On a gorgeous autumn morning, Women’s Voices Chorus gathered at Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill for our annual fall retreat. Every year, we spend a Saturday working to refine our upcoming concert program, while also taking the time to build our bond with our fellow sisters and socialize over an always-amazing potluck lunch.
For this year’s retreat, we were honored to have Dr. Nana Wolfe-Hill, an assistant professor of Music and the Director of Choral Activities at Wingate University, as a guest clinician. Dr. Wolfe-Hill’s workshop focused on bringing feminist pedagogy into our choral rehearsal space, which is her main area of research.
Feminist pedagogy rose out of the third wave of feminism. It moves away from the hierarchical approach to teaching – the idea that the teacher has all of the knowledge and power – and instead promotes the idea that everyone in the room has something to contribute. In Dr. Wolfe-Hill’s experience, this empowering method of teaching leads to a choral performance that might be less technical, but more engaging and alive as the singers are able to connect more emotionally to the pieces they sing.
Dr. Wolfe-Hill guided us through this style of teaching with the use of journaling. As we worked on a song, she would ask us a series of questions and had us write down our thoughts. Then she encouraged us to share our impressions with the room. The discussions that resulted from those questions shaped our perception of the music and deepened each performance as we rehearsed. By using the journals, Dr. Wolfe-Hill helped us to stimulate our right brain, so that as we used our left brain to read the notes and words, we would also use our right brain to feel the emotions in the song.
We cannot thank Dr. Wolfe-Hill enough for taking the time to work with us! Her feminist pedagogical approach to choral rehearsal was an eye-opening experience for many of us, one that we will continue to use as we prepare for our winter concert. We hope that by doing so, we will present a concert that is as engaging as it is entertaining!