April 29, 2016     Melody Potratz

How to Prank Your Choir

Young woman wearing t-shirt with all-over cartoon cat print

I Am Cat Lady

My sixth graders in third period have crowned me Cat Lady of River City. I don’t actually have any cats of my own and fought it at first, but seeing the evidence from their perspective, it might not be completely unjustified. I own a cat-shaped tape dispenser, a “Keep Calm and Love Cats” coffee mug, a cat shirt that I wear from time to time and a cat scarf to top it all off. They don’t have much else to support their argument, but I can handle a little teasing.

In fact, I have come to embrace the label and when I opened the May/June issue of Music K-8 Resource Magazine a few days ago to see a cute little song called “Purr Purr, Kitty,” I just couldn’t help myself and decided right then and there that my choir was getting pranked. I have three classes of sixth graders but decided I was only going to prank third period for two reasons:

  1. Third period created my crazy cat lady label.
  2. Silly sixth graders can’t be trusted and I didn’t believe any of them had enough self-control to keep the secret from each other.

Substituting Pocahontas with “Purr Purr, Kitty”

We are currently preparing “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas for our spring concert. This is a favorite in all three classes. For my prank, I had originally planned to tell them that I was pulling this song from the concert because they would be totally devastated if I did, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that mean.

On prank day, I started class normally. They took down notes from the board. We talked about chant. They made fun of my cat shirt. We did warm ups. We sang a round. Then I introduced the song by telling them that I was not pleased with their progress and was debating making some changes the concert program by replacing a song or two.

I had to pause for a minute when I picked up the stack of music, because I am a terrible actress and I had to mentally prepare and will myself to keep a straight face, and I knew that there would be an immediate reaction as soon as those first couple of kids saw the title of the song. Once everyone had the music in their hands, I said, “Okay, ready to sight read?” I played their starting note on the piano, gave them a breath, and they were off.

They didn’t even make it through the first phrase before I broke and started laughing.

Imagine your average class of 50 sixth graders… awkward, uncomfortable, trying to figure out “cool,” maybe starting to think that cooties don’t exist, not wanting to embarrass themselves… and they start singing:

 I love my kitty, my kitty loves me. So playful and purrful, such sweet company. Furry and fun with big fuzzy ears, my kitty makes sounds I love to hear. 

Don’t get me wrong. “Purr Purr, Kitty” is an adorable song, but it is probably more appropriate for the early elementary grades. I just couldn’t handle it. Half the class politely tried to continue singing while the other half of the class broke down laughing with me and began shouting things like, “See? You can’t even do it!”

I stopped after the first verse and asked what they thought. Most of the class was just not having it. One kid refused to sing it with the excuse that he is allergic to cats. I started to tell them that we were going to put it in the concert…but when you say that while laughing and wiping tears from your face, it isn’t very convincing. There was no saving it from that point, so I confessed that I was only messing with them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such relief on the faces of 12-year-olds.

Out of curiosity, I asked if they would have cried if I had replaced “Colors of the Wind” with “Purr Purr, Kitty” and their indistinguishable yelling indicated that it would have been quite upsetting!

A Purrfect Prank

You would think that this “purrfect” prank was the entertainment highlight of my week, but the cherry was placed on top the next day as my rehearsal came to a screeching halt when a boy in the front row stood up and held out a tooth that he had just yanked from his mouth.

My sixth graders provide me with nearly endless entertainment, even if they sometimes drive me up the wall. One month remains until our spring concert. Hopefully we can get some work done with all this inherent silliness!

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