ChoralTech: Google Sites Host your Choir’s Resources

We’ve talked in the past about setting up websites for sharing your choir’s information with the world, but you might want a website for a different purpose: sharing information internally with your choir. There are some immediate benefits to having a central place where all of your musicians can access materials, see the practice calendar, and communicate with each other. While it has limited “visual appeal,” using Google Sites can get you up and running with an internal website in a manner of minutes. The Internet is loaded with tutorials on how to create a Google Site, so rather than take you through the steps to set-up, I’d like to point out some features that I think make this an extremely useful choir homebase.
You can choose to make your Google Site public or private (meaning that your singers will have to log in to view it). There are no hard-and-fast rules here, but remember that Fair Use extends to sharing resources online in an educational capacity only if you can show that the audience is limited to members of your organization (i.e. not public). Google Accounts are near-ubiquitous now, and free and easy to obtain if your musicians don’t already have them, so setting a site to private and adding your musicians gives you an easy way to be able to share copyrighted recordings, documents, etc., within the scope of a common interpretation of Fair Use. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please do not take that as legal advice.
Pages and Sub-Pages
Google Sites lets you nest pages in an organized tree. This makes it very easy to organize pages by topics (for example, notes on each song might be on separate pages underneath a header for each concert) or ensemble if you have multiple groups within one site. Navigation can be set by dragging pages into a reasonable order, so it’s very easy to change to fit your whims. If you want to get particularly granular, you can set permissions to individual members for certain pages or sub-pages (a leadership section, for example?).
Multimedia and Google Docs Integration
It’s Google, so integrating other Google products is extremely easy. Remember, this also includes YouTube. Some ideas:
  • YouTube. Embed your recommended recordings of a piece for singers to listen to.
  • Google Docs. Keep a running log of your rehearsal notes for each piece so that singers can refer to it when practicing outside of rehearsal.
  • Google Calendar. If you have a Google Calendar for your group, embed it directly into the front page so that it’s easy accessible and visible to all.
Types of Pages
All pages aren’t equal in Google Sites. Different types of pages are built ready-to-use for different purposes.
  • Web Page. A typical web page– include text, images, links, etc. Where you’ll put most of your information.
  • File Cabinet. Upload files for your singers to download. Examples might be recordings, accompaniment tracks, or PDF’s of your marked-up score for them to copy notation onto their own scores.
  • Announcements. A chronological blog page. As you enter material into the page, it’ll be sorted by date with the most recent entries at the top. Useful for sending out rehearsal schedules or notes. Your musicians can also subscribe to updates from this page, which means that anything you enter would be sent to them via e-mail or other RSS reader platform.
  • List Page. A sortable table, great for contact information, tracking folder numbers, or organizing carpools/transportation. You enter the columns for the information that you want, and then you can either enter it yourself, delegate this to someone else, or open it up for everyone to submit directly.
As with other Google applications, it’s very easy to share sections, tasks or individual pages with different members of your site. You may not want to create the whole site by yourself, so it’s very easy to delegate to volunteers, parents, or members of your leadership group to help you fill out the content of the different sections. Your members may have a better sense of what’s useful for them than you do!
The Swiss-Army-Website
Hopefully you get a sense for how Google Sites is easy to set up out-of-the-box. Again, the templates are limited and they don’t look great for external use, but you could easy have your Google Site created within a matter of minutes, and then it can be a constant work-in-progress to add to it as your needs develop. Even the traditional bane of a website, creating an outline and structure for the pages, is made easier by the ability to move pages easily once they’re created– if you decide in a few months that your system of organization doesn’t match what your members would like, it’s a simple matter to reorganize the website on the fly. If you’re not using some sort of online system to organize materials for your musicians at home, I’d suggest that you consider if this is a way to streamline your valuable rehearsal time– precious minutes are wasted in handing out forms, passing around the calendar, etc.
What About You?
Are there other systems that you use for your internal websites? Are there uses or benefits of Google Sites that you’d recommend beyond what I have listed above? Please comment below!

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