Top Ten Complaints - Presented by NATS at ACDA - Handout


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NATS Executive Director, Allen Henderson, steered a panel discussion on March 10, 2011 entitled, "Choral Directors are from Mars and Voice Teachers are from Venus: Sing from the Diaphragm and other Vocal Mistructions," along with esteemed NATS members Sharon Hansen and Brenda Smith, NATS President Donald Simonson, and NATS Past President Scott McCoy. They presented an additional Interest Session that afternoon: "Choral Directors are from Mars and Voice Teachers are from Venus: Top 10 List - Complaints from Both Sides of the Aisle."

Download the Handout from the second presentation from this page and discuss the topic on the PowerPoint PDF download page at

Published in: Education
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Top Ten Complaints - Presented by NATS at ACDA - Handout

  1. 1. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Choral  Directors  are  from  Mars   Choral  Directors  vs.  Voice  Teachers and   Voice  Teachers  are  from  Venus:     •  A  history  of  complaints •  Are  these  complaints     substantiated?   Top  Ten  Complaints   •  Are  we  actually  approaching  the   From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   same  ideas  with  different   Or  “The  Farmer  and  the  Cowman  Should  Be  Friends”   language?   Sharon  Hansen   •  How  are  NATS  and  ACDA   Allen  Henderson   working  together? Sco/  McCoy   Donald  Simonson   Brenda  Smith     GOAL Tone  Quality “The  choir  conductor  has  the   students  singing  straight  tone   To  build  a  common  language   for  45  minutes  straight!” that  reflects  our  common  goal   “The  voice  teachers  keep   of  providing  excellence  in   changing  my  vowels,  and  they  tell   instruction  and  performance. my  sopranos  to  ignore  my   instructions  about  straight  tone!” 1  
  2. 2. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Individual  Sound  vs.   Group  or  Cooperative  Sound   Questions GROUP  SOUND   •      Homogeneous  group  sound   Do  we  know  it  all? •      Quasi-­‐English  boy  choir,  blended       group  sound     •      Full-­‐bodied  group  sound     INDIVIDUAL  SOUND   OR •      Cooperative  sound   •    Soloist  develops  best  individual   sound  that  she  can   •    Soloist  uses  everything  that  an   Are  we  on  a  journey individual  voice  can  show  (power,   of  discovery? vibrato,  range,  dynamic)   Solo  Selection “The  choir  director  selected   my  student  for  a  solo  and  that   People  often  look  at  the   student  has  no  business   exact  same  research  and singing  the  Verdi  Requiem   solos  as  a  Freshman!” draw  widely  differing “This  is  a  young,  exciting,   conclusions. ringy  voice  that  can  easily   negotiate  the  tessitura.”   2  
  3. 3. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Common  Ground Age/Size  Appropriate  Repertoire “The  choral  conductor  thinks  one  size  fits  all.   The  repertoire  in  the  top  choir  this  semester  is   •  Include  voice  faculty  in   all  over  the  map  in  terms  of  styles  and  periods.     One  voice  does  not  fit  all  styles.” auditions. •  Require  voice  teacher   “The  voice  teacher  is  teaching  every  student  in   approval  before  audition. his  studio  exactly  the  same,  whether  the  student   has  a  naturally  large  instrument  or  a  small  one.     •  Communicate! They  all  are  learning  huge  Verdi  arias  this   semester  for  their  juries.    Most  of    these  students   are  not  going  to  end  up  at  the  Met!” Repertoire  Selection Common  Ground •  Experience  great  master  works •  All  have  preconceived  notions  of  what   those  are. “FABULOUS”  Repertoire •  Some  masterworks  are  appropriate  for   some  students,  but  not  all  great   vs. masterworks  are  appropriate  to  all   students  at  any  one  time. Repertoire  selection   •  Whether  students  can  adapt  to  tonal   requirements  of  some  repertoire   according  to  the  students   should  be  a  matter  of  discussion at  hand •  Neutral  third  party  involved  when   inflexibility  exists. 3  
