Singer in a Band Workshop Musings

There is a proverb that says, "To teach is to learn." To grow, music teachers must find ways to further their own music education.

 

There are several professional development opportunities for music teachers. By exploring these options for continuing education, music educators can rejuvenate and develop their own musicianship.

As some of you know, I took singing lessons as my learning project for 2009/10. I've sung for years in choirs, but last spring was the first time I have ever sung a solo in public. It's a completely different ballgame. With piano, the performer faces his or her instrument. However, when singing, looking at the audience (or towards the audience) is critical to engaging them. If you cringe because of a missed note or lyrics, not only is it visible, but cringing affects tone.

My vocal coach, Sherry Kennedy, convinced me to take the Singer in a Band workshop she ran last week. Shortly after the singing workshop began, I thought, "What on earth was I thinking? Why did I pick two songs I don't know very well? Why did I pick a song in Spanish?"

Over three days, Sherry, along with my piano teacher Derek Stoll, worked with us eight adults taking the workshop. We had a such a diverse group, including two professional "shampoo bottle" singers and one singer who's had an up and down relationship with singing for several years. There were two piano teachers, myself and my friend and colleague Melodie Archer.

We went through breathing and stance ad nauseum. Many of us needed to "open up", so Sherry stuck foam rollers under our arms (those quickly became light sabers).

As a pianist, nay, as a VRK pianist, I found it especially challenging to have Derek play an intro and for me to just know how the correct notes should sound without me playing the note on the piano was difficult. Another challenge I faced was how to make each song my own so that I didn't sound like Consuelo Velasquez or Stevie Wonder.

Memorizing lyrics was a challenge for all of us however, we all pulled through. The nice thing about singing jazz is that if you forget the lyrics, you can simply scat your way out of a potential mess.

 

All things considering, it was a wonderful night. All eight of us delivered our best performances. Our success can be attributed to several factors:
  1. supportive and encouraging instructors
  2. the fact that we were all tired from running around from 9:30 AM until 10:00 PM that we were too mellow to be nervous and
  3. the fantastic and supportive energy backstage

We cheered whenever the person performing cleared a "trouble spot" as if we were in a hockey game. You can check out my performances on my website.

Many thanks to Sherry and Derek for their hard work and guidance. Hats off as well to Dave Marshall, our serious-looking drummer and Dave Hamilton, our guitarist who can play many a cool lick.

So what lessons did I take away from this experience? Singing lessons and this workshop reinforced the importance of singing and sight singing to develop one's inner ear. You can't beat the rush from performing in an ensemble and singers take artistry onto a whole new level.

Would I do it again? Most definitely.

(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, Alberta. All rights reserved.