Did you have a grapefruit this week?

Grapefruit blogpost

My husband is somewhat hard of hearing. It comes from spending his 20s in rock bands and his 30s doing woodworking projects, both without benefit of hearing protection.

So when I said to him last week, “Online lessons are going so much better than I expected. Yesterday I had three people who had breakthroughs!”

He said, “They had grapefruits??”

Much mirth ensued.

I told that story to one of my students (who had been one of the breakers-through) at her next lesson and she said that now she wanted a grapefruit.

I have found that the advantages to online lessons include:

  • I can’t play for my students on vocalises, so they need to become more independent. Consequently, we can hear where there are intonation and registration issues that otherwise might be covered up by the piano.
  • Since I can’t play for them on repertoire, they need to sing a cappella or with an accompaniment track. I have to listen to them, during which I take notes – almost like I’m adjudicating a competition. I miss less because I’m not playing the piano and splitting my focus between them and the accompaniment. Something cool I’ve been doing is to type my observations directly into the chat while the student is singing, so that they’re there for them when they finish. If the student records their lesson, that chat is there for them to review afterwards.
  • I can look at them really closely in a way that would be frowned upon in an in-person way. I can get up to the camera and say, “What are you doing with your tongue?” and look directly into their mouths (without any fear of bio-aerosol droplet virus transmission or experiencing halitosis – on either side). Again, if I’m playing the piano, I might not notice that someone’s jaw is not releasing back and down, but rather is coming forward, but if I’m not, I can (which was the first “grapefruit” of that day).

This time has been one of experimenting with what works, and, in doing so, experiencing some growth that we might not have expected. And maybe finding a grapefruit or two.

(And yes, I am married to Emily Litella.)

Is your child READY for voice lessons?

Is your child READY for voice lessons?

Originally, I had this as “Is your child ready to sing?” but then my business mentor, the great and powerful Michelle Markwardt Deveaux (although she’s more authentic than the Wizard of Oz), pointed out that all children are ready to sing. Whether they’re ready for lessons is another story.

I don’t usually teach students under 11. This is not because I don’t think they’re old enough – it’s just a personal choice. I prefer working on a regular basis with students 11 and up. But I’ve decided, since a lot of my regular students are on vacation this week and the beginning of next, that I have the time to do some mini-lessons and evaluations for kids who might want to start taking lessons in the next year or so.

So what determines being “ready?” What will I be looking for when I work with kids?

  1. I’m going to look for ability to match pitch. Do they hear the pitch? Can they match pitch? Can they sustain the pitch?
  2. What’s their range like? Can they sing high? Can they sing low? How do they move between the two?
  3. Do they have a sense of pulse? Can they keep a beat? Even if they can’t necessarily read rhythms, can they feel a basic sense of time?
  4. Are they musical? This could involve reading music or playing an instrument, or it could just be an innate ability to feel the music.
  5. What’s the tone like? Is it breathy? Is it pressed or pushed? Is it nasal?
  6. Do they want to be there? Are they willing to try different things?

As far as my evaluation, the only thing that would make me say, “No, your child is not ready to take voice lessons” is if the answer to #6 is “No.” (And I probably wouldn’t say it quite that way.) But if they don’t want to be there, I can jump up and down and spit nickels (I had a middle school teacher who used to say that) and it won’t make any difference.

Of course, sometimes #6 might be impacted by shyness, but I can usually tell the difference between that and complete boredom.

If the answer to #3 is “no,” that may be also a hard thing to overcome, but it can be overcome.

How will this evaluation go? What will be involved?

  • 30 minute lesson, to which the student brings a song they already know (musical theater is preferred, but I’ll be happy with other kinds of age-appropriate music).
    • 10-15 minutes spent on exploring the voice through exercises
    • 15-20 minutes spent on singing the song and working through problem areas, building on things that go well.
  • Within 48 hours of the lesson, I will write up an evaluation addressing #s 1-6 above and send it to the parent.
  • If I don’t have any room in my regular schedule this fall (and I’m pretty close to full), I will be happy to add the student to my wait list for when we’re both ready to go.
  • I will keep in touch to let them know of any upcoming performances my students are doing, both in the studio and outside the studio, and invite them to participate if I have any small group classes or events in which they might be interested.

So that’s it! If you’re interested or know someone who is, please feel free to go ahead and check out the website at www.mezzoid.com for more info about me or take the plunge and sign up for your evaluation here.

Right now, I’m only doing this through August 13. If I feel that there’s a need for it, perhaps it’ll continue into the fall semester. We shall see!

Ready to Sing