Choral Pedagogy Institute

This slideshow is not enabled

Choral Pedagogy Institute
July 27 - July 31, 2020


The Choral Pedagogy Institute will focus its instruction on moving choral rehearsals from rote learning choral “first aid” to foundational understandings of building long term skill development.  The course will also share innovative strategies for developing musicianship and phrasing in all choral ensembles.  This is the only course in the world that focuses in-depth on applying Music Learning Theory and the principles of Music Learning to the Choral rehearsal.

This course focuses upon the groundbreaking pedagogy that is detailed in a new, monumental 700-page text: The Choral Rehearsal: A Harmonic Approach to the Choral Rehearsal.  James Jordan will share the methodology developed over the past 25 years of his work applying the Music Learning Theories of Edwin Gordon to the choral rehearsal. James Jordan was Edwin Gordon’s singular student who applied Music Learning Theory to Choral Performance Groups in an in-depth and comprehensive fashion.  Choral Directors at all levels of personal development will be led through the latest research and experience those findings in practical sessions dealing with the choral rehearsal.  The use of Chant as a music literacy device and also an intonation teaching device will be explored.

Dr. Jordan will be joined by Jason Vodicka who will bring varied and new rehearsal strategies to the rehearsal process.

Faculty: James Jordan, Director; Jason Vodicka, Corey Everly, and Sean McCarther.

$825 non-credit/$1415 with 2 graduate credits

A Living Laboratory

Participants, who serve as the lab choir, will explore pedagogy through example and experience. The faculty will also include three members of the world-renowned Westminster Voice faculty, Sean McCarther, who will talk about vocal pedagogy as it applies to the choral sound.  In sessions titled “Advice and Coaching from Voice Teachers” these master teachers will provide their unique perspectives that have distinguished their teaching across the country and around the world as it applies to choral singing.  In addition, Sean McCarther, a member of the Westminster Voice Science faculty will also share essential lectures on specific aspects of Voice Science relevant to choral ensemble singing. Jonathan Palmer Lakeland will provide an intensive on accompanying within the rehearsal process that supports music learning and audiation. Corey Everly will provide rehearsal strategies regarding the essentials of vowel production.

This institute is designed for choral musicians at all levels of experience who wish to learn rehearsal techniques and an array of approaches to music literacy and choral technique. This unique and multifaceted seminar brings together many of the most important and inspirational teachers in America today.

A Life-Changing Experience

The Forward from the text Inside the Choral Rehearsal is reprinted below to provide potential students for this course regarding its depth and concepts.


Almost 50 years has passed since pre-eminent scholar in music education Edwin E. Gordon transformed his initial learning theory—based on Gagné applied to music—to the Music Learning Theory (MLT) we know today.  The theory provides an explanation of the process through which students of all ages learn music; understanding the process provides a theoretical framework on which teachers can plan effective music instruction. The course objective is to provide practical tools to transforming the choral rehearsal into a harmonically based music learning experience that truly nurtures long term musical growth in ensembles at any level.

The development of MLT began long before Gordon was on faculty at the University at Buffalo, but it was there that his ideas finally came together. During the Buffalo years, Gordon first delineated pedagogical and theoretical frameworks based on his research regarding the nature, description, measurement, and evaluation of music aptitudes and music achievement. Next, he coined the word audiation to represent music heard and understood in the mind with or without the music being physically present. Then, from his study of learning theories applied to music, a music skill learning sequence emerged.  Further, his continuing research led to a taxonomy of tonal and rhythm patterns from which the Content Sequences in his theory emerged as well as additional tenets of the theory regarding music development in infants and very young children.  Gordon’s teachings, though at times controversial, have provided a stimulus for research and practical applications for learning outcomes in various aspects of music learning situations.

Practical applications were slow at first; however, several of Gordon’s former doctoral students at Temple University have been prolific in this regard. Now, one of those students, James Jordan, internationally acclaimed choral educator, and Grammy© nominee, gives us the long awaited for practical application of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory for choral music learning and establishes a new pedagogical canon for choral conductors.  As Gordon was driven throughout his career by the question: “How do we learn when we learn music?” Jordan has been driven by a variation of that question: “How do we learn music in the choral setting?”  Gordon (1971) believed that “the purpose and objectives of music education are best effected through an understanding of how students learn music and by adhering to teaching principles that interact with and enhance the musical learning process” (p. 63). Detailed in over 40 books, Jordan’s groundbreaking work in MLT applied to the choral rehearsal, conducting pedagogy, and Laban movement and effort reflects not only an embrace of this perspective of Gordon, but also his unique pedagogical lineage—including study with Wilhelm Ehmann, Elaine Brown, and Frauke Haasemann. Jordan’s previous volumes, read by conductors around the world, are considered central to choral pedagogy.  This book, influenced by over 30 years of teaching and nearly four years in the writing, differs in that it is an enthusiastic celebration of the many ideas Jordan gleaned from the study with these great pedagogues blended together with MLT as the framework.  It is a unique tribute to these scholars because it extends their work in ways they had not imagined but for which they might have hoped.

Peruse the pages of this new book, Inside the Choral Rehearsal and you will learn about the real psychology of music teaching and learning—the how, what, for whom, and with whom we sing; the importance of community among and between choral singers; the value of sequential vocal skill development; and honesty in choral conducting and analysis to decipher meaning in scores.  If you embrace Jordan’s compelling philosophy of the power of a shared experience, your groups will achieve a choral sound that is humanly connected and speaks to the essence of the human spirit and human experience.  Moreover, this choral practical application supports Gordon’s ideas of pattern training as well as classroom activities.

I read a late draft of the book last summer when the book was field-tested during our University at Buffalo Summer Music Education Institute.  Jordan took feedback from students and worked feverishly, sometimes into early morning hours, to bring back new drafts to the students to make sure his message was understandable.  Our dinner conversations were filled with the depth of understanding necessary to develop accurate choral applications of Gordon’s theory and how important it was for this book to be completed while Gordon was still living so that he could approve it, which he did, shortly before he entered hospice toward the end of 2015.

It is exciting that once again Buffalo has played a role in disseminating Gordon’s work, this time through the mind and heart of James Jordan, an instructor students revere.  So often over the years, students have made the comment that learning MLT and using it to guide music learning with their students has been a life-changing experience for them.  Master the ideas in this book and you too will be a changed musician, as will the members of your choral groups for years to come.

Maria Runfola, Professor
Music Education
University at Buffalo


Jordan, James. Inside the Choral Rehearsal.  Chicago: GIA, 2017

Recommended texts:
(all texts will be available at Westminster Music and Books located on campus)

Westminster Office of Continuing Education
[email protected]