Minnesota’s Favorite Sight-Reading Method

Bruce Phelps was the director of choirs at Anoka High School, and has a tradition of excellence in all his choral endeavors.  Without a doubt, part of his success was his commitment to pedagogy–the teaching of sight reading and music theory included.

Bruce created a series of sight reading exercises that are used throughout the state.  When we opened my high school in the Fall of 2009, I made sure that we had Bruce’s Sight Reading Method on our shelves.  At the time, all the files were created on a software package that Mr. Phelps no longer had, so with permission I recreated some of them in Finale and sent them back to Mr. Phelps.

I was pleased to learn this evening that all of his materials, including Set I and Set II of his Sight Reading Method, are available for purchase in digital format.  For $60, you are e-mailed one of the sets, and you are free to use the music as you choose.  Yes, they can work with school purchase orders.  You can display it on a SMART Board, put it on iPads in your classroom, or even (gasp!) print them out.  I like the SMART Board method (although we have to turn the lights off in our classroom to have it bright enough) as you can look at your students while they sight read, versus having them each look at a piece of paper.

We also use the sight reading exercises from Mr. Phelps’ series for choral auditions.

If you’re looking for a great sight reading method, in digital format (he can send you the paper copies if you need them), check out the Phelps Music Company website.  There are even some sample exercises in PDF format.  These resources are used at many (and I mean MANY) schools in Minnesota.  Also, honor the purchase agreement.  Don’t share this digital resource with others if they haven’t purchased it–this is a situation where the “developer” themselves gets paid for their work, and rightly so.

By the way, look for the Renaissance of sight-reading this year.  One of the key components of SmartMusic 2012 is the inclusion of (vocal) sight-reading–a skill needed by all choir members, and by all music majors.  The best part?  Assessment mainly by computer.  One of the killers for my sight-reading methodology (we try to sight-read daily, although it doesn’t always happen) is finding time for assessment, which is often impossible in class.  This solves that problem rather nicely, as kids can take the assessment on their time.


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