Speaking of Voice: “If You Don’t Mind Me Asking: Have You Taken a Vocal Pedagogy Class?” by Mary Lynn Doherty
Date: April 7, 2014
IF YOU DON'T MIND ME ASKING: HAVE YOU TAKEN A VOCAL PEDAGOGY CLASS? by Mary Lynn Doherty
A recent editorial in the International Journal of Research in Choral Singing (IJRCS), written by Dr. James Daugherty, challenges our profession to question our backgrounds in vocal pedagogy. As the editor of this publication, Daugherty extends and promotes our field’s scholarship on a host of topics related to the choral arena. In this particular piece, Daugherty raises several issues I found to be thought provoking and that warrant further discussion. I am going to focus on just one of them here, but I encourage you to read the original article and to check out the journal (published by ACDA) when you have some free time!
Daugherty has written extensively on vocal/choral pedagogy and in addition to teaching and conducting, he runs the School of Music Vocology Laboratory at the University of Kansas. In his editorial, he shares some historical context for the topic of choral conductor preparation as it relates to vocal pedagogy, raising some important points for us to consider. He writes that, although founded in 1924, it was not until 2009 that the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) required that doctoral students in choral conducting "must have detailed knowledge of vocal technique and pedagogy" (NASM, 2009, p. 142; taken from Daugherty, 2013, p. 1). For undergraduates, it wasn’t until the 1990s that NASM required students have "sufficient vocal and pedagogical skill to teach effective use of the voice" (NASM, 1993, p. 36; taken from Daugherty, p. 1). Daugherty raises the point that while the reference is there, NASM does not specify what is considered “sufficient” or “effective”. Member institutions can determine this for themselves, so wide variants exist and exposure is probably highly dependent on the individual teachers who shape and offer the program. As we all know, taking private voice lessons where the emphasis is on building an individual voice is not comparable to learning how to manage voices at many different stages of development within the ensemble setting. The choral conductor has a great responsibility to support healthy vocal technique in the choral setting, and additional training is almost always required to supplement what we are exposed to in college. Many, many conductors seek this information on their own and become very knowledgeable.
Daugherty says” I know of no choral conductor-teacher who sets out intentionally to hinder the optimal vocal efficiency of singers in ensemble or dispense inaccurate voice information. Yet, clearly, the expectations for our profession as a whole have been less than consistent and far from exacting ones when it comes to vocal pedagogy and voice care” (p. 1). Additional training and education to supplement collegiate preparation is vitally important. After all, we are responsible for a lot more than the music we program. Our singers voices are in our hands and we have a great opportunity to support lifelong vocal health.
Daugherty, J. (2013). Editorial: Voice care training for choral conductors. International Journal of Research in Choral Singing 4(2), Spring 2013. Published by ACDA.
Link to the table of contents from the Spring 2013 IJRCS, which includes the full text of the article http://www.choralresearch.org/