The kids and I have attended two singing schools this summer, one last month in Alabama and one this past week here in Georgia. I’m so thankful this opportunity is available to us.

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what a singing school is, so I’m going to give you a crash course. We learn shape note singing: remember the “Do a Dear” song from The Sound of Music? The notes—do, re, mi, fa, sol (or so), la, ti, do—are called shape notes because they have shape. See?

shape note scale

Each note also has a hand sign:

Not only are we taught how to sing in beautiful a cappella four-part harmony, but also how to lead a congregation. Here is my 7-year-old daughter and two of her friends leading Oh, How I Love Jesus.

Running a singing school requires an incredible amount of work and organization. Classes are taught; 3 meals a day are served; the unexpected must be anticipated and handled, such as wells running low and the usual accidents and injuries.



Most singing schools last 3-5 days with a 2-hour congregational singing on the final night. Everyone dresses up and others attend who were unable to the rest of the week. Harmony Highlands in Jasper, AL, is a 5-day singing school with the classes divided by age.

The final night mixes both congregational singing lead by an assortment of leaders and songs sung by the individual classes. Last week we attended a 3-day singing school where everyone learned together in the same room and additional classes were held for both song leaders and advanced students.




Here is the high school choir singing When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

Here is the adult class:


Everyone works hard and plays hard at singing school. Afternoons bring breaks for fellowship or game time.




I love that we’re preserving a little part of history—our history—and that we’re growing in knowledge that’s no longer commonplace.

[Part 1 is here.]

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