I agree with the criticism about the “award-bearing” adolescent world we live in today. Every student gets a trophy. Students get participation awards just for breathing.
The answer isn’t as cut and dry as you might think…..
The June/July issue of Choral Journal features a special article for the On the Voice series. Sharon Hansen has been a member of the Choral Journal editorial board and editor of the On the Voice article series for many years and writes about the history of On the Voice in Choral Journal, past practices, and a look toward the future.
Following is a section of the article, which you can read in full in the June/July 2017 issue, along with any citation references for her statistics and research. ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the newest edition. You can also read our electronic version. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
With an examination of website information from eighty-four significant undergraduate music education programs selected from among the fifty states, I searched for specific choral music education program requirements in private voice, vocal pedagogy, and diction. Of the eighty-four universities I surveyed, fourteen did not have specific information available on the web, eight did not have a music education major, and one did not have a music major. This left sixty-one universities with the music education major and course work listed on the web.
Of the sixty-one universities with web information, 96.9% of the universities surveyed required between six and eight semesters of private lessons. Teacher training programs are doing well there. But choral music education majors are being certified to teach classroom voice, meaning they need solid pedagogical and diction tools. Only 38% of the universities surveyed required even a single course in diction; shockingly, 62.3% required none. In this day and age of multicultural music, in which choral directors regularly are called upon to teach diverse choral repertoire in multiple languages, the fact that 62.3% of the universities surveyed did not equip their students with even the rudimentary tools of an introductory course in diction, where students learn the International Phoenetic Alphabet (IPA), is incomprehensible.
Likewise, only 39.5% of the universities surveyed required a single course in vocal pedagogy; another shocking 61% required none. There are so many requirements imposed by state Departments of Education that it is often quite difficult to make curricular changes. However, music education majors who are state certified to teach voice in the choral classroom and conduct choirs deserve to be given the tools they need (voice lessons, diction, and vocal pedagogy) that will equip them for a strenuous life of professional voice use themselves, as well as enable them to serve their students knowledgeably in vocal teaching and care. It is clear that there is much work to be done to bring curricular requirements in line with the skills vocal music education majors need for twenty-first-century careers. …
So what does the future hold for the choral profession? Are choral conductors ready to accept that they comprise a profession whose prime métier is work with the voice? The resources are there, and most of the time, are easily accessed on line. So as a profession, what can we do better? We can insure that ACDA places consistent levels of emphasis on voice awareness in its conventions and publications. We can work to improve the relationship that exists between voice teachers and choral directors and NATS. More choral directors need to be members of NATS and more voice teachers members of ACDA so that dialogue between the private voice teacher and the classroom voice teacher continues…
The end result will be a nation of choral singers with healthy, vibrant voices—singing beautifully their entire lives.
As we move closer to our Spring concerts, many of us believe a memorized concert will make for a better performance.
How we teach and run daily rehearsals greatly impacts our students’ ability to be responsive to our conducting, sing freely, and be communicative.
Our rehearsal approach can foster the ability for our students to naturally memorize their music;
We should not need to require them to memorize or even waste time and energy giving part tests!
In May, August, and September 2015, the Choral Journal featured a three-part article series titled “Notes for Success: Advice for the First-Year Choral Teacher.” As part of the series, 11 choral conductors with teaching experience ranging from 4 to 34 years answered 10 questions related to setting expectations for your first year, classroom management, balancing a successful work and home life, finding repertoire, and more.
In this column, I would like to address question #3: How do I best balance my personal life and the stress of my job? How do I balance the role of educator and musician?
A portion of the suggestions listed in the May 2015 issue regarding this question follow. Please leave a comment below with a strategy that has worked for you (or perhaps one that hasn’t!) so that we can continue to learn from one another.
“Balancing the personal life and the professional life has been the hardest part of my career. I think having children makes it even more complicated. Every day when I wake up, I make a choice, and it is not about having it all… I think it is important as choral directors that we continue to hone our craft. For about an eight-year span, I stopped singing. I told myself it was because I was too busy with family. I was singing at work with my students, and that was enough. I was wrong… Last year I started singing again with a local auditioned group. Suddenly, I remember why I go to work every day. What we do is so important; we are feeding our students through music. Do not forget to feed yourself.”
