I can’t believe the winter term has come to an end! What a busy few months it’s been in my studio, but I truly mean it when I say I love every minute. My students have been working so hard, and in just a few days they’ll have the chance to share the songs they’ve been working on for the past few months with me! I can’t wait for their families to hear their progress and enjoy the personal touches they’ve each put on their songs.
For this performance, I gave them a task. The song they sing must be meaningful to them in some way. It must have a storyline or message that they connect to personally, or maybe it reminds them of a place or time in their lives that’s significant, and they must share with the audience what and why this is. While the really young ones are still learning what that means exactly as they also figure out where to put their hands while they sing, I have to say I am SO impressed with how much the older students have embraced this idea. Watching them practice their introductions and express the meaning behind their song choice has been so touching. The bravery and vulnerability some of them are demonstrating is really touching and they are becoming increasingly able to showcase that through their vocal performance. I have no doubt their families are going to love watching them! They’ll laugh, they may even shed a tear, but it’s going to be a heartfelt evening of music no matter what.
This theme for a performance is something I’ve been eagerly waiting to do all year. For those of you who have perused my website, you know that my philosophy for teaching voice runs on three principles:
Building confidence! Learning to express yourself through song and through your singing voice, and learning the skills you need to effectively tell a story through song. Music should be FUN and a stress release for anything you’re dealing with!
To put it in short: technique. In order to express yourself at your best ability, the breathing and singing techniques must be in place. This is to help students stretch their range and develop skills that will take them beyond what was once possible! This is what we do in each weekly lesson one on one, so every student is given feedback and personalized exercises to best help them improve.
Engagement with the community: getting out there and sharing the power music has to move, touch or help others; engagement with the studio: private lessons can often be isolating, so it’s important for me that my students have a community of others who are on the journey with them so they can learn from and support each other; and last but not least: engagement with the music and lyrics of their songs!
These reasons are why this Coffee House is so meaningful to me. By having the students take ownership over the lyrics in their songs, they are considering what message they’re sharing! So often we just sing along to a song, not ever realizing what it’s about! (And sometimes making the lyrics up anyway- ha!) As an artist, what you bring into the world is important! Lyrics aren’t haphazardly chosen, and by giving students a task like this, it forces them to consider what a song is about and whether or not it has a story or message they want to be represented by. (And yes, it can ABSOLUTELY be a song about how much you love food!)
Furthermore, by connecting to a song on a personal level, it’s so much easier to connect emotionally. I remember going to college straight out of high school, having had limited life experience. In my acting training there I was asked to connect emotionally to various different scenes, monologues and songs, and sometimes it was hard! I just didn’t understand the depth of emotion life teaches you over time. I was blessed with a very happy childhood, so the feelings of heartbreak and loss hadn’t come to me yet. Now that I’ve grown and know more, I often think that if I did that program now, ten years later, my experience would be TOTALLY different.
So, now think about giving that task to an eleven year old! That’s why they pick the song. Some songs are totally cheeky and fun! Others are whimsical and express longings for the future. It doesn’t all have to be serious- but regardless, they’ve each found a reason as to why the song is important for them to sing. By framing it within their world, they are able to use their voice emotively and explore what it means to express yourself and your feelings through song and use the lyrics and musical markings to help you achieve that.
It’s really a special thing I get to do, taking them on this journey of self discovery and artistry. And it’s something that is SO IMPORTANT for musicians! Making music, whether you’re a singer, guitarist, pianist or any instrumentalist, is about far more than just learning the notes and accomplishing good technique. Of course, as a teacher I know technique is important because it gives you the tools to do more artistically and feel greater confidence, but if you never pass that threshold of artistry- what was all the technique work for? Sure, you will be exceptionally skilled, but will the audience be moved by your music?
At the end of the day, isn’t that why we make music in the first place?
I sure hope it is!
And regardless of where my students go as adults or what they pursue in university or as a career- I hope music always stays a part of their lives that they can use to ease frustration, celebrate success, blow off steam and connect with others. THAT’S why this style of performance is important to me as their teacher. It opens the door to show them what is possible through music that it is so much bigger than the technique and the notes they work so hard to master. It’s about finding your identity through song and sharing that with the world! And how beautiful is that?!
If you’re interested in checking out their songs and stories, please join us on Sunday, April 14 at 7pm in the Saint David’s United Church gym. We’d love to have you and everyone is welcome! Plus, in line with engaging with the community, entrance is by donation and all of the proceeds are going to the KV Oasis Youth Centre. See? Music can impact the community in that way too! :)
What is music doing for you today? I’d love to know in the comments section! Or if you make it to the concert on Sunday, come tell me in person! Until then….
Keep finding your voice and let it sing!