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JPS Change October12 2012

JPS Change October12 2012

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Published by: John Paul Sharp on Oct 31, 2012
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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

John Paul Sharp October 2012 Creating a Student Center for Private Voice Students

Friday, October 12, 2012

1

Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Introduction
I am a professional singer. I write, direct and perform for professional and community productions in the stage, film, and recording arts. In 2009, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Colorado Denver. I began teaching private voice lessons out of my home in April of 2012. One problem I’ve encountered in my work as a private voice instructor is a lack of progress from students due to their not remembering what was discussed in lessons. It is a problem I also faced as a voice student in college. I’d have my lesson and as soon as I left it, my mind would automatically focus on the many other responsibilities I had to take care of. By the time I found a window of opportunity to practice, I nearly forgot everything I’d been told from the lesson. Even though I practiced, it was always apparent I had forgotten information my instructor previously relayed to me in my next lesson. When this happens, both student and teacher can experience negative feelings. There are many obvious viable interventions and I have tried a lot of them as a student. I would bring a recorder and tape everything, but that method never worked for me because I didn’t have time to sit down and listen to a whole lesson before practicing. I would try and take notes during lessons, but when I practiced, the notes read like a garbled mess because taking notes during voice lessons is very difficult. Instructors often relay a lot of information at once and it is not always easy for the student to understand what information is the most pertinent to write in between singing. Times have changed even since I earned my B.S. in Vocal Performance more than three years ago. Now it is common for my students to have immediate access to information through handheld computing devices like iPhones and iPads. I wondered if perhaps I could help alleviate forgetfulness by providing to students as many resources as possible online. Today’s reality allows for me to record and upload gigs of information, such as a 4 channel surround sound recording of weekly lessons. But how much work does this require and is the effort worth it?

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Interventions
Over the last few months, I have written and e-mailed lesson summaries to students detailing: 1) what the student and I worked on during their lesson, 2) what the student was great at, 3) what the student needs to improve upon, and 4) goals for practice before the next lesson. My effort to write and send these summaries takes approximately ten to fifteen minutes. This method seems to work fairly well in comparison to doing nothing at all. Students have told me the e-mails help them remember their lessons better, but I am not always convinced the effort is a complete solution. In the last month, I have begun recording lessons with a Zoom H2 Recorder. For more information about this piece of equipment, read the product description at the manufacturer’s website: http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h2/. The recorder was a gift from a friend of mine and I decided to employ it as a strategy for teaching private voice lessons because it can easily record and transfer an hour’s worth of 4-channel surround-sound audio into high-quality .wav files. The 4-channel recording is especially useful in recording voice lessons because often the teacher is sitting or standing on one side of the recorder and the student is sitting or standing on the other. I am now sharing large files (e.g., an .mp3 version of an hour lesson recording contains close to 150 Mb of data). I upload them to my website, which takes about an hour or more due to my limited internet speed at home. Because the content of the lessons are often sensitive in nature, I realized I needed to password-protect these files so that only individual students could access their own recordings. Each student now has their own username and password and their recordings are stored within individual folders where only the associated student and I have access. As previously stated, I never had much luck recording my own voice lessons as a student, mainly due to a lack of time in listening to a whole hour’s worth of work. I imagine the same is partly true for my students, but as part of a separate study, I am asking students to listen to their lessons as a way to reflect on their progress. My goal in doing this is to
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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

encourage students to take a more aggressive approach to their studies and learn how to assign goals and measure their own progress through their own volition. My long term intervention goal is to create a Student Center all my students can access. I’ve already started by putting an icon on the lessons page of my website: http://www.johnpaulsharp.com/lessons.html

Currently, only I can access the Student Center splash page because I am still trying to figure out how to create an informative web-space where students can feel both excited and safe (i.e., a web-space, only accessible to my students, which contains individual student areas that are only accessible to them, but not identifiable to each other by name). In 2013, I hope to have the Student Center fully realized. The splash page would contain general information and resources applicable to students by age range (e.g., recorded vocal warm-ups, instructional videos about vocal health, lead sheets, common rhythm and sight-reading exercises). Individual student areas would contain lesson recordings and summaries pertinent only to each student.

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

My rationale for creating a Student Center is three fold:
1. I want to give students additional value from their lessons they

may not find with other private voice educators. I would love for students to become more excited about their lessons through making the Student Center fun and exclusive to them, and thus help them remember what they are learning in lessons. 2. I want to create a library or database of self-created resources to help me save time for the future students and lessons. 3. The more information and resources I can put in the Student Center, the more everyone can save on paper costs and printing time costs. There are obvious challenges to the creation of Student Center and its application will probably not totally solve the issue of students forgetting instruction from their lessons. A great deal of time and effort is expected on my behalf to fully design the site, mix down and upload media files on a regular basis, maintain usernames and passwords through a spreadsheet, and keep the Student Center updated. Time savings may not be fully realized for a few years. Some voice students are never fully committed to their lessons either and forgetfulness may easily be due to a lack of effort from students. With the creation of the Student Center, students would be expected to visit the site on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, depending on the frequency of their lessons. Students would be required to have access to the internet and be able to view and download video, audio and text files. Students under the age of 14 may or may not benefit from a Student Center without parental guidance (e.g., a six-year-old student is most likely not savvy enough to use the internet freely and safely). While all the students I’ve had this year do indeed fulfill all these requirements, their time constraints may not allow them to spend much time online in the first place, so creating a web-space that is user-friendly and efficient is essential for overall success.

