Have you ever wondered how much interpretation and natural movement influences how you or your students sing? With all of the spring high school musicals, the question of the effect of dancing and acting while singing has come to the forefront of my mind. Why is it that many students sing so freely when on stage dancing and acting and yet freeze up when singing in a recital?
We as teachers instill good technique using proper breath support, posture, phrasing, breath marks, good diction. Do we sometimes inhibit student to merely listen to the voices of right and wrong in their heads rather than letting them feel the music and the emotion of the song? Don’t get me wrong, proper technique is the core of good singing, but do we always allow time to focus on the meaning of the words and freedom of movement in the study of a piece?
I find we often allow more time for that only if preparing the piece for a performance. I know I always mean to devote more time to it. What would happen if students studied the text and interpreted its meaning from the very start? If we learn the melody and rhythm of a piece at the same time as we look at the poetry and meaning, would some of the technical issues perhaps be lessened? If the singer’s body and mind are more relaxed and focused on emotion, would it drastically change how well a student sings a song or would it encourage negative technique?
I think it would vary with each student, but a concept worth exploring. I am challenging myself and my students this summer to do just this.
The first week you are given a piece:
1. Learn the melody and rhythms of the music for the first half of your practice time.
2. Study the text, interpret the meaning and how you would speak it like a monologue separate from the music for the second half.
3. Reverse the process the next time you practice.
Allowing communication to happen first with an underlying foundation of proper technique may give the singer freedom both in body and mind. What will this do to encourage natural movement as well? Will you join me in the challenge?