I took up singing lessons a year ago. I’m always on the hunt for a new endeavour and something that can feed my musical self as well as provide me with new ideas and repertoire for my own teaching. There’s something quite unique about being taught an instrument or voice as you form a very important working relationship with your teacher. Singing is something particularly different to other instruments in that you are your instrument; your teacher looks at you, not you holding or using an instrument, but you. That was rather intimidating at first but as the lessons progressed so did my confidence. My initial aim was to gain the confidence to use my voice in class and feel at ease leading singing and choral rehearsals. Little did I know I would catch the bug and have since taken some exams and sang in a local opera group and attended a summer school. Why am I hooked? The teaching is inspiring. There seems to be limitless opportunities to get involved and sing with others and there is plenty of repertoire waiting in the wings to be discovered. Practising is a joy; who knows if my neighbours think the same thing.
Enthusiasm is contagious though I won’t be rushing to sing opera arias at my classes but I’m brimming with my recent discoveries to share with my classes. I want to add a Musical Theatre project to one year group and to consider how we might do an outreach project with local schools being part of an opera. All because I’ve found a new resource in singing that comes from my own direct involvement in singing. I’ve not read a book, I’ve not chatted to other singers (well I’ve done both of those things too…) but I’ve been singing.
‘Too much music teaching continued to be dominated by the spoken or written word, rather than by musical sounds. Lessons were planned diligently, but not always prepared for musically’ (OFSTED 2012). I love discussing this quote on my courses for teachers as it raises an important issue for me. Rarely is it identified to mean how ‘musically’ prepared the teacher is for the lesson and often the teachers come up with several ideas on what this quote means. When do music teachers stop being musicians? It’s so different to other subjects in that we need to maintain our own musical skills so we do our job well. How often do we reflect on our own musical preparedness for our classes? How regularly do we maintain our musical skills by being involved in musical activities for our own development? INSET courses are great but are they keeping us active as musicians?
We want our music lessons to be taught through music; shouldn’t we be developing as music teachers through music too? I wanted to help develop singing in my school so taking up singing as a serious pursuit was logical for me. What opportunities are there for you as a music teacher to take up something new, or take time to work on an aspect of your own musicianship to help meet the needs of your department’s development? It surely is the cheapest and most enjoyable form of CPD to practise…?
Originally published as the September Guest Editorial on Teachingmusic.org here