The Newsletter
 May 1st, 2009                                                                          Find your natural dynamic speaking voice and maintain it!
Vocal Tip of the Month!
Can you feel it?

Knowing your voice and its limits can be tricky.  Learning how to sing and project the speaking voice is challenging because the vocal cords cannot be touched or seen and it is an extremely intricate instrument. Sometimes I wish I could easily manipulate my vocal cords the same way a piano player moves his hands on the keys and his feet on the pedals or a guitarist plucks, hammers, bends, taps and uses palm muting on the strings to create different sounds.  Instead, all we have to rely on are sensations, or better yet, the lack thereof.  One of the best pieces of advice I have received about the voice is if you can feel it, you are doing something wrong!  

How is that?  Usually, a burning sensation is the sign of a good workout.  If you wake up aching the next day, your muscles are growing (unless you strained a muscle, of course).  Think the opposite for the voice.  In order to free your voice, the larynx has to remain completely relaxed so it can easily transition between your chest and head voice effortlessly while engaging your articulators to maintain clear elocution.  If you "feel" your voice at the end of a lesson, at the end of the day or after you sang, your body is talking to you; listen carefully! Even the slightest tickling can be the sign of dryness, the onset of a cold; you might have been pulling chest, speaking or singing in your throat, etc.  Take action quickly and turn the situation around.   

Gargle and drink plenty of water.  Stretch and massage your neck and shoulders to rid your body of tension.  Watch your posture; stand up straight!  Breathe carefully, letting your belly out.  Use your diaphragm to support your voice.  Reposition the resonance of your voice in the mask.  Raise the pitch of your voice to get it out of your throat.  Lower the volume of your voice.  Wait for your students to be completely quiet before you address your class again.  Apply all that you have learned in here!  

I know that is a lot to absorb but be patient with yourself.  It takes a long time to train and reprogram the voice.  Remember that I am always available for one-on-one consultations, so please do not hesitate to contact me if you need extra support with your voice.  I am there for you and I am always happy to help!    

Interesting Facts

10 Reasons to Encourage Kids to Sing in the School Choir

1) Singing is the only instrument available to everyone.  It gives children the opportunity to better themselves in a way that is natural and universal.
2) It develops the students' ability to sustain concentration.
3) Reading a score, matching words to melodies and rhythms, counting the beats and planning how to interpret a text to music develops an analytical mind.
4) Many people enjoy singing even though they don't have a great voice or can't sing in tune.  It is comforting for kids to know that their mistakes will blend in with everybody's voices and will most likely go unnoticed.  Making mistakes is a way to learn and is no big deal!
5) Many kids are self-conscious in front of an audience.  Participating in a choir is a chance to overcome the fear of performance.  
6) The vibrations created in one's body during singing channels out negative energy into something positive because expressing emotions through music uplifts the spirit.
7) Storytelling is represented in a non-conventional form.  When chosen carefully, songs with a positive message become a musical mantra to the soul.  
8) Choir work emphasizes team effort and cooperation towards accomplishing a common goal.
9) Choir singing creates a strong sense of belonging that transcends gender, age and culture.  It sends a powerful message of unity.
10) Singing is fun and exciting! It is about sharing a little bit of oneself with the rest of the world. The idea is to contribute and generate happiness around us, making the world a better place!

What's Happening?
School Spring Concerts

Many schools are preparing children for year-end or spring concerts and graduation.  Since many class presentations are likely to involve singing or drama, why not take a few moments and teach your class how to project the voice using the vocal tips you learned this year?  You are welcome to use some of my warm-up exercises as a starter guide.   
Relevant Links

Voice Yourself in the Classroom

Valerie Bastien

The Voice Connection
Inspiring Quotes and Stories...
More on My School Preformances! 

I, too, have been preparing my students for such events.  One of my teaching assignments this year was to direct my school's junior choir.  It was my first time doing so and it has been an interesting learning experience for my students and me as well.  We had a very slow start with many discipline issues in overcoming the monotony of repetition that learning songs and singing a cappella requires, which, from discussing with other choir directors in my school board, appears to be pretty common.

A few weeks ago, I found a website that offers a wide variety of instrumental tracks for very reasonable prices called Karaoke Version.  We had been working on "I'm Alive" by Celine Dion and from the Stuart Little movie soundtrack.  The students' attitude completely changed when we started practicing with the music accompaniment.  I had rearranged the song to involve a lot of call and response between the boys and girls in order to reflect the lively friendship dynamic of the song.  It really boosted the motivation level of the kids and lifted their singing with so much enthusiasm.  I was really impressed to see and hear how much of an impact adding the music accompaniment had on them.  All of a sudden, everybody wanted to dance and sing their heart out to the music.

Our concert presentations were phenomenal and our choir song made me so proud!  My principal reported that while I had my back turned to the audience to conduct the choir, many parents stood up and moved to the sound of our beautiful singing.  It was fantastic to witness the gathering power of all the junior students working together in harmony towards the same goal.  I could tell it was very gratifying for them to have taken part in that.  After the concert, I was so happy that I went home and started planning the songs I wanted to teach next year!  I couldn't go to sleep for hours.  I was so pumped!  My grades one and two class is singing for our primary concert next week.  I'm very excited; I can't wait!

I wish you a lot of fun rehearsing and performing with your class as well!  Good luck and enjoy the moment!

Things to Note
If you like what I do, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and feedback with me by signing my online Guest Book! You can also contact me directly at:

Have a wonderful month!

-Valerie Bastien