Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Undergraduate Pedagogy Experience: Communication through Academic Freedom

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Undergraduate Pedagogy Experience: Communication through Academic Freedom

Article excerpt

EACH FALL, VOICE PEDAGOGY instructors come face to face with young singer-musicians who are eager to learn to teach their craft. While some students view the course as nothing more than a prerequisite to graduation, many believe that the class will equip them with everything they need to teach someone to sing. In truth, the course is an introduction to the mechanisms and processes of singing, and the subject matter requires careful attention and cautious approach. While it is vital for instructors to communicate personal and institutional philosophies, the material in undergraduate pedagogy courses should not be limited only to these ideas; rather, students should be allowed academic freedom in their search for a voice teaching philosophy. At the conclusion of the course, undergraduate students should not consider themselves "voice pedagogues," but rather educators that are well versed in the function of the voice and the varied approaches to the teaching of singing.

In preparing a voice pedagogy course, several practical goals must be addressed. First, students must demonstrate knowledge of vocal terms, vocal anatomy, and concepts such as breath control, registration, and resonance. Through this study, students gain understanding of vocal faults as well as their cause and resolution, and also develop vocal exercises that have functional and corrective application. Students compare and contrast ideas of several well known pedagogues, and use these methods as the starting point for their own technical philosophies. Students create lists of appropriate repertoire for young voices, formulate thoughts regarding private voice studio start-up, and apply teaching methods and terminology through a private lesson practicum experience. The perusal of pedagogic journals such as the Journal of Singing serves to enhance discovery of various methods for approaching the aforementioned topics.

Along with the physiological knowledge of the vocal mechanism and the ability to critically analyze pedagogic methods, a central objective of the course is learning to communicate. Professional voice teachers know that this crucial component allows a voice student to understand the various mechanisms that are involved in the process of singing while working to coordinate a free and efficient sound. According to author and voice pedagogue Clifton Ware, "teaching may be thought of as the act of imparting to learners a body of knowledge and skills in a manner that is systematic and methodical, yet creative and flexible."1 Communication is a critical element in relaying the science of singing to another individual, and this concept begins on the first day of class. A nonthreatening environment is created in which all students can participate, as exploration, verbalization, critique, creation, and discovery are significant components of a successful pedagogy course. On the first class day, questions are posed to each student, and include:

* Based on your own singing right now, how does your voice work?

* How do you describe the function of the breath mechanism?

* What is the larynx and how do you describe its function?

* What is resonance?

* Define "relax," "support," and "energy."

When asked these questions, students look uncomfortably at one another in hopes that they will not have to provide an answer. Most students know how their voices work to a point, but when asked to communicate the process, fears emerge. Usually there is one brave soul who offers an answer, typically explaining the vocal mechanism in terms of "supporting" or "relaxing," with resonance taking place in the "masque," or facial area. The discussion then moves to defining those terms, and the art of communication becomes awkward, giving students a new appreciation for this difficult task. Though students typically learn the science behind the vocal instrument with ease, applying these principles can be daunting. The complexity of the voice must be simplified through language and experience, allowing a beginning student to grasp the concepts and make functional sounds. …

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