Every week when I go to my singing and music theory lessons I am scared. I think that any previous praise or positive sessions are the result of fluke and this time I will be told off for not working hard enough, or not doing something correctly.
Why is this?
For one thing, I have a theory that almost all music teachers are fickle and eccentric. Perhaps it’s because they spent hours intensively working one-to-one with student and quite often find themselves repeating the same advice which rarely seems to be followed… As a music teacher – that would be one guess. Another possibility is that, as musicians, we’re all a bit mental. You need to be to do this for a living.
For another, I never ever feel that I have put enough work in. Even when I practise as much as I can, I always feel (in singing) that I’m behind what I could achieve if I just put a bit more work in. The only answer to this is to work harder. In theory, I feel like I’m pretending that I know what I’m doing and it’s all going to fall apart if I make a loud noise or move too suddenly.
Of course, there are always the scars of lessons past. When I was young and I didn’t understand something, but it wasn’t explained properly. That is the worst feeling in the world. Once when I was at university, I arrived to a singing lesson three minutes early and was told off for it. There was no way I could concentrate because the injustice stung so much. I didn’t stay with that teacher for long. Another time, when I was still at school, I very seriously asked my friend to help me to break my arm so that I wouldn’t have to go to my cello lesson.
In the end, though, it’s informed the way I teach. I don’t tell people off. I don’t get angry because someone hasn’t practised. Instead, I reward my student with stickers when they have done their practise, or if they impress me with their cooperation or concentration. I want them to associate their music lessons with happiness and being relaxed – not with dread.
I teach music to second years (14 year olds). Maybe studying Drama and Theatre Studies at university completely spoiled me, but I can never understand why our education system requires nothing more from the pupils than to sit an absorb the information only to regurgitate it later in an exam. What’s the point? That’s not learning. That’s glassy-eyed recitation.
Their lack of motivation and team-skills astounds me. Out of two second year classes, I can only trust one in a practical situation not to just start screaming and banging things. They don’t want to listen to me, maybe because all they do all day is listen to teachers. They are actually so used to the classroom situation that as soon as it changes, they get out of control.
It’s quite sad. It’s sad for me to see but it’s really sad for them because they are missing out on so much. They need teamwork exercises. They need to learn to respect each other and to respect the teacher.
The weird thing is that they don’t actually understand why the would benefit from listening to each other and listening to the teacher. And I completely understand! I was exactly like that when I was in secondary school. We all were. We didn’t know anything different. But having been to university has just completely opened my eyes to everything that could be done to make school a better, more educational place for the country’s teenagers.
Me: “Next Wednesday we’ll be starting Vivaldi.”
Girl: *groans* “Aww, a Mhuinteor, is that Spring?”
Me: *Can’t handle music students with no tolerance to classical music* “Yes.”
Girl: “That’s boring!”
Me: *omfg* “No it’s not, it’s amazing!”
Girl: “Autumn is waaaay better!!”
Boy: “I have Spring on my iPod!”
There’s a reason that they are my favourite class.
This is literally the first moment I’ve had to sit down in about four weeks.
I sang in an opera concert on the 22nd November in a lovely converted church in north Cork. It was a really pleasant evening and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. I was even given a gorgeous bunch on yellow roses afterwards! It was great! The run up to it was quite stressful, though. There were a lot of duets and the pianist came over from the Netherlands to accompany us, so we had to fit in rehearsals in with him. He was wonderful though! It’s a great feeling to sing with an excellent accompanist!
Once the concert was over I started rehearsing properly for an Audition I have coming up in the Royal Academy of Music, London on the 7th December. It’s for musical theatre, not opera, though. HA! It’s something different, anyway. A challenge! So I’ve been studying three songs on my own and two monologues with a teacher. So far it’s been a really positive experience. I didn’t get too many opportunities to act during my time at college. Apparently I have natural comic timing! Who’d have thought it 😛
Apart from that, I’ve been taken on in a Gaelscoil in Cork, teaching music to second years for the year. (A gaelscoil is a school where Irish is spoken all the time. Everything is taught through Irish.) So for example, today I was explaining was syncopation is in Irish to a group of 14 year olds. I’ve only been there a week but I’m enjoying it already. All of the students play at least one instrument and the can all sing. They all play the tin whistle too! So I’ve arranged about six Christmas carols on the tin whistle for them and organized some Christmas songs for them to sing too. (HARMONY!!) Obviously the problem here would be that I don’t speak fluent Irish. But do you think i’d let that stop me? BAH!
I’ve also been singing in churches a lot recently. Two funerals this week. Funerals are so sad. And I’m still teaching beginner piano two evenings a week. I should also mention the Feischmann choir concert next Thursday for which I have been attenting rehearsals. We’ll be singing Vaughan Williams’ Serenade (absolutely stunning) as well as Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest and some other fun bits and pieces. We’re singing with the Cork Symphony Orchestra and Julian Lloyd Webber is playing ELGAR’S CELLO CONCERTO!!
So, you see, I haven’t forgotten about blogging about singing! I’ve just been too busy actually SINGING to blog! Above picture depicts my crazy busy head.
Listen to Williams’ Serenade.