Students seek a context for what they are learning, about what is useful and what to avoid, and will pursue this knowledge with their friends and colleagues if they can’t get it anywhere else. A vocal pedagogy course gives them a forum where this discussion can happen within a framework that provides guidance and accountability, one that is based on informed opinion. Pedagogy students learn about the history of the discipline, about various national and historical schools of singing, and encounter important ideas from influential teachers in the field. They learn the terminology that is central to the discipline, and become familiar with the wide range of theories that have shaped it. They can test ideas and fashion for themselves the tools with which to pursue their own learning. Most importantly they learn about the most recent research on the art and craft of singing.
Part of their training should involve self-reflection using a case study approach, and although the following article applies to classroom teacher education, much of it is pertinent to the training to voice teachers in vocal pedagogy class.
Hourigan, Ryan. “The use of the Case Method to Promote Reflective Thinking in Music Teacher Education.” Update – Applications of Research in Music Education 24, no. 2 (2006): 33-44. Students in my class typically write a vocal genealogy, describing their educational ‘family tree’ of their vocal training, tracing the influences back to understand the major influences that have shaped their own teachers.
A psychologist Iaian McGilchrist unwittingly becomes a great voice teacher when one applies what he says about cognition and consciousness to singing.
We arrive at the position (which is so familiar from experience) that we cannot gain an understanding by grasping it for ourselves. It has already to be in us, and the task is to awaken it, or unfold it, to bring it into being within us.”
This idea of vocal pedagogy as awakening or unfolding is well represented in the comments by voice teachers and students who contributed to the breakthrough study.
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 155.
More great McGilchrist quotes from this magnificent book:
“The nature of attention [that] one brings to bear on anything alters what one finds.” McGilchrist, p. 29
“We cannot do specificity and wholeness at the same time.” p. 208
“Hence, the brain has to attend to the world in two completely different ways, and in so doing to bring two different worlds into being. In the one, we experience –the live, complex, embodied, world of individual, always, unique beings, forever in flux, a net of interdependencies, forming and reforming wholes, deeply connected. In the other we ‘experience’ our experience in a special way: a ‘re-presented’ version of it, containing now static, separable, bounded, but essentially fragmented entities, grouped into classes, on which predictions can be based. This kind of attention isolates, fixes and makes each thing explicit by bringing it under the spotlight of attention. In doing so it renders things inert, mechanical, lifeless. But it also enables us for the first time to know, and consequently to learn and to make things. This gives us power.” McGilchrist, p. 31
Singing freely: means “to experience the world pre-reflectively, before we have had a chance to ‘view’ it at all, or to divide it into bits – a world in which what later has come to be thought of as subjective and objective are held in a suspension which embraces each potential ‘pole’ and their togetherness, together; …At it’s simplest, a world where there is ‘betweenness’ and one where there is not.” p.31