If you're anything like me you're wondering if choir and band class will happen in Fall 2020. When the NJ back to school plan was released late last week I downloaded the 104 page document and read through in its entirety. I scoured the document for terms like “music” and “singing” but did not find a single occurrence of those terms. I was a little surprised because of all of the recent buzz about music making. I took to the worldwide web to find out more and this is what I learned:
Well…that sounds grim. The best part of making music is that it is usually done with other people and for an audience. Musicians feed off of the energy of fellow performers and the audience! TCNJ has cancelled performances for the Fall semester, but hasn't said anything about band/choir classes. Will high schools follow suit? Could high schools find a way to make choir and band socially distant in the gym, cafeteria, or outside since masks cannot be worn? There’s NO way you can blow into a tuba while wearing a mask…
I would like to see a plan for music classes that encourages outdoor singing/playing (weather permitting). The choir or band could meet on the football field to be as socially distant as possible. When the weather doesn’t hold up for outdoor meetings, students could use the auditorium, library, gym, or cafeteria as an acceptable music making space.
There are many tools for music learning online: music theory games, note reading exercises, interval practice, and even videos explaining the mechanics and acoustics of singing! We, at Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, have created a bunch of free content on YouTube to make sure our singers keep singing. While it may be impossible to sing together online at home, the music learning piece of education can be enhanced at home.
What are some of your favorite ways to keep “musically involved” without group singing? Let me know in the comments!
*Pictures are from the aforementioned NY Times article.
Sometimes people ask me this question and I try my best to explain the art and science of teaching voice lessons. It's a pinch of vocal anatomy with another pinch of acoustics, a pinch of repertoire choice and a pinch of love and understanding that all comes together to form a fun and educational experience. It's my job to listen to the student's vocal production and assess if it can be made more efficient. Then, I pick a "tool" that I think will help them achieve greater efficiency. The best tools for each student are unique to that person, which makes my job interesting and fun!
If you're interested in watching an example of how I spend my days and why I LOVE teaching so much, you're welcome to watch this video.
We begin with warm-ups to stretch and unpress the voice! Then, we move to repertoire and use tools to adjust airflow, resonance, vowels, etc. *Tools are specific, tried and true, tactile or imaginary devices to achieve a desired sound. Ex. "Goal posts:" putting your pointer fingers at the sides of your lips to make sure your lips don't go wider than your fingers (increasing rounding of your lips)!
Any questions?? Comment below!
To schedule a lesson and try this for yourself or someone you love, click HERE!
We are pleased to say the "Computer Cabaret" was a smashing success! We had 10 fabulous young singers send their videos to us, and we compiled them into the video below. We are so proud of each and every one of these talented singers!
On Saturday, May 30th at 6 pm Finely Tuned Voice Lessons will debut a "Computer Cabaret." We would like to feature all who are interested: please send in a video of you singing or playing to firstname.lastname@example.org
At this time everyone has been cooped up at home, unable to perform regularly. This is our contribution to helping our students perform and feel great about it!
*Deadline for submission is Wednesday, May 27th at NOON*
The song can be full-length or just a portion of it--how much you share is totally up to you!
Please email us with any questions! Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our Computer Cabaret as soon as it debuts!
I am having so much fun teaching online lessons! It is forcing me to listen to singers in a different way and I'm able to give different feedback than I would in the studio. I'm able to see where my students practice and how they practice! Since our warm-ups are tracks that I have recorded, I am able to focus 100% on the sounds they are making and how I can make them easier to produce.
Online lessons also give us the chance to focus on musicianship skills like sight-reading, and acting while singing. It is really helpful that students can see themselves while singing because they begin to discover what kind of facial expressions work and how to use their arms/body language to express the text of their songs. If you've never had the chance to watch yourself sing or watch a video of your singing, you should! It is incredibly helpful to get to see what the audience sees and hears when you sing!
Also, an added benefit for me is that I get to meet people's families and pets! So fun! :)
If you're on the fence about online voice lessons, give it a try! I think you'll be surprised.
Q: Do online lessons really work?
A: We love to answer this question: YES! Online lessons can be just as powerful as meeting in person. Technology has come a long way, thankfully.
