How being in a choir actually affected my vocals

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How being in a choir actually affected my vocals

Words by Alex Marcocci

From off stage to on stage, learning all the qualities of a strong vocalist!

The Australian Girls Choir is a prestigious all-girls choir, based in all states around Australia. There are six training levels based on experience and age; Piccolo, Vivo, Allegro, Avanti, Prelude, and Concert. Beyond that are the senior performance groups; Camerata and Performing Choir and specialist groups.

I joined the choir from Vivo to Concert level. After my seven years, I left with fundamental lessons and experiences which have influenced the performer I am today.


One of the main values I learnt was discipline. From a young age I experienced high expectations regarding my uniform and presentation. Hair to be neatly tied back, accompanied with the right coloured ribbon, correct shoes and socks, and definitely no jewellery except for a watch or a small stud earring. They believed this type of discipline would shine through in our performances. As I reached the higher levels of the choir, we were expected to continue our perfect uniform presentation as an example to the younger girls as we were considered the “leaders”.

After being selected to join one of the specialist groups, Canto, I was committed to two days a week and extra rehearsals. Being punctual to these classes and rehearsals was a must. Music school would run for the whole weekend which meant long hours of practice before the concerts to perfect our choreography, sound, and onstage presence.

Commitment to every class and rehearsal was expected. This taught me to always show up and do my best, but it also meant my priorities were out of place. Being in a choir requires complete dedication and at times it would leave out room for my private life. Sometimes I had to work around them because I felt pressure and a sense of guilt if I ever missed a rehearsal or class which meant I missed out on family milestones. I found juggling both was too extraneous on my private life, which led me to leave the choir. This discipline translated into other aspects of my life today.

So how did being in an all-girls choir really affect my singing?

Musical knowledge

Every class we were given sheets of music to study for our next performance. From this, I grasped how to read music and write it myself. Alongside my piano lessons, this meant reading music came much easier to me and I was more confident in writing my own music which has benefitted me today.

Harmony and pitching are essential to achieve the perfect sound. Rehearsals were dedicated to the accuracy of our pitching and harmony precision between the soprano and alto groups. Understanding the chord structure to remain in tune with our three-part harmonies enhanced my listening skills. Now I’m more active when listening to my voice to identify a harmony and I can focus on only my voice while hearing others around me.

Learning all the relevant musical terms helped me immensely alongside my piano lessons too, such as staccato, forte, crescendo, and decrescendo. I found performing for the choir required vocal strengthening. The consistent rehearsing and performing would sometimes take a toll on my voice. I mastered vocal training like warming my voice up, breathing exercises and zoning – all I have used for my recent solo performances today. At times, I could feel the strain and tiredness in my voice, carried out through flat tones and struggling to reach those high notes. I learnt specific techniques to avoid ruining my vocal cords and fight burnouts like voice recovery. Getting the right amount of sleep for a fresh voice was essential to avoid a tired sound.

Touring and independence

Touring broadened my musical horizon and helped my ability to make friends. I was always shy growing up, so I’m thankful for the push out of my comfort zone from not just traveling with the choir, but joining the choir. I was awarded to travel around Australia and perform at iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Australian War Memorial. Travelling taught me to maintain energy, positivity, and discipline throughout long days as we performed multiple times a day in different locations. I had to develop independence as spending two weeks away from my family in year 7 was nerve racking for me. Homesickness coupled with the unfamiliarity of my host families was difficult. But above all that, it was a positive experience that shaped me.

Confidence and performance

Performing was a stepping stone to increasing my confidence. I thank the choir for affording me with experiences I never imagined having and my parents for pushing me to join. I honed my performance skills by singing in front of large crowds for three main concerts a year: the Winter Showcase, Australian Girls’ Choir in Concert, and the Annual Concert. Hosted in the largest indoor venue at the Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall always had 2,466 of its seats filled when we performed. We had extensive hours of practice and effort dedicated to rehearsals prior to these concerts, smaller gigs, and Christmas performances. These performances enhanced my knowledge on how to deliver in front of small crowds as well as those numbering into the thousands.

I understood the importance of zoning. Standing in silence, hearing yourself breathe and taking in as many noises you can around you before any performance is crucial for nerves and getting into the right headspace.

Dancing was a big aspect of our performances. I acquired step coordination through choreography and movement practice with weekends dedicated purely to choreography to ensure every step was perfection. In class auditions aimed to help us build our confidence too. Your independence was on display as you decided what to perform, as a chance to have your vocals, dancing skills, and performance potential recognised in front of likeminded people. However, at times I found it very competitive.

When I left the choir in 2017, I had no clue what was ahead of me. Now, I am focused on my solo singing and working with a producer. Although it was strict at times, the choir helped me immeasurably with perseverance and understanding my audience which I believe is a key to success in the music industry.

Check out more on choirs here.