“Effectively balancing the dual role of educator and musician depends largely on recognizing each as dependent upon and inseparable from the other. I tell my college students they are essentially earning a “double major” in both music and education… A helpful reminder to my continual development as a teacher and a musician is to think about what a mentor conductor would identify as prominent strengths in my choral classroom.”
“Find one way to continue making music where you are not in charge that fulfills your need to be creative. You are worthy of care! Because you are worthy of care, learn to employ the “noble no” when a request won’t fit into your school and life schedule. People will learn to respect your forethought and follow-through when you only take on what you can manage.”
“Music teachers have to think about so much all the time: lesson plans for the next day, repertoire selections for next week, field trip logistics for next month, course selections for next year. There will never be a time when everything is completed. The sooner you can be comfortable with this, the easier it will be to take some much needed personal time for yourself.”
See also: question #6: How do I best establish a grading strategy? Read it here.
Click here to read the full article that contains the rest of these answers in Part 1 of this series.
ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly publication for choral conductors and teachers at all levels. It is published online, and each issue contains four practical articles. If you are not already a member of ACDA, you can join as an Associate for $45 per year and receive access to ChorTeach and the Choral Journal online.
The summer 2016 issue of ChorTeach contains an article written by Robin Samlan titled “Teacher Self-Preservation: Tips for Preserving Your Voice.”
All choral conductor/teachers have heard the traditional vocal hygiene recommendations: hydrate (drink water, avoid caffeine and alcohol), don’t yell or scream, get plenty of rest, don’t sing when you have a cold, etc. Some of those suggestions might help, others might not, and some might be beyond your control. This article offers five ideas beyond the traditional suggestions for maintaining a healthy voice. Two are below.
“A semi-occlusion refers to narrowing the vocal tract at any point. Semi-occluded techniques build up air pressure in the vocal tract in a way that helps the vocal folds vibrate more easily. They also help the voice to sound resonant (i.e., more “ring”) and louder while putting the brakes on vocal fold collision. The result? Your voice will carry better, and you should experience less vocal fatigue.
“Many of the sounds we use for singing and speaking voice warm-ups take advantage of semi-occlusions. We can use lip and tongue trills, humming on “m,” “n,” or “ng.” We can sustain “oo,” the bilabial fricative /β/ (humming through a very narrow opening between the lips) and other voiced fricatives such as “v,” “z,” or “zh.” When sustaining these sounds, focus on feeling vibration in the mouth (lips or behind the upper teeth) and a feeling of ease or comfort in the throat. You should then work toward the same feeling when you repeat syllables (e.g., “nee nee nee nee nee”), words (e.g., “mean, moon, mine, known”), and phrases (e.g., “yummy melons and marmalade”). Planning a little time in the morning or before a class or rehearsal to warm up your speaking voice in this way should help prevent voice fatigue.”
2. Voice Rest vs. Exercise
“Many of us have been taught to rest our voices when we have a respiratory illness, have had heavy voice use, or are fatigued. Voice rest might mean complete rest or conservation (i.e., decreasing the overall amount of talking and using a quiet voice when one must talk). Though conservation is not disputed for severe injuries, there is a growing interest in determining whether gentle, resonant exercise might be more beneficial to healing than vocal rest.
“Researchers have found that teachers with disordered voices improved more when they performed vocal function exercises than when they only practiced vocal hygiene recommendations (e.g., rest, eating a healthy diet, avoiding coughing/throat clearing, loud voice, low pitch and monotone talking, holding ones breath and hard glottal onsets, smoking, alcohol, caffeine). They improved more when using amplification than when following vocal hygiene recommendations.
“While methodology has been challenging and results mixed, preliminary reports show that resonant voice exercises may decrease vocal fold inflammation after heavy voice use or injury. If future studies provide additional evidence that this is the case, there will likely be caveats regarding amount and type of exercise required for benefit and not harm.”
Read the rest of the article by clicking here and looking in the Summer 2016 issue for Robin Samlan’s article. If you are not already an ACDA member, you can join as an Associate for only $45 per year and receive online access to all ACDA publications! Go here to learn more.