Q: How long have you been teaching online lessons?
A: We have been teaching online lessons since the opening of our studio! One of our new students suddenly relocated and wanted to continue lessons, so we figured it out together.
Q: What kind of equipment do I need to purchase for online lessons?
A: You don't need any fancy, special equipment. Both student and teacher just need to have a strong internet connection to prevent glitches. You can download the following *free* platforms: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime (iPhone/Mac only), What's App, Google Hangouts, etc. We have used each of those and they work well. It is also very helpful to have a second device at the ready. For example, if you're using your phone to video chat with your teacher, having a laptop or tablet to play pre-recorded warm-ups or a backing track is very helpful!
Q: How bad is the lag time?
A: This depends on your internet speed. To prevent lag time in warm-ups, we created a YouTube playlist of our warm-ups to play from your second device. That way there is no delay in your hearing of the notes. You may also access YouTube or any other music website to play a backing track for your song. Sometimes having your teacher play the song while you are singing creates an odd delay for you. It's best to play everything from your own devices while on the video chat. Once you're singing along with your own devices your teacher will be able to hear your voice clearly!
Q: So what are the main differences in online lessons versus coming into the studio?
A: The main difference is getting to have a lesson in the comfort of your own home or anywhere you are in the world. That means no time spent driving to and from your lesson!
Q: What are students saying about lessons online?
A: "Online lessons are great because you can still get the same feedback as you get in person. I have been taking online lessons for a while now and I really enjoy them." -Jenny (Michigan)
A final thought: voice lessons are centered upon building a solid foundation of technique and using that technique to facilitate your artistry. Whether you take a lesson online or in person you'll be able to accomplish this goal!
Parents across the country and around the world are now being tasked with the responsibility of keeping their children engaged in online school. Here are a few (fun) ideas to keep your kids excited about designated music time:
We hope this page helps you plan a musical activity that is low stress for you, and big fun for your student! Please comment on this post with your success stories, questions, or more ideas!
I'd like to take this opportunity to (humble) brag a little bit. More than 20 (YES, 20!) of our students have performed in or will perform in various shows. We are so proud of all of the hard work they put in both here at their lessons and out in the world rehearsing! What did they perform, you say? Here's a look:
One of the biggest thrills of this job is seeing the work transform from notes, words, rhythms & technique in the studio to fully realized performances on stage! We get such a rush when our students "nail the high note" (with proper breath support and resonance, of course!) or sing through that extra long phrase we've been working on.
We try to make it to as many shows as possible, as we are so proud of our students! No matter where you go in Hamilton, Ewing, Princeton, Hopewell, Pennington, Yardley, or Morrisville, you're bound to catch one of our students on the stage! Our students are (as they say in the 'biz) #booked and #blessed and we are insanely proud!
Yesterday I had the honor of adjudicating at the New Jersey National Association of Teachers of Singing festival in Princeton! In the span of 5 hours I heard so many incredibly talented singers. New Jersey is a talented state, y'all!
The festival is open to high school singers through adults (if the adult is not already a professional singer). The purpose of the festival is for the singer to receive feedback from three professionals who are not their own voice teacher. The feedback is written and scored on comment sheets, and the singer holding the most points in their category wins the chance to perform at a recital and advance to the Regional round! Of course, it's nice to win your category and advance to the next round, but what's really beneficial for everyone is receiving comments: what you're doing well and what you can work toward. When writing my comments I always try to first state what is working well, then weave in a suggestion.
It's odd for me to be on the other side of the table. I sang in this festival (NC NATS & Mid-Atlantic Regionals) from high school into my college years and I remember the preparation, nerves, heartbreak, and joy!
Here are 3 things I learned from being on the other side of the table:
There's so much that goes into preparing for and singing in a festival like this. Each singer is wonderfully talented, possessing their own unique strengths. My hope for you (if you happen to walk into my room) is that you've worked diligently with your teacher to craft a program that you are able to sing well and that you enjoy. I can tell when you sing something you like singing because you sing it with more style.
Maria Palombo is a Voice Instructor and Singer living in Central NJ. She is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio in Mercer County, NJ.