I just heard that in order to get into one of our undergraduate programs for jazz here in NYC, you have to sing one song in two different keys a fifth apart. This is supposed to show some kind of “skill”.
Wanna bet the person who set these requirements was not a jazz vocalist?
Jazz singers, when they work alone or in combo with instrumentals who do arrangements suited to them, choose their own keys, which are usually where they are comfortable. If the people auditioning for entrance into a jazz degree program want to know what range a singer has, they can ask her to vocalize. There is no earthly reason to go up or down a fifth in the real world, if you are singing alone, so what’s the point?
The point, of course, is sheer ignorance. Somebody made this up because……??? Because they were in charge and that was that.
If you want to have students work on music theater material and you want to create graded material, and you want to have it apply to skills that would a singer would need in the real professional world, (should they grow up to become aspiring professional vocalists), wouldn’t you think to go to Broadway itself and ask a few of its veteran vocalists to help with the selection of the songs? Or maybe a few conductors who have worked on a variety of different shows over a good deal of time – like for a couple of decades.
Well, Carnegie Hall, in connection with The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada (I think this is right), has decided to adopt a graded system for music educators who want to have way to measure the progress of young vocalists. In looking to incorporate a music theater element, they have turned to classically trained teachers of singing to help them choose the music theater material. Excuse me? This assumes that no one on Broadway understands good singing. Where is the sense in that?
Not so long ago, Hal Leonard did the same thing and came up with editors who chose the music for their Music Theater anthology series. The choices in those books are not the best, and some of the music actually had mistakes. Someone with life experience would have known better, but without solid life experience, you could be lost and never realize it.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the loss of common sense when it comes to singing. It goes on.
Producers will hire a novice singer for a role in a Broadway show that has very demanding singing, very challenging music, and asks the actor to wear heavy or complicated costumes and say to the Music Supervisor, “Here, go get this kid to learn this song in a hour.” Doesn’t work. Sometimes they discover, after the fact, that they have decided to cast someone for looks, for or acting ability, or for dance expertise, and have actually picked an individual who has very little facility for singing. They expect the singing to “show up” because it does….after all, it’s “just singing,” as if it were another pair of shoes you buy on sale.
In the world there is ignorance everywhere. OK. People that are not involved in something are ignorant of it. The problems come when someone who is ignorant in a certain topic ends up in charge of it anyway. Happens, unfortunately, all the time.
That’s why it is necessary to sometimes explain the obvious. The idea that “some people just don’t know this” is an important thing for a teacher to remember. If you grew up in a musical family, hearing singing from the time you were young, and you were taught music theory as a kid, and could play an instrument, and your voice was strong and accurate, and emotional expression was OK in your home, you could end up a very good professional vocalist if you were so inclined. If you have to teach someone who grew up in a family that rarely encountered or enjoyed music, and did not sing at all, and you got no formal music education, and did not play an instrument, and had a voice that was quiet and gentle, and who was told to “be calm” 24/7, that person might not be “a natural.” If such a person ends up in a college program where one of the electives is “singing class” and the voice teacher is the first kind of person, the teacher would have to be extraordinary in order to understand how to help the wannabe singer.
To that student, you would have to explain the obvious. To you, if you were the teacher, it might seem as plain as day. The difficult part is when you are not encountering a student, you are dealing with a peer, and that peer is as clueless as the above mentioned student. That’s tough.