The Assistant Primary Chorister

Posted by on August 20, 2013 in women | 6 comments

In June, I volunteered to be the Assistant Primary Chorister.  I emailed the Bishop and the Primary President and asked if they would consider an unusual arrangement …  I offered to conduct, helping out the Primary Chorister once or twice a month even though that is all I attend my ward.  The Bishop responded he was supportive, but left the decision up to the more conservative Primary President, who talked with the Primary Chorister – who said I “was an answer to her prayers”.
 
After I came and watched her once and then co-did singing time the following week, we’ve worked out an arrangement where I lead the music every three weeks.  This has given her a consistent break.  I also covered a couple weeks when she was on vacation and will try to be available if her kids get sick.  Essentially I’m a dedicated sub.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  I love singing and interacting with the kids.  I still consider myself an agnostic Mormon but for some reason singing doesn’t bother me the way doctrinal discussions might.  Basically I think of it as all poetry and of course vocal exercises. And a chance to get to know the children of my friends better.
 
I’ve discovered all the Primary blogs and want to share some of the things that I have done so far.  For those that are or have had a calling as the Primary Music Leader (the more PC and actual term for the calling), I’d love to hear some of your secrets.  Basically my secret is to google blogs … and to coordinate with the other leader.  I’m mentioning the range of things I’ve done but am also noting some of the “feminist” things I’ve done.
 
1)      To start singing time, I have the kids stand up and stretch.  And then sing a couple of wiggle songs (5 minutes).  I want to introduce a few vocal exercises like vibrating lips with some of the silly songs.  Singing “wiggle songs”  has helped maintain the reverence better afterwards – even in the senior primary in which there are a bunch of 10 and 11 year old boys.  I got the idea from http://www.camillesprimaryideas.com/2011/01/wiggle-worm-jar.html and http://ocdprimarychorister.blogspot.com/2013/01/activity-wiggle-songs.html .  There are obviously a ton of quick songs that can be rotated to have a fun 5 minutes.  I’ve now printed out the cards from the ocd chorister site that can be used for the kids to pick.  I’d like to make the “wiggle worm jar” but am not that invested yet …
 
2)      I’ve mostly used pre-exisiting props and review games for the songs they are learning for the program that have previously been introduced to them.
 
3)      I somewhat obsessively organized the props and materials (particularly the ones I’ve made), so they can easily be shared between whoever is conducting.  I asked for a file box from the Primary presidency.
 
4)      To introduce/review “when I am baptized” (although they sung it for last years program –it was the first song I was asked to introduce and it had been awhile for them), I had the junior primary help me construct a rainbow with different pieces of construction paper.  We’ve put up the rainbow a couple times.  I wrote out the words to the songs on paper (different color or paper and marker per verse).  With the senior primary, after singing it through once, we started pulling the pieces of paper with the words down so they were memorizing the song.  This was inspired by reading a couple blogs including http://sofiasprimaryideas.blogspot.com/2012/04/when-i-am-baptized-lds-song-helps-and.html – which also makes the point to emphasize it discussion that baptism isn’t really about wrongs being washed away for little kids.  When we review it again, I like the idea of putting the words as rain drops to music that the kids can follow along with sticks, as done by multiple blogs including http://aprimarysingingtime.blogspot.com/2013/05/teaching-when-i-am-baptized-62.html and http://www.camillesprimaryideas.com/2012/05/when-i-am-baptized.html
 
5)      To introduce “families can be together forever,” since there weren’t any good props and I didn’t have enough time to prepare anything fancy, I just went through the song repeating line by line, having the words written out on paper.  To review it, and having found a great idea a week late, I had the junior primary color pictures of their families on top of construction paper with the words to the song written out (which I wasn’t sure if I was going to use, but since I ended up with 40 minutes with them, and had prepared them), it was perfect. The kids beamed as I showed off their pictures as we went through it – particularly the 7 year old girls who drew zombies in their picture of eternity.  I like to think this helped the kids learn the song better. (see http://www.camillesprimaryideas.com/2013/07/families-can-be-together-forever-lesson.html for the original idea )
 