Friday, October 12, 2012

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Evaluation
How can I determine if the Student Center, and the act of uploading and making all instructional materials available to students online, is a successful endeavor?
1. Observation during lessons. By observing students from week-to-week,

I can get a sense of how well a student is progressing and therefore, absorbing the information I relay to them during their lessons. 2. Student feedback. In casual conversations, or interviews, as well as student surveys employed by the teacher and answered by students through SurveyMonkey.com, I can get a sense of students’ perceived value. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CRHRP8D. 3. Teacher reflection. I will evaluate my own time-constraints through reflective writing during the course of this class and in the future. I will continually question whether the time and effort I expend are worth the actual benefits of making instructional materials available online for all my students.

Friday, October 12, 2012

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Findings
The Student Center is not fully functional at this stage. I have been uploading lesson recordings and summaries to students and students’ parents for their review. Through my evaluation of student progress, I feel my students are progressing more than normal. This could be due to a number of variables and may have nothing to do with my change efforts. For example, some of my students are participating in my action research where they are asked to journal (i.e., engage in reflective writing) about their practices during the week. This act of journaling on the part of students may be a highly contributing factor. As I expected, it is not fully clear whether these change efforts are worth my time. Through conversational interviews, feedback from students is minimal and generally ambivalent. They are expectedly not forthcoming in their opinions and I believe this is due to the complexity and intimacy involved in learning how to sing. I imagine they are not even sure if listening to their recordings and receiving their summaries is working for them or not at this point. In my own experience as a student of voice, I did not realize much of my progress until after I had graduated from my undergraduate program and began working in the entertainment industry. Only as a working professional did I have the greatest moments and epiphanies in which I remembered information relayed to me by previous professors. Regardless, students who filled out the survey felt a Student Center would generally be very helpful, with a mean average of 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 (i.e., 1 being not helpful at all and 10 being extremely helpful). Students chose lesson summaries and warm-up recordings most often as the type of instructional materials they would like to see in the Student Center. In regard to how difficult it is for students to remember their lessons, the average answer from students hit right in the middle of the scale (i.e., 5 in a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not difficult at all and 10 being extremely difficult). Whether this data is affected by my change efforts or other variables (e.g., more time to practice, less stress in students’ lives, their involvement in my action research study, etc.) is unclear to me at this point. I intend to continue to evaluate my students’ perceived forgetfulness through student evaluation and interviews in the future.

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Perhaps most interestingly, I received the most support from the parents of children I teach. In one example, I have a six-year-old voice student whose mother told me in our most recent lesson how much she appreciated being able to access all the materials for her child during the middle of the week. Another parent of an eight-year-old child studying acting said she felt more empowered to participate in practice with her child during the week. I realized in receiving this feedback there are more stakeholders than just the students and I. Parents are also valued participants in my work as a private voice instructor. In my own self-reflection, I have found uploading instructional materials to be somewhat tedious and time-consuming. I believe this is due to my not having established a set routine for synthesizing materials into electronic form and uploading the materials. As I continue to develop this process, I feel it will go smoother and faster. As I tell my students, practice makes perfect and I feel when I have a proper Student Center built and available for students, I will have become more efficient in my change efforts. Also, because some materials are applicable and sharable among all my students (e.g., warm-ups by age level, rhythm and sight-reading exercises), much of the initial work I perform will not need to be repeated.

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

Conclusion
In order for the success of this change project to be fully realized, I must continue to synthesize materials into electronic form in an organized, efficient way. Currently, I am e-mailing students with links to their file folders without them being able to access the splash page. The Student Center splash page must be accessible to all students and student areas must be accessible individually without compromising their identities. I will need to assign current students with new, anonymous usernames and switch to this method for all new students. To keep track of this information, I’ll need to develop and maintain a spreadsheet listing students’ real names with their chosen usernames. I may eventually have a limit to the amount of data I can keep in my website. If this is true, I will either need to set a time limit on how long I will make students’ recorded lessons available online or I will need to upgrade my webhosting to allow me to store unlimited data. Currently, I am asking my students to participate in a great deal of research I am conducting in the timeframe of approximately one month. I would not be surprised if they are nearing burnout or exhaustion from evaluating their activities on a much higher level than what is normally expected of non-college bound (i.e., casual) voice students. In the future, I will probably limit any data collection to casual interviews during lessons as I feel it is important to help these types of students feel empowered and relatively comfortable about their journey in learning how to sing. Because learning how to sing can be such a personal process, it is important for me to consider students’ workloads, stress levels, and emotional states. I must make sure I’m not unnecessarily pushing them and creating too much pressure. I don’t want to lose students and I don’t want my students to give up on singing. Ultimately, I feel the work I have done through this change project has been valuable for me in terms of developing my practices and professionalism as a private voice instructor. I have become much more proactive in this regard than many of my colleagues with whom I have been sharing my experiences participating in this change project and my action research. Even if some of my students are reaching burnout or exhaustion, I believe they acknowledge and appreciate the extent to which I’m involving myself as their private voice instructor. I think they see my passion and know how

Friday, October 12, 2012

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Social Performance Anxiety and the Human Voice

John Paul Sharp

committed I am to their progress as singers and that is possibly more valuable than any changes I make in my practices. By documenting this process and my academic work, I believe my colleagues, and other private voice instructors who happen upon my portfolio, can benefit by applying my efforts to their own practices. Perhaps I can be a symbol of inspiration to other professionals in my industry through my change efforts.

Friday, October 12, 2012

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