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Conference Morsel: Let the Aging Voice Shine

(An excerpt from the interest session “Choral Singing for Baby Boomers and Beyond: Celebrating the Aging Voice,” presented by Jeanne Kelly during the 2014 ACDA Eastern Division Conference

       My best advice to anyone working with older adult choirs is Don’t Dumb it Down!   Our older adult singers want to be challenged and respected. They have lived marvelous lives and have sung with great choirs.  They don’t want to have to audition.  The key to success is to have a conductor who understands the specific needs of the aging voice.   Starting with posture, aging bodies sometimes do not allow the breath to flow as freely.   I consistently do posture checks in rehearsals which help with usage of breath.   Deep breathing exercises are crucial.  Pulmonologists report that the best thing anyone can do for their lungs is sing!  Many older singers live alone and don’t converse, therefore not really taking deep breaths.   Vocal exercises should  be step-wise motion, allowing the singer to more easily connect to the breath.   Stay away from jumpy exercises. Consistent stressing of articulation is key to keeping the speaking voice fresh and allowing the singing voice to be forward.  Stress slack jaw, loose chin and tip of tongue resting gently  behind bottom teeth.  Older adult singers want to improve their voice.   Don’t be afraid to work on technique.  
       The conductor has to be very careful in choosing the correct repertoire for the aging voice.   Verdi Requiems will not work.  You must always think about tessitura, agility, and the stamina of the singer.  There is wonderful repertoire that will allow the singer to having a feeling of accomplishment and excellence. Find the most sophisticated performances venues available.   Concerts allow them to give back to their community.   Let them shine!