  4. 4. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Voice  Placement Common  Ground •  Communicate! “S/he  placed  my  soprano  in   •  Placing  in  a  lower  part  MAY  be   the  alto  section.” acceptable. “The  student  has  the  range   •  Special  instruction  by  voice   necessary  to  sing  the  lower  part   teacher  on  being  successful   with  ease.  She  will  gain  in  musical   singing  another  voice  part. development  and  can  contribute  to   the  ensemble’s  success.” Rehearsal  Technique Rehearsal  Technique “They  don’t  understand   my  limitations  on   The  choral  director   rehearsal  time.” has  MANY  singers  in   "What  do  choral  conductors  mean   mind  at  one  time. about  ‘limitations  on  time’?    They   have  our  singers  for  4  hours  every   The  voice  teacher   week.    We  only  have  60  minutes  with   them  weekly.    In  the  end,  it  is  the   works  with  one   solo  performance  that  counts"   singer  at  a  time. 4  
  5. 5. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Singers  Must  Be  Taught Dynamics •  The  ART  of  Practice “They  just  sing   •  How  to  concentrate loud  all  the  time.” •  Responsibility  for  vocal   “Voice  teachers  are  asking   technique my  students  to  sing  too   •  Importance  of  resting   aggressively,  their  voices   between  periods  of  exertion stick  out  in  my  choir.” Two  Issues Vocal  Fatigue Being  asked  as  a  group  to   “My  students  come  from   sing  at  a  dynamic  level  that   rehearsal  and  are  totally  worn   is  barely  sustainable  by  a   out  for  their  lesson.” single  voice Being  asked  to  sing  at  high   “The  voice  teacher  keeps   dynamic  levels  while   telling  several  of  my  sopranos   minimizing  vibrato  and   just  to  mouth  the  words.” holding  to  “pure”  vowels 5  
  6. 6. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Two  Types  of  Vocal  Fatigue D.D.  Michael/Lyons  Voice  Clinic •  Like  our  bodies,  our  voices  have  individual   strengths  and  weaknesses. •  Some  vocal  mechanisms  are  made  of  “cast   iron”,  some  are  made  of  “porcelain.” •  Muscle  fatigue •  Cast  iron  is  NOT  BETTER  than  porcelain.    A   delicate  vocal  mechanism  can  be  a  good  thing. •  Don’t  compare  one  person’s  vocal  endurance   •  Tissue  fatigue to  another’s.     •  Louder  voices  are  not  necessarily  more   talented  (nor  do  they  necessarily  have  more   stamina). Avoiding  Conflicting  Statements Vocal  Fatigue •  Variety •  Cool  down •  LOOK  as  well  as  listen Poor  planning  on  our  part  DOES   •  Communicate create  vocal  emergency  on  our   •  Vocal  Distress  Meetings? students’  parts. •  Students  are  still  learning  to   manage  their  voices 6  
  7. 7. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Terminology Terminology “Voice  teachers  tell  my  students  I  am   asking  them  to  sing  too  quietly  in  the   •  Misunderstanding  of   piano  passages,  and  with  too  little   vibrato  in  the  loud  passages.” acoustics  and  resonance  is   pervasive  from  both  sides. “My  singers  are  always  asked  to   •  Nasality ‘tone  it  down  ,’  taking  the  ‘soloist’   out  of  the  voice  by  reducing  the   •  Formants singer’s  formant  and  inhibiting   their  natural  vibrato.” Vocal  “Gold” Outside  Activities “I  hear  the  choir  rehearsing  the   “The  choir  tour  always  rules  and  my  students  have  to  miss   same  phrase  over  and  over,   NATS  auditions  and  other  competitions.” wasting  vocal  gold  through   “The  high  school  musical  was  scheduled  the  same  weekend   as  NATS/MTNA/Music  Club  auditions  preventing  my   needless  repetition.” students  from  participating.” “If  singers  are  vocal  athletes,  I   “During  opera  staging  and  tech  week  I  basically  lose  two   need  to  work  on  timing  and   weeks  of  productive  rehearsal  because  my  singers  are   simply  worn  out.” stamina  like  a  sports  coach   “I  hear  from  students:    ‘We  are  having  a  NATS  competition   would.    If  we  have  to  repeat   and  so  I  cannot  sing  in  choir  today.’” sections  to  get  everyone  on  task,   it  simply  must  be  done.” 7  
  8. 8. Top  Ten  Complaints  From  Both  Sides  of  the  Aisle   3/10/11   Outside  Activities THANKS! •  HS  directors:    Involve  voice  teachers  of   your  students  in  annual  planning. Download  this  presentation  and  a   •  Annual  planning  should  involve   ensemble,  opera,  AND  voice  teachers. handout  version  and  continue  the   •  Consider  a  cycle  for  major  works/larger   conversation  at: operas,  etc. •  Be  prepared  for  the  inevitable  “special   opportunity.” •  Most  NATS  and  choral  events  are   planned  well  in  advance. 8