Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Mentoring Paradigm for Voice Pedagogy Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Mentoring Paradigm for Voice Pedagogy Programs

Article excerpt

Responsible voice teaching lives at the core of voice pedagogy. Both experienced and emerging teachers are called to explore evidence-based voice pedagogy through an understanding of functional anatomy, breath, and the resultant acoustic interactions, and we strive to model and convey best practices in vocal artistry and research while disseminating meaning through multiple languages and musical styles. Artful pedagogy teaches singing to singers; in other words, art is expressed to people.

In voice pedagogy programs that offer mentored, real-time teaching experience, students are privileged to teach singing in an environment that allows them to see, hear, and analyze the consequences of their instruction, and to order their teaching into a hierarchy that promotes their ability to effect change while measuring the progress of their student. The process thrives on timely, effective feedback and generous allotments of observation, self-reflection, and mentorship. Although experienced voice teachers are predictable pedagogy mentors, student mentors impact their peers very favorably. Ten graduates who served as both student mentors and mentees in the Voice Pedagogy program at the University of Toronto were asked to provide feedback on their mentoring experiences.1 Their responses underscore the value of pedagogic mentorship.

When I am engaged in being a mentor, I notice that my own teaching is revitalized. The grading process reminds me of what I value about teaching, and is also a reminder to hold myself to high standards. When I see someone not observing closely, not listening to the student. .. and I witness the negative impact it has on the student, their learning, and the overall lesson experience, it clarifies for me the importance of high quality teaching behaviours.2

Mentoring students and being mentored was one of the most valuable experiences of the vocal pedagogy program. It helped me improve my teaching skills, and it provided me with the opportunity to apply vocal pedagogy concepts learned in a concrete setting.3

What follows is a description of a trilevel voice pedagogy program that involves multilevel mentoring. The design is an amalgam of various models devised over two decades at the University of Toronto, and it readies students for the reality and responsibility of voice teaching in both academia and independent studios. The benefits of both Indirect and Direct Mentoring practices are described and core mentoring skills are discussed.4


Indirect Mentoring begins with the development of tonal discernment skills through directed listening. It begins in first semester with eight to ten hours of guided lesson observations for both undergraduate and graduate pedagogy students. Four voice lessons of contrasting voice types, three instrumental or conducting lessons, and a studio class or guest master class observations are required. Reports are then submitted that detail a variety of lesson components, including structure of the lesson, use of time, language and voice, repertoire performed, stated technical goals, ratios of talking/singing and new/reviewed vocal concepts, pedagogic aids used or discussed, assignments, warm up and cool down practices, and the perception of moments of student learning. From these observations, students compile a glossary of ten new or novel usages of terminology for future use. No criticism is permitted in the written submissions, and follow-up with the observed student and teacher is encouraged.

Every time I observe new teachers I learn more. Sometimes, it's a new tool, turn of phrase, idea, concept, new idea or way to address a technical issue. And sometimes, there are things that I recognize may occur in my own teaching that I can challenge myself to work on and improve. Some recent observations have led me to reexamine my "concentrating face" and what it says to my students.5

Community building is another part of Indirect Mentoring. …

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