Helping Students Get the Sound They Need

Weekly Teaching Tip – Dec. 19, 2016
by MaryAnnKehler

“In a thing so personal as music, there is no such thing as good or bad taste.” – Anonymous

I first saw that quote 30 years ago, tacked over the door of a wonderful music store that carried vinyl records and it’s become my creed, substituting the word “voices” for “music.” I’m writing this on a train from Philadelphia having just completed a master class/workshop for club performers, and headed to Baltimore to do the same. In yesterday’s session, one of the singers asked me to coach her on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” She was nailing it, singing very well, except that I thought she was mimicking Adele’s voice too much and suggested that she cover the song in her own voice. Her reply reminded me of something I say a lot, “Outside of this venue, I would do that. In this venue, our customers expect me to sound like Adele.” I could, I suppose, whine and moan about how weak Adele’s voice really was on that recording and how audiences should appreciate a good voice when they hear it. However, this was another reminder of my mission, part of which is to help professional performers get a paycheck. I say this to singers regularly: “Your job is to do what your director or producer or supervisor asks you to do. My job is to help you do it without hurting your voice, and to tell you if what you’re being asked to do has the potential for harm.”

I am reminded over and over, in my work with rappers and punk bands and club singers and (more and more these days) with musical theatre performers, that my job is not to impose my own desire to hear beautiful singing on those I teach. That’s not what I’m paid to do.

Where is the “tip” in all this? It’s a challenge that I hope you will find some use in, to remember that part of our growth as teachers and educators is to learn as much as we can about the voice and musical styles, so that we have the capability to help any singer who crosses our path.

Plans for IVTOM’s 2017 International Voice Conference are well underway and we’re looking forward to seeing you there. Following our recent tradition of two years per city, we’ll meet in Atlanta again next year, before moving the 2018 conference to the next city. If you attended this year’s conference, you’ll already be excited about the next Atlanta conference. If you didn’t, the challenge is to start now with arranging your schedule and financing so that you can be there. You’ll be so very glad that you did.

Wishing you a wonderful, productive December and the happiest of holidays.

Best to all,

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