Teaching Children

By Iris Talbot | Coaching

Last year, if you had  asked me, “Who is your preferred voice student?” I would have  said “Anyone over 13 years of age.”

I am re-considering my answer. I have worked with two young girls in addition to my granddaughter this past year. What a lot of fun that has been. They  love to sing.  I have learned, once again, that even young singers need to develop healthy vocal habits. In fact it’s essential if they want to sing for the rest of their lives. The  desire to sound like the teen idols on the radio isn’t always good for the young voice.

Let me share with you my own experience. As a child I loved to sing. I was encouraged to sing at school. I remember my teacher saying ,” Iris , we can’t hear you at the back of the gym.” Wanting to please I bellowed as loud as I could in order to be heard at the back of the hall. My teacher was happy, so was I. The only problem was that it started me on a path of vocal problems that stayed with me for years. Those vocal problems caused me to consistently sing some notes under pitch, develop a sore throat when singing high notes, and to have a very small range.

My mentor Ken Nielsen took years to undo the vocal problems I acquired while trying to sing with an under developed low register. My soft, sweet, young voice, characteristic of the upper register was ignored. That part of my young voice was treated as unimportant and useless. What a huge mistake for me. Through proper guidance and hard work with Ken,  I was able to change years of vocal problems, develop a range of over 3 octaves and have no pain when singing.  Don’t force young singers to use vocal muscles that aren’t available to them yet. Let their voices develop slowly, beautifully and naturally.  Yes,  it requires patience but it is also fun. My young singers would like a lesson every day of the week if they could. Me too. We enjoy making music together.

In our society of immediate gratification, patience is under valued. Too bad. Some things, like building the voice, take time.

Ken used to say to me , ” Patience is a sign of maturity.”  I’m still not as mature as I would like to be. I still want immediate results but I have learned the value of allowing the voice to grow at whatever rate is best for the student.

Remember that focusing on short term results can cause long term problems.

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