Can you believe September has come and (is almost) gone? In the studio we are still all virtual as students and clients go back to school and work. It has been an exciting month of growth for our singers and pianists as well as new faces to meet on the computer screen!
Nothing excites Maria more than to put on her snazzy purple blue-light blocker glasses and log into a lesson to teach! This is just one of the ways I help my body adjust to online lessons. Eye strain, anyone? I also purchased a table where I can put my laptop and other teaching supplies: pencils, notebooks, music, etc. and I'm able to stand and teach when needed. What are some of the best ways you've found to cope with days where you're all virtual? Comment your tips below!
This past Saturday the 6 singers in our Summer Performance Academy hit the stage of The Newtown Theatre to perform in their Final Showcase! Each singer performed 2 songs for our small audience of 25 (due to Covid restrictions) and Zoomed out to the world!
I couldn't be prouder of their resilience, poise and grace. This year has been heartbreaking for so many people. Just getting through each day during this pandemic can seem like a chore. These singers were so consistent in their lessons, practice sessions, and masterclasses that they were incredibly well prepared for our live show! I prepared them all to have a Zoom recital from the beginning, but when I found an opportunity for us to perform live I jumped on it! You CAN perform safely at a time like this, it just looks different! The entire audience was masked (and at least 30 feet away from the singer). Check out this fun photo of us below!
Clips from the Final Showcase will be uploaded to our YouTube channel as soon as possible! We can't wait for you to hear these singers! I was so proud of them I got choked up during my closing speech. My heart is bursting with love and pride!
Thank you, singers, for a wildly successful performance. I will never forget it.
We are thrilled to announce that we will be having a LIVE performance for our Summer Performance Academy singers! Of course, we will follow all guidelines, but it will be live with a majorly physically distanced (and masked) audience of just their parents and siblings. For those who want to view from home, we will be posting a link to a live stream!
It took many hours of researching places that might accommodate a small, physically distanced gathering of people, but the Newtown Theatre in Newtown, PA really came through for us! Until now, they've been renting family movie nights in the theatre for no more than 25 people. They agreed to let us rent the space to perform on Saturday, August 29th at 2 pm! The singers and I couldn't be happier with this plan. After many months of no performances, we will finally be performing in an actual theater!
Summer Performance Academy is a program for high school aged singers who are serious about a career in the performing arts. Each summer, they receive weekly lessons, and group coaching in a masterclass style format. 10 weeks of hard work culminates in a final performance for an invited audience! Last year (our first year) was a smashing success and we can't wait to see this year's group shine!
Last week I posted my take on back to school in the Fall. Since then, I've been interviewing music teachers across the Tri-State area to see what they think could work. Here's what I found:
Q: What are your feelings on back to school specifically for music classes?
A: I cannot wait to get back to teaching, but I feel it should be online only for the time being.
A: To go back in person I would need a bigger space to teach in order to social distance. My class size is much larger than a core class size. I truly don't feel that my district will prioritize giving me a bigger space and since we live in NJ, being outside is only possible a few months of the year.
A: If they ask me to come back to school I will take an early retirement.
Q: What are the steps that are currently in place to go back?
A: There is a committee of music teachers in my township who are responsible for making decisions on music classes. I hope the board will honor our research and requests.
A: I truly feel that my classes need to be held online. Once we have a vaccine it will be ok to return.
A: If we want a safe return to making music together, the first stage must be online until we can phase students in safely.
Q: How safe do you feel in the classroom?
A: I don't and I won't until there is a vaccine or herd immunity.
A: I have friends in other states who are already being furloughed, so from a job outlook, I don't feel safe.
A: Teachers should not be asked to risk their lives or the lives of their loved ones to enter the classroom when there is an option to teach online. I have students whose parents have died from the virus and one of my family members has died. There is no way I will feel safe in the classroom.
In short, the majority of teachers I interviewed would push to have online classes for the next year. Their safety, the safety of their students, and families would be at risk until the virus is under control.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.