Forward To The Past

Recently it has come to light that at least two organizations are pushing ideas that are quite dead. This certainly in keeping with the political struggle that is going on in this country. We have people who want to go back to the 50s, 40s or maybe even to the 1840s and we have people who are looking to the future with new ideas, broad concepts and courage to change the way things have been for way too long.

So it is with singing. We have just had an article in the Journal of Singing that espouses that children should have breathy voices, they should not sing in chest register, they shouldn’t stretch their ranges, they should be left alone to sing in a very small box. That there is NO research on this topic to support these ideas doesn’t seem to matter to the author nor to the Journal itself. This is the national house organ of an association of teachers of singing that numbers about 7,000 people and is in many schools where it is read by hundreds of students. How could this be!?

Another group, a well known girls chorus in California, posts on their website that children should not be given singing lessons. Really? Based on what evidence? There is none.

There are still so many people who have only hearsay to rely on. People who can’t find research, perhaps because there is so little, but also perhaps because they did not bother to look.

If children can be trained to play violin (a weird thing to do with the body), if they can be trained to play other instruments or do sports, why can’t they be trained to develop their voices and bodies for singing?

It wouldn’t be so bad if this information had been published in a small town newspaper or in some other kind of magazine but in a national publication aimed at vocal music experts it is truly a terrible step backward. It goes along with the article that appeared in Opera News a number of years ago that said that an elderly couple had “rescued” Barbara Streisand when she was having vocal problems (she claims to have taught herself) and that Ethel Merman was not a belter. (Too bad she thought she was one herself. If you look on YouTube, you will find her singing there with Garland and a young Streisand on Garland’s TV show, and she refers to herself and the other two as belters). Opera News is the publication of record here in the USA for opera and it has no business publishing articles on belting, but it if was going to do so, it had an obligation to check the information before it went into print. It didn’t.

No amount of ranting and raving from me makes any difference since I am already known in the vocal music community as someone who keeps pointing out how the profession needs to change to get in step with the 21st Century.

Maybe someone else will step up to the plate and speak out on these issues. I would love some company.

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3 thoughts on “Forward To The Past”

  1. As someone who has taught elementary music, one observes that children can make pitches and sounds at a very high range while having fun on the playground. Shutting them up and having them use their ‘inside’ voices eventually stifles this ability.

  2. Well said Jeanie!
    Also, David makes a great point, above.

    Pertaining to singing lessons for youngsters… Last summer I had a 5 year old boy come into my studio wanting lessons. His mother claimed he sang constantly around the house and wanted to foster his ability. I could have easily told her he was too young, but instead, had them come in. Thank goodness I did. He was basically screaming and shouting. He had NO usible head register (raised in a very noisy, shouty family). We eventually got his head register going and worked toward balance. His mother couldn’t believe how “pretty” his voice had become in just a few lessons.
    So just think… If I had NOT intervened, this young man could very easily have developed a vocal pathology by the time he was a teenager.

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