Traditionally, there has been one vocal music instructor at Webster City High School, but in a new approach this year, there are two new instructors collaborating on duties.
Andrew Wotherspoon and Nicole Farley will work as a team, directing groups and giving individual lessons.
“It will give us more flexibility; we can take turns accompanying or directing and switch. It will help the students learn faster and more effectively,” Farley explains. “We visit about everything and make decisions together.”
“It’s a unique situation and a true co-teaching approach,” Wotherspoon says. “When you’re the only teacher, it forces you to simply survive, rather than thrive. This way, it’s more collaborative; we can share perspectives. It very much fits the district goal of teacher collaboration.”
The two lead the ninth grade mixed choir, the 10th grade varsity choir and the Purple and Gold Singers, juniors and seniors. Wotherspoon will lead the two show choirs — there will be a mixed group and an all-girls group this year. Farley will lead the jazz vocal group, which is an extension for top students.
“We’ll work on the jazz genre and do some ear-training,” she says.
In addition, all freshmen and sophomores have individual lessons each week, in which they work on rhythms, reading and music for upcoming concerts. Lessons are optional for the older students. In them, they work on vocal development, breathing and tone.
This fall, 17 students are practicing twice weekly at 7 a.m. to prepare for All-State Festival auditions.
“They’re braving the early-morning hours,” Wotherspoon says.
When choosing music for the groups, the instructors strive to achieve balance in musical styles. Choir selection requests from students are often songs they’ve heard on the radio, the instructors say, but they also try to introduce them to some styles of music and pieces with which they may not be familiar.
“We’re trying to give them a well-rounded experience,” Farley says.
Both are graduates of the University of Northern Iowa. Wotherspoon had previously been the 7-12 vocal music instructor at Eddyville-Blakesburg. Farley taught vocal music at WCHS from 2006-2009 before teaching at an international school in India for a year, and at Roland-Story for two years.
The teachers encourage the public to support the vocal program by attending concerts and the spring variety show. They look forward to showcasing new things the various groups have been working on.
“We are committed and optimistic and look forward to seeing things grow; we’re here for the long term,” says Wotherspoon.