Academic journal article Trames

Tripartite Unity: What Students Expect from Their Teacher and Accompanist during Individual Singing Lessons

Academic journal article Trames

Tripartite Unity: What Students Expect from Their Teacher and Accompanist during Individual Singing Lessons

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Modern vocal pedagogy is based on a long tradition which takes into consideration each individual student's particular features. In the field of classical music, world class competition is a self-evident criterion. The training of musicians, including classical singers, is a long process that requires patience and consistent work from both students and teachers. Singers are usually trained in lessons where, in addition to the vocal teacher, a piano accompanist is also involved. Since the singing process is extremely closely related to an individual's physical and psychological preparation, besides good professional skills a vocal teacher also needs very good analytical abilities and empathy. Vocal teachers are directly responsible for bringing out, developing and consolidating the qualities of a student's voice that are required if (s)he is to stay competitive in this field. Vocal pedagogues often are or have been professional opera singers and teachers at the same time.

There is little in-depth research carried out into teaching methods of the Western classical singing, its scarcity sometimes being compensated with anecdotal evidence. The reasons for such a state may lie, firstly, in the highly personal character of interaction between parties involved in the teaching process and, secondly, in the cultural differences between national schools of singing even within the Western paradigm. According to Miller (1997:189), in Germany and in England, scientific studies dealing with vocal production tend to have a direct impact on studio teaching, but these studies are interpreted in a number of different ways and contribute directly to the diversity of vocal methods in those countries.

The profession of a performer depends primarily on self-development. The profession of a vocal teacher is aimed at shaping another person's "vocal instrument", which requires analysis and empathy. Lehmann et al. (2007:203) emphasise that today's efficient teacher has to be more than just a good performer. While discussing the assessments given by piano students, Siebenaler (1997) has pointed out that students rated more highly teachers who were active in their lessons than teachers who displayed little activity while conducting classes. A difference has been observed between novice and experienced music teachers. Based on research on instrumental teachers, Henninger et al. (2006) suggest that in the lessons of experienced teachers students spoke and expressed their thoughts more frequently than in the lessons of novice teachers.

The expectations that teacher-performers and teachers trained as pedagogues have of their students have also been investigated. Fredrickson (2007) concluded that the expectations of the teachers trained as performers and those trained as teachers were different. Both types of teacher expressed the same desire to teach, but teacher-performers were considerably more interested in their students' level of self-motivation. Hamann et al. (2000) found that students especially appreciate their teacher's skills in conducting a lesson and pay less attention to the quality of the content. This in turn shows the importance of the ability of teachers to inspire, motivate and captivate their students while teaching their subject.

Students see singing teachers as pleasant or less pleasant personalities and on that ground they draw conclusions about the pleasantness of the subject. Based on their study involving different age groups in Finland, Ruismaki and Tereska (2008) have reported that students associated the most enjoyable experience in music lessons with singing and the least enjoyable experience with learning music theory. At the same time, the main reason for not wanting to sing in lessons was associated with not liking the teacher.

It cannot be assumed that all students like their teacher for the same reasons, although the latter must definitively have certain professional communication skills. …

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