Blog Post the Fifth: Tutoring singing

One really cool thing I’ve been able to do this semester is help my classmate, Cade*, with our repertoire for Vocal Jazz. He is the ONLY tenor in the ensemble. There are 3 other guys, but they all sing bass. Cade is also new to singing. Louise Rose, who directs the ensemble, is super proud of him and always likes to talk about his first rehearsal when he wasn’t sure about being there because he hadn’t ever sung before. It turns out that Cade actually has a really strong voice, and I don’t know what the group would do without him. (I mean … SAB rep, I guess, but it wouldn’t be as fun.)

Some of the pieces we learned this fall are pretty tricky, especially for the inner voices. One of them even has a substantial tenor solo, although really, any time the tenors have a line by themselves, it’s a tenor solo for Cade. Earlier in the semester, he was having some trouble learning some of the lines because they were really difficult. The alto lines I was trying to learn were difficult too, so we started meeting up once a week or so to practise our lines together.

Along with learning our lines and singing them together so that we get used to the crunches, I’ve given Cade a few tips about singing and practising—or to use the fancy version, vocal production and rehearsal techniques for choral music. Things like engaging the diaphragm to support the breath, and playing the melody line on the piano while singing your own line so that you’re learning it in the actual context of the song. (For those who are more accomplished at piano than Cade or I, playing all the other parts while singing your own is even better. But just playing the melody still helps.)

It can be hard to know how much I’m really helping someone when they aren’t taking, to pick an example at random, math tests on a regular basis that will show their progress. Cade tried to give me the credit for his success at our recent Christmas concert, but that was definitely due to his efforts. I helped, but he was the one who actually did the work and sang his lines. The last person I want to emulate is Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady! The tutor never deserves the credit for the student’s work—and somehow I doubt that Cade sees himself as Eliza Doolittle. For the record, though, Eliza worked really hard and was very successful, so Cade has that in common with her!


*Cade gave me permission to use his name. He’s a percussion student in my program and a great guy.


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