Here’s a brief description of how our voice classes work.
They will generally be at the beginning of our rehearsal nights, rather than at the end. Members will participate altogether in various warmups and breathing exercises, focusing on certain vocal skills that the typical singer off the street isn’t going to be great at. These include:
- Deep breathing
- Well-supported breathing
- Developing a high-resonance sound, as opposed to an airy sound.
- Learning to relax away the common vocal tensions that creep in.
- How to take a great breath every time.
- How to shape the vowels well for formal singing, as opposed to for casual speaking.
- How to sing and speak with expression, rather than just getting the notes right.
Included in each class are solo sessions, where each member will sing a song (for coaching) in front of the whole choir. (Yes, this is scary, but we’re determined to push through it!). Singers will clear their song choices with the Director in advance, but suitable songs are generally these, roughly speaking:
- Melodic ballads
- Patriotic songs
- Broadway tunes
We want songs that stand alone well, and don’t depend on accompaniment. We also want basic songs with strong melodies of the sort that people find catchy, as opposed to sings that are atypical. Please note that you’ll be singing unaccompanied, as accompaniment simply isn’t necessary for coaching the skills we’re targeting.
Not each singer will get to sing for coaching each week (we only have 75 minutes to fit in a dozen or two singers!), but you should expect to sing no further apart than every two weeks. And don’t be surprised if we don’t get through your entire song every time you sing. Our goal is not to have a performance class, but a coaching class, and we normally find coaching material even in the first lines of your song—before we ever get to the end of it.
Most are scared to death the first couple of weeks, but they begin to bond together quickly and find it exhilarating soon thereafter. They begin to identify with each other better, musically speaking, as well as personally. It’s a team-building exercise, and many long-lasting friendships are typically formed through voice class. It also helps choir singers be more aware of the other parts—other than their own, that is.
Nobody does this!
Yes, we know this is a highly unusual strategy, as practically zero other community choruses do this. But then, most other community choruses just have to settle for whatever they get, singer-wise, and don’t do much to improve the skillset that shows up. So we’re taking a different approach, and quite on purpose. And we’ll see how it goes.
We’re sure that we’ll learn a ton from this, and that we’ll make adjustments as we go—as we figure out better and better how to achieve our goals.