Who is teaching your children???
Friday musings...

Who is teaching your children?

In this "american idol"-ized culture,  with popular "talent" shows showcasing children "singing" things that simply are not appropriate,  as a parent,  are you truly aware of who is teaching your child?

The pre-puberty years are CRUCIAL years of development in physicality. 

The voice is a physical and athletic instrument.  It does not develop any faster than the body does.  There is no rushing it.  However, it can be damaged.

Unlike disciplines, such as dance, where the younger the body, the more pliable to achieve certain responses,  voice is completely opposite.  The vocal mechanism,  the breathing mechanism, and the physicality of support and resonance and tone is much much later. 

Does the person your 8 year old or 10 year old "studies" with know that?

Why do I ask this?

I see so many people "taking on voice students"  that are simply not VOICE teachers.  They are not trained to understand the voice,  especially the child's voice.   There is no training in pedagogy,  understanding of appropriate repertoire for children,  recognition of the physical maturation of the instrument and what is needed.

Young singers,  if they love to sing,  can benefit from choir,  group musicianship classes,  piano lessons or another instrument in order to learn musicianship skills. 

Trying to "train" a young voice - especially prior to puberty - simply doesn't happen.  The mechanism isn't developed yet.  Trying to then get a young voice to mimic (as that is all they can do) an operatic sound,  or anything that is beyond them physically,  is ridiculous,  and can be damaging physically and take much time and effort to UNDO later on.

Is a so-called voice teacher of young children aware of the physicality of said child?  Do they understand the physical maturation and development associated with children?  As it pertains to breathing?  to support?  to resonance?  to balance of resonance?  to registers?  and more and more???

Are they aware that simple lung development is not matured until the early 20s?

That hormonal balances are completely in flux until after puberty and therefore,  girls' voices change as well as boys'?  That there are numerous voice changes to consider throughout the teens?  That the physicality of support needs specific development and that it cannot happen until certain muscle fibers and development of ligaments and tendons are at a maturation point?  That certain intrinsic muscles simply do not develop in children?  That bone structure is still soft and pliable so that resonators are still developing? 

Have you asked???

I hold those who call themselves "voice teachers" of young children responsible too.  You have been given the PHYSICALITY of a young life and are responsible to keep that child safe.  Trying to make them sound older,  or giving them repertoire they have no business singing (an example is ANYTHING operatic) is simply WRONG.

Voices can and will reflect the body they inhabit.  They are unique and must be treated thus.  Children, as with mature adults,  should sound like them,  not be a mimic of someone else.

Some bodies develop faster,  reach puberty sooner,  are more athletic,  and so,  the voice will have a different quality.  Bodies that develop later,  have a different voice. 

Each child needs to be evaluated individually.

However,  the "training" of the child's voice is not about the training that will happen later - even late teens/early 20s.

The maturation of the physical instrument does not actually occur until the late 20s-30s - sometimes even later for heavier more dramatic voices.  If your child is 8 or 10 they aren't even close to being baked yet!

What should be happening with young voices?

Discovering purity and individuality.

Pitch centers.

Musicianship skills.

Learning their breathing parts.

Discovering how their sounds vibrate in their bodies.

Developing the physicality of language in repertoire that is AGE APPROPRIATE in their native tongue.

(If your child is still in school and singing Nessun Dorma you need to find another teacher NOW!)

Deportment skills.

Telling a story.

Learning to phrase.

Ear training.

THESE are the key elements to early childhood "singing" development.

It is crucial that a child is placed with someone who has the pedagogical knowledge so that the voice is treated with care and understanding and is allowed to grow and flourish RESPONSIBLY!

A child's voice needs careful consideration.  It needs someone who is trained to work with children's VOICES,  not a piano teacher who decides to teach singing,  or a singer who decides she/he is going to teach. 

Children are sponges.  They take everything in.  They need an environment that will allow them positive and healthy behaviors - not behaviors that will call damage and ultimately,  much time in repair later on.

As parents,  you must be aware of who is teaching your child, or who you are asking to do so,  and why.

As teachers,  you must take this responsibility seriously and know what you are teaching and WHO you are teaching. 

Any young voice standing in front of you is a very serious responsibility.  Take it that way. 

Parents,  please educate yourselves.  Do not listen to the latest fad from a talent show - which is there to make money, not to educate. 

Your statement should not be "I want my child to be able to sing like XYZ".  I should be "My child loves to sing.  Is it the right time to put her/him in lessons and what will you do with them?  I want her/him to sound healthy and like him/herself."

Children need to be children.

They need opportunity to explore,  to play,  to feel. 

They do not need to be exploited,  or pushed into things because of ignorance,  or on an adult's agenda.

Let the voice of a child remain pure and nurtured well.  Let their skills develop naturally under the supervision of someone who is truly trained to understand that voice so it can reach maturity without major issues along the way.

Find REAL teachers of voice.  Find REAL teachers of children.


Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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