By Skye McManus
This past June Klondike, Scott, and me presented a session at the Texas Music Teachers’ Association (TMTA) Convention in Dallas, TX. Our session, “Singing From the Very First Lesson”, was about how to integrate singing into the private lessons and activities to do with it. I’ve always had my students sing in the lessons, but preparing and presenting this session really brought home this idea for me. Our voice is our most personal instrument. Singing can help us become more musical than we realize. It’s also an efficient teaching tool. Just by presenting the musical concept to our students through singing, they would immediately understand it. It works so much better than explaining the concept to death, and it is still not clear to them. I am now doing a lot more singing with my students in the lessons of, for example, the musical phrases and having my students sing them back and so forth.
Another thing I’ve been focusing on since our TMTA session is audiation (singing inside your head). Singing is simply audiating out-loud. When a person is able to conceptualize the music by looking at it (sing it in their head with dynamics, phrasing… etc.), they can play it musically on their instrument even if they have never played it. It will be musical because it is already musical in their head. That is what I’m looking for for my students. When they look at a new piece of repertoire, they can hear the phrasing, dynamics, and character before trying it out on their instrument.
It is always easier to teach students technique than help them becoming a total musician as we wanted. How can we do this? I am not an expert, nor have I studied all the research. My current solution is to sing. Sing for and with them, anything to help them begin to take the music off the page and make it something more personal, intimate, and magical. That connection between student and music is very difficult to achieve. However, when it is achieved, the enjoyment of the musician and the audience is unique and unforgettable. I hope you make this connection this year at Orpheus!