Preconceived Notions

If a singing teacher enters into a session with a preconceived idea of where a student’s voice should go or how it should sound, and if that student is young, they might never have a chance to develop any experience of singing that includes exploration without a specific goal.

I like to work with a student on function, and I have an expectation about function based on the pitches and the vowels. I have an expectation about breathing  based on physical activity, but beyond that I look at each lesson as an adventure full of discovery. If the process can go slowly and develop over a period of years of study, sometimes an entirely new instrument shows up, one that surprises both me, as the teacher, and the student as well. During this time a student has the opportunity to discover what sounds good, what feels good and what he or she likes. When the sound “fits”, the head always nods up and down and the eyes get big. I love those moments.

Who am I to decide how a young singer should sound? How do I have  the authority to tell someone how they have to sing? Isn’t it so that I should be a guide, someone to point out the possibilities of the journey, and walk alongside the student as she takes steps toward her own vocal mastery?

My job is to guide the student towards healthy function that is grounded in balanced response and, over time, in musical parameters in various styles. I do not impose my values but I understand how the music should be addressed. In the case of a professional, it is possible to help an artist more quickly create the vocal expression he seeks. That’s a wonderful experience.

If you are someone who teaches, be careful not to tell the student how he or she should sound. Talk, instead, about how the voice should function and how it should work in partnership with the body. Then stay present and open and wait for the fun to begin!

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