6)      To introduce A Childs Prayers, I found awesome pictures at http://ocdprimarychorister.blogspot.nl/2013/07/song-childs-prayer.html.  (which get a special feminist mention for having Heavenly Mother in them).  I went through the pictures and explained them which seemed to help the junior primary a lot.  Having gone through the song, with printed words with the senior primary, the week before, the pictures also challenged them to remember the words.  I was a bit nervous to lead the split version of the song, but the senior primary actually requested it.  When I initially split left vs. right -some of the boys said “aren’t the boys suppose to sing the 2nd” and I said no it can be sung split lots of different ways – which is why I then had them sing it girls/boys and the boys/girls as well.  I’ve now printed some cards out that splits who sings the third verse by favorite colors, color of hair, etc. to review it in the future. http://ocdprimarychorister.blogspot.com/2013/08/review-who-sings-now.html 
 
7)      Even though it is not one of the program songs, to finish senior primary, I have introduced the first verse of “Ill Walk with You” with just printed words a couple times.  I will eventually get to the second verse.  I want to sing more than just the eight standard songs the kids are learning for the program.  And I love how inclusive this song is and that Carol Lynn Pearson wrote it.
 
8)      I have no shame in being myself.  Which includes being nervous, sweating a little (sometimes a lot), frequently being a bit off conducting (and hence why I acknowledge hiding behind some props), and definitely showing my feminist non-traditional self ;-)

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6 Comments

  1. This is a brilliant resource, Kelly Ann! Thank you so much for sharing your hard work– makes me *almost* want to be an (assistant- for sure) primary choirister :)

  2. Volunteering for a calling is a great way to take control of your religious experience. We don’t have to passively wait. Since being in Primary presidency, I have been surprised at how many people have approached the Primary president to express interest in being a pianist or teacher. We love that and try to accommodate.

  3. Amen to April! I like that you kind of made up the calling and then volunteered for it. I think at least one of my sisters also reports success with this strategy.

    Also, this

    “The kids beamed as I showed off their pictures as we went through it – particularly the 7 year old girls who drew zombies in their picture of eternity.”

    is excellent. Even (especially?) kids know that uncorrelated stuff can be a lot more fun. :)

  4. Yes, Ziff. It is a great strategy. At first I thought it was more novel. I was a bit proud of making up an appropriate name for the calling … However, as I have read a lot of the primary sites, it isn’t unheard of. I have seen posts referencing a “junior” and “senior” primary chorister (splitting the sharing times). And a couple have dedicated subs. But when I looked at the handbook which gave intructions for the “Primary Music Leader(s)” – my leeway was all in the (s) … However, I am grateful that the Primary President was willing to consider something, even if still slightly unusual, that would work in this situation. The biggest thing I didn’t mention is that the Primary Chorister just had a baby so she really appreciates having a break. And honestly, I have to say that it can be a lot for one person to do. I wonder how much happier people would be in the primary if the positions weren’t assumed to be every week.

    And it is interesting that while there is a lot of correlation present in primary singing time – how much flexibility in the presentation of the songs and even sharing time is actually present.

    April, yes, volunteering for a calling, has been a great way for me to take control of my religious experience. I’m glad to hear that you try to accommodate those who want to volunteer.

    And thanks Spunky for the compliment.

  5. I’ve never had that calling, but I often sub and love it.

    Do you know about sugardoodle.net? It has lots of handy ideas for different approaches to teaching songs.

    I’m lousy at thinking of ways to teach kids, but I can copy an idea like the best of them. I am forever grateful to all the primary music leaders who generously share their stuff on the web…like you.

  6. Thanks for the mention. You have a really interesting blog. I can’t wait to read more of it tomorrow!

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