I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, friends:
“Mrs. Frost, can we PLEASE do songs we know? You know, cool ones.”
Breaks your heart, right? You want your students to sing the highest standards of the choral repertoire at an All-State level. You want them to have the same magical choral experiences as you did. You may cave in to the barrage of requests. If so, please don’t judge yourself. You have to so what’s right for your kids and your program. You may fight the good fight, standing firm and dishing out folk songs and partner songs as far as the eye can see.
I think the key is finding accessible stuff of any genre and making it accessible, appealing, and adapting it to the needs of your group. All the boys in my 8th grade chorus suddenly have 6 note range. I rewrite- adapt-make them a special part and WRITE IT DOWN so they can read a part where they will be successful. Transpose.
Take suggestions, but only ones you can really live with and that actually support the values of your program. Perhaps you can live with one piece per cycle that students choose. I often have 3-4 choices I’m considering and will give them a “mini-concert” of each one and let them vote. This keeps most kids happy- giving them some voice in what they sing.
A final confession. I was a band-only kid through junior year. I didn’t have any interest in middle school choir because they sang dumb Disney songs. Maybe you have a similar story.
Make it work, friends. Fight the fight! Stick together.