Liberal Arts Blog — The Instrument Every Child Should Learn to Master — Their Own Voice
Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is the Joy of Music Day
Today’s Topic: The Instrument Every Child Should Learn to Master — Their Own Voice
I have never heard a child’s voice that was not beautiful. Never. Ever. But by 18 years of age, most children have learned that they can’t sing. This is a pedagogical crime. A human tragedy of unspeakable proportions. To put this fact in the language of economics — the opportunity cost of this lie is infinite. And life is all about opportunity costs. Time flies. There is no turning back. Today, three riffs on this idea of the infinite opportunity cost of teaching children that they can not sing and that their voice is not beautiful. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO TEACH THE MOST IMPORTANT SCIENCE — THE SCIENCE OF YOU
1. You are your instrument. Not to understand the instrument is not to understand yourself. And as the ancient Greeks used to teach, there is nothing more important than knowing yourself.
2. There is nothing more important in life than breathing and singing is controlled breathing.
3. There is nothing more important in life than your posture and singing is all about optimizing posture.
NB: There is nothing more important in life than listening and many have argued that hearing loss can be more psychologically devastating than blindness. To have the power to cultivate the art of hearing and not do so is a huge missed opportunity for a richer life.
THE SOLOIST, THE CHORISTER, THE REPERTOIRE
1. Each child should be taught as if they were to be a soloist. It’s easy to fake it in a group. To get lost in a crowd.
2. But each child should also be taught to sing with others.
3. In small groups and in large.
NB: And all repertoires are not created equal. Some songs are the keys to the hearts of over a billion people, others but to a handful. The opportunity cost of the wrong repertoire is almost infinite.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING, CONTINUITY IS KEY, THE VOICE CHANGE THING
1. The earlier training begins the better. Windows start closing early.
2. There is no mastery without continuity.
3. A new voice should not be lamented but welcomed. One door closed, another opened.
FOOTNOTE — Best Three Books on the Voice that I know of — what would you recommend?
1. David McCloskey, Your Voice at Its Best. McCloskey was a singer and voice teacher most famous for helping JFK recover his voice. He was associated with Mass Eye and Ear. The book is very short. Very practical.
2. Kenneth H. Phillips, Teaching Kids to Sing. Encyclopedic. Detailed anatomy. Plus a very useful “Posture Rap.” He was big on using animal noises to teach kids about vocal registers. Oxford University Press. Phillips taught at the University of Iowa from 1985 to 2002.
3. Berton Coffin, The Overtones of Bel Canto, technically advanced instruction. Useless without aid of a master instructor. I was lucky to find one. Unfortunately at age 55 not age 14. Parenthetically, I was unable to find any good links on Coffin. If anyone knows of one, please share.
Last four years of posts organized thematically:
Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.
This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.