Our Explorers program is designed to help the student to be school ready, and ready to learn an instrument. As part of this, we believe life skills such as sharing, turn taking and accepting help from an adult are essential elements of getting