Preaching to The Choir (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Aug 11, 2010 0 comments

Tim Mikulski

When it comes to television culture in the second decade of the 2000s, it seems like we've reached new lows in what qualifies as entertainment. From The Bachelor to The Real Housewives of (insert city/state here), reality television that celebrates being rich, obnoxious, or both dominates what now passes as pop culture (but I'm not throwing stones as an avid fan of The Amazing Race and even—gulp—Survivor).

However, many American television viewers rallied around the little arts education show that could, Glee, this past season. Despite often-tepid writing, usually the heart of the show permeated through (more in the first half of the season), mixing with interesting musical numbers to create a new genre loved and adored by millions of past, present, and future theater/music/dance geeks, dweebs, and nerds.

But for those of you that have access to BBC America, the truly inspirational arts education show is the award-winning documentary series, The Choir. The British series follows choir director Gareth Malone as he attempts to build a program in a school that had never had one before. Malone walks viewers through the entire process from auditioning singers, to dealing with voice changes, and even a very painful second round of cuts a few weeks into the process.

The goal is to get the group good enough to perform in the World Choir Games. I won't ruin anything by telling the results, but if you Google around, you will find that he later added two more additions of the show after the initial show's 2007 airing.

Unlike Glee's over-the-top Lady Gaga and Madonna episodes, The Choir takes a chance to profile some of the students in school and at home, while mixing in rehearsal and recording footage. It's the real, personal touch that the fictional Glee has often missed so far.

So before the new school year begins, I invite arts educators in particular to spend a few summer nights with The Choir for a little inspiration without the sequins and bravado of its fictional American cousin.

Arts Watch is a weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts that covers news in a variety of categories related to cultural policy including Culture and Communities, Arts Education and the Creative Workforce, Public Investment in Culture and Creativity, and Philanthropy and the Private Sector. The newsletter also features an Arts Watch Spotlight item and Arts Canvas – News from the Field, a short piece written by a different Americans for the Arts staffer each week.

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