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Passionate Singing

Passionate Singing

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Published by: Dr Daniel K. Robinson on Oct 26, 2011
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Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.

au

Passionate Singing
By Dr Daniel K. Robinson
(2011)

It was during the early summer of 1994 that a young singer stood before a panel of three singing teachers; seeking permission to move from his current classical vocal course to a contemporary style degree. Having been identified as a bright prospect for the melismatic challenges of Baroque music the panel were not keen to allow the budding student to transition to his favoured contemporary genres. The robust discussion flowed back and forth for a seemingly timeless twenty minutes, with the panel refuting the young tenor’s requests and arguments. As a final point of presentation, while watching his dreams of contemporary voice instruction fade away, the now desperate young singer commented,
While I have been at this institution I have been taught that singing is about communication; and that I need to connect with the repertoire in order to connect with the audience. I don’t connect with classical music but I do connect with contemporary styled repertoire. If I am to ultimately succeed at this institution I would ask the panel to place me in the course that gives me the best opportunity to connect with my audience through the repertoire.

The panel, having heard the student’s presentation for transition, dismissed him to confer amongst themselves. After an agonising amount of time (probably only fifteen minutes or so) the panel invited the student back into the meeting and granted him his request to move to the contemporary course stating that his closing comment (as stated above) had been a key consideration in their decision. The young singer in the story is yours truly. Now, as a singing teacher, I am often asked by new students (both amateur and professional), “What genre should I sing?” Having read my story above, you don’t get any points for guessing what my response is. Anecdotally I have observed during 15 years of teaching voice that you connect with, and by implication, perform best the repertoire that you are most passionate about. The next chapter to my personal story was, having transitioned into the contemporary vocal course, I found myself singing a staple diet of jazz standards such as ‘How High the Moon’ and ‘You Go to My Head’. I was far more content singing jazz repertoire than Baroque, however with time I learnt that what I am most passionate about (and what my audiences connect with most) is the niche style of ‘Classic Contemporary’; otherwise known as ‘crossover’. I have often reflected on that crucial turning point in my development as a singer. The consideration of ‘what if’ is a relatively fruitless contemplation for me
© Dr Daniel K. Robinson - 2011 Page 1 of 2

Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au

now, but for many of my students (and for many of you reading this article) the decision to pursue your passion is very real and current. Allow me to offer a few suggestions that might help to guide and drive your pursuit of singing and connectedness with both repertoire and audience:  Passion: When you sing, what genres resonate with your whole person? For some singers this is not merely a metaphysical consideration. Many of my students actually sing differently when they are truly connecting with the art that they are communicating. Exploration: In order to discover your passion you need to be prepared to explore a range of genres. It is a rare, but a nevertheless wonderful, moment when I give a student a new song from a genre that they have not sung before and in that moment they discover ‘their perfect fit’. Maturity: Give yourself permission to grow artistically. In 1994 I was 21yrs old. Eighteen years on I can observe my tastes in music changing; becoming more defined while at the same time becoming much broader. Who knows, one day I may find myself singing Baroque music again!

Finally, one could argue that this article flies in the face of the prevalent view that people are born with voices which suit particular styles. For example, it is not uncommon for a singer to declare that they have a ‘jazz voice’ or a ‘rock voice’. While some voices seem to fit certain genre nuances, it has been my observation that it is often (there are always exceptions to the rule) a technically deficient voice which categorises itself. That is, ‘jazz voice’ is frequently nominated as being smooth and aspirated. A ‘rock voice’ is generally identified by its extreme amplitude and resulting constriction. While breathiness and vocal distortion may be occasional (and acceptable) stylistic choices for jazz and rock respectively, any voice habitually grounded in either activity will generally result in vocal disaster. Besides which defining a voice by genre is far too restrictive and artistically narrow minded. It is far better to develop a voice that is flexible, artistically responsive and passionately motivated. My encouragement to every singer is to embrace who they are first, discovering what repertoire they are passionate about. With time and exploration you will settle upon the songs that resonate with you and in doing so communicate with your audience – what more could a singer want?

© Dr Daniel K. Robinson - 2011

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