diagrams, photocopiable worksheets, and sample tests.
•Workbooks for singers containing questions, exercises and puzzles, designed for use by singers of any age.
•Clear targets which state exactly what a singer should have achieved/be able to demonstrate in order to be awarded their next level. These are listed in the back of the singers’ workbooks with a space for the choir trainer or teacher to sign and date each target as it is achieved, showing the progress of the singer through that level.

Singers may also take Bronze, Silver and Gold singing awards if they wish – see more details here.

The skills developed in Voice for Life

Each level of the scheme provides training in the following areas:

Module A: Using the voice well

Module A illusThis module aims to teach singers how to develop good vocal technique. It contains many practical exercises and helpful diagrams enabling you to deliver the training in this Module with confidence. It begins by helping singers get used to the physical sensations of healthy vocal technique, and in the later levels develops their understanding of the physiology of the voice.

Contained in this module:
posture, breathing, tone and range, diction, style and interpretation, blending with the choir

Module B: Musical skills & understanding

Module B illusMusical skills and musical understanding should grow together; as a singer makes progress with their voice they need to develop the understanding and skills to support them in their singing. Singers need to understand the music they are looking at and develop an ability to read and interpret what they see. Likewise, they need to develop their listening skills. This module develops knowledge of music theory and notation, and then encourages singers to demonstrate this understanding through sight-singing and aural skills.

Contained in this module:
music theory (note values, rests, time signatures, note names, ledger lines, accidentals, double sharps and flats, intervals and degrees of the scale, keys and scales, modes, chords and cadences), sample sight-reading tests, sample aural tests.

Module C: Repertoire

Module C illusThis module aims to develop a good understanding of the musical and historical contexts of the music performed by the choir or individual singer. It also gives singers the opportunity to demonstrate the musical understanding they gain in Module B through some simple musical analysis. Singers are encouraged to find out about the background of the music that they sing: to translate and understand the text of a piece, to look at the historical background, to look at the purpose of a piece, to develop an understanding of the style/genre. Through this research, singers develop the ability to gather information from various sources and to present this in an original form.

Contained in this module:
finding the information, sample questions, sample answers, how to write programme notes, programming for your choir – basic principles.

Module D: Belonging to the choir

Module D illusIf a singer wants to be part of a choir, there is more required than simply being able to sing. There are issues of commitment, punctuality and responsibility. This module considers how a singer can be encouraged in these areas and gives plenty of additional advice for you on recruiting singers into the choir and how to maintain their interest and commitment.

Contained in this module:
recruiting and publicity, new singers, when a singer moves into the adult section, when singers leave the choir, roles for singers within the choir, choir pay, discipline, notes for head choristers/choir captains, copyright issues, child protection, weekly standards, general progress, rehearsal tips, starting a choir.

Module E: Choir in context

Module E illusA choir does not exist in isolation. Although it is a community in its own right it is also part of a wider community such as a school, church, village or town. This module encourages singers to explore the wider context of its choir’s existence: Why do they sing in that particular choir? Why does the choir exist? For whom does it sing? How does the choir benefit its members and those outside the choir? The material is divided into various sessions, each based on one topic, and these come complete with photocopiable worksheets.

Contained in this module:
For all choirs:
the gift of music, the power of music, what is a community?, the community of our choir, the wider community, the roots of our choir, the changing repertoire of our choir, special project: serving the wider community.

Additional sessions for church and worship choirs:
Christian ministry and music, regular and special services, festivals and seasons in the Christian year, places of worship (church buildings).

For more information, and to find out how Voice for Life could help your choir, contact the RSCM Education Department on +44 (0)1722 424843 or voiceforlife@rscm.com.

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