What do you do when people are screaming and yelling about how great it is for a kid (age 9) to sing —

(a) a opera aria

(b) that has nothing to do with a subject that could concern a child

(c) is written for a male, a strong, powerful tenor

(d) and requires vocal power and more emotional depth than a child has

The judges on this program, of course, didn’t say, “Honey, you have a beautiful, sweet voice, and you are a lovely lyrical singer, but this material is wrong for you, especially since it causes you to distort your mouth, overdrop your jaw, and go flat on some of the pitches. You need to sing songs that are appropriate for a child.”

And, if you want to, you can find Beverly Sills singing opera arias as a child and, guess what? She sings them the way a child should sing them: effortlessly and easily in her child’s undistorted, unaffected voice. They were just high vocalizes for a kid who could live up there and there’s nothing wrong, really, in that.

No, they gave this sweet child a standing ovation. Kind of like applauding the “rubber man” at the circus sideshow — applause for amazement at what’s in front of your eyes.

In fact, if you look for versions of “Nessun Dorma” which is what I was doing, you can find all kinds of amazing things on YouTube that are downright scary bad but that have audiences screaming their approval. Michael Bolton, Sarah Brightman (in Las Vegas), on and on. Luciano, who made this aria a world famous tune, sang the piece the way it was intended to be sung. The others? It runs the gamut. All the people who write comments on YouTube and are in the audiences of these videos seem to be very happy.

This is indicative of the lack of musical and vocal education available to the general public. People  like what they like and that’s that. It makes me wonder, then, why there is music education at all and what impact it has, if any, on the world at large. This takes us back to the problem with musical categories and the styles as individual aspects of the music marketplace. Saying they are all the same is a kind of ignorance. If you don’t know there are differences, if you don’t hear them, or recognize them if you are listening to them, you won’t sing them, or know not to sing them. Then, you get the kind of situation on the above YouTube clip. Figure that several adults, maybe more, music “experts” who work on the show, had to hear this kid and let her sing this way, and nobody objected? Nobody said, “NO!”??????

I don’t have any solutions. Just an observation that left me wondering.


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5 thoughts on “Sad”

  1. C’mon Jeanie!! Every kid should be given the chance to sing “Nessun Dorma”…or Lucia’s mad scene or “Defying Gravity” for that matter.
    It is either to placate the kid or to give the parent a chance to live vicariously.
    And we wonder why we see more and more kids with problems…like racing cars and doing drugs in their teens…
    I think it’s because no one ever told them “No”.
    And worse, never an explanation of why not…

  2. I find it difficult to respond to your comments. I have spent several years studying music and performing in operas. I recognize talent when I hear it and know that those who are jealous of such talent will find something to say who represent the industry of “music education”. No, she did not go the route of endless teachers and institutions who often destroy the natural talent that a singer has to fit a mold that someone who often is classified as an expert but not a performer as set as a standard. My concern is that who will not fall into the hands of people such as you who stand to reshape to fit your mold.

    1. The standards upon which I “judge” are two hundred years old and have been upheld by research. Natural voices do not do the things this child’s voice is doing and children do not make the sounds this little girl is making, nor do they look like her when they sing. It has nothing whatsoever with her being talented or not, as clearly she is, and I said that in my original post. The issue is that children should not do what she is doing because it is hurting the long term possibilities for her voice. Her behavior is counter to healthy, free vocal function, and that vocal function has nothing to do with taste, mine or anyone else’s.

      What an adult does in opera is NOT what a child should do, neither should a child sing something that was written to be sung by an adult man. Further, the words in this piece are not appropriate either. Music education, or rather lack of, is responsible for her singing the way she is singing. Only an adult who has intervened could be responsible for this little girls behavior. A “coach”, likely, who “knows” that opera singers “keep the larynx down” and use “breath support”.If the person actually knew anything they would have intervened to protect her and her voice, not manipulate them.

      While you may have spent several years studying music and performing in opera, I have been involved with singing all my life, teaching for 42 years and am a classical singer. I have worked with children for over 25 years. My evaluations are not about reshaping anything, they are about helping a child remain true to her 9 year old self until and unless she grows up.

      You don’t seem to have any grasp of how humans make sound and how children sound when they are singing naturally and freely. Until you know more, your judgements are not appreciated.

  3. This is a great article, Jeanie,

    I completely disagree with the responder above.

    You, as a teacher, take a foremost responsibility of allowing the singer to sing with THEIR UNIQUE voice, not a manufactured sound that conforms to a false imitation of professional standards.

    That said, I always wonder if people are not responding to the singer’s sound or the music, per se. Perhaps people’s collective affection for 10-year old opera singers is based on the way we perceive prodigious behavior.

    Now, the problem with this is that a 7 year-old violinist who plays Paganini turn out just fine physically (weather or not they can interpret the music on their own is another story…). The voice is simply a different instrument altogether…one that needs nurturing, strength and TIME.

    Joe Public has been ruining prodigies for years. Think of the child actor who falls into obscurity (or worse), and the countless instrumentalists who play with the New York Philharmonic in their childhood, only to become doctors in adulthood. Oh, and there are those child singers.

    We need to keep nurturing and protecting singers of ALL ages, allowing them to grow in their own time.

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