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When people think "choir" they think churches, Christmas carols and classical music. But modern choral music has invaded the worlds of jazz, gospel, and even reggae.

Choral music's repertoire ranges from classical music to jazz. It includes contemporary songs, gospel and spirituals from Bach and Mozart to Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder. Whatever your musical taste, you can find a choir to suit you.

There are barbershop quartets, glee clubs, men and women's choirs, and youth choirs. There are even choral groups dedicated to particular composers like Mendelssohn and Bach.

Choral singers are simply the people who sing in choirs. Normally, the members of a choir are divided into soprano, alto, tenor and bass. It depends on how high or low you can sing, or what the choir needs. Orchestra choirs can have hundreds of members. Jazz ensembles can have as few as eight or nine.

Chorus America divides the world of choral music into three streams: church choirs, school choirs, and independent choirs. The nonprofit group, based in Washington, District of Columbia, started out by representing about 100 professional groups in the U.S. and Canada.

Now, Chorus America has spread its mandate and represents about 550 independents -- choirs affiliated with communities, art centers, and orchestras. The association doesn't keep numbers on church or school choirs, but there are thousands. There are about 50,000 church choirs in the U.S.

The International Federation for Choral Music has members in 80 nations around the world. It represents about 10 million singers and 200,000 choral directors, according to the most recent World Choral Census. The IFCM cites about 500 separate choral associations worldwide. Choraling is global and popular!

Members of choirs can end up practicing and performing in community centers, art centers, school gymnasiums, outdoors and in churches. University choirs often end up playing at special functions and school events. People of all ages and abilities can participate in this hobby.

Getting Started

Probably the easiest way to get involved in a choir is at your school -- many schools have more than one. If you belong to a church and enjoy sacred music, talk to your church's choir director. There may also be choirs linked to community centers or other organizations in your town.

You'll probably be asked to audition. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Any sight-reading skills you bring to the table are valuable, but not a must
  • The basics of vocal training are important -- good intonation, good breath control
  • Pick a choir that focuses on music you love
  • Most importantly, you have to play, work and sing well with others

A word on sight-reading: many choirs will either teach you how to read, or have their singers learn pieces by memory. At the community choir level, roughly a quarter of singers know how to sight-read, estimates Bruce More. He is the conductor of the Prima Youth Choir. That's a regional choir.

So you've made the choir. Now what? Schedules vary. School choirs rehearse once a week -- sometimes twice if a performance is coming up. Community choirs can get by with two rehearsals a month. And of course, community and church choirs have their busy season near the end of each year.

There are no equipment costs (just bring your vocal chords), and any fees involved are usually pretty small. If you decide to take some initial vocal training before stepping into the choral limelight, community center lessons can cost as little as $50 to $80 per series.

Chave Alexander is manager of the Cal Jazz Choir. "Since we specialize in a cappella, we don't have many equipment costs. We do have a mic system that's only for our group that we only use for our semester concerts."

What about taking choral singing to the next level? Well, there are options, mostly in the world of classical music. Choral repertoires are huge, and every orchestra works with a chorus.

You could:

  • Conduct a large city orchestra choir
  • Be an artistic director of an orchestra choir
  • Have a place in a professional choir, though pay varies greatly

But whether you make the big time isn't important. Pure joy in music is the name of the game.


Choristers Guild
2834 W. Kingsley Rd.
Garland , TX   75041

Chorus America
310-1156 15th St. N.W.
Washington , DC   20005

Youth Choirs Inc.
P.O. Box 781444
San Antonio , TX   78278


Calls itself "the" choral music site

Greater Boston Choral Consortium
Includes a schedule of concerts

World Festival Choir
The true spirit of choral music

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