I get this question often from my students in the summer. Most students, especially those who have taken lessons and gone to camp have had the basics of the region music drilled into them (likely without good technical habits or much musicality) and are simply tired of singing it. They also may have had a taste of a really fun Area piece at camp and are excited to sing it again.
My first reply to this question is: You can practice the Area music after you are solid on the region music, can sing it with only the piano accompaniment tracks, and have already moved on to refining musicality (dynamics, phrasing, and word stress).
If the student complains about that, my second reply is: We can always work on your sight-reading as that is also part of next rounds auditions!
So let’s just pause right here. Regardless of where you are in the process and how well you know your music…
Sight-read every day! It can make ALL the difference Area auditions!
…this concludes our public service announcement…
When to start practicing Area music depends on the student’s experience in auditioning and how much detail they have added to their region music.
If a student has never made the region choir, I will wait until I feel the region music has reached not only accuracy on pitches and rhythms but a level of polish with all other elements before moving on. Basically, the student needs to be audition ready, as my main goal for a first time auditionee is to make the region choir.
For those special students who have attended camp and taken consistent voice lessons over the summer, we may already be working on the Area music.
If the student advanced past region auditions in a previous year and is ready to move on, I usually find the rangiest or most technically demanding Area piece for the student and begin with the hardest option. I then begin to mix in one section of one Area piece into their lesson and encourage the student to incorporate this piece into their practice as well. Once I feel the student is audition ready and has polished their musicality on all region music, I gradually begin adding layers of understanding to the Area music.
For example, for my students who made it to Area last year, we will spend ten minutes of an hour-long lesson on the first three pages of Celebremus. Just ten minutes, and just on a very small section.
In our region, there are about six weeks between Region auditions and pre-Area, where we typically audition all of the Area music. Six-weeks, with a week off in the middle for Thanksgiving, is not enough time to cram notes and rhythms AND cultivate a beautiful and mature sound. So by the time students reach the Region audition, especially if they’ve made Region choir before, I try to make sure they already are note and rhythm ready on Area music, so they can spend those six weeks refining.
To sum up: until you have reached a high level of detail and consistency in your region music, do not start working on area music. After you have a detailed plan for your music-making and have no hesitations on notes/rhythms, then slowly mix area music into your daily practice.
Now… get out there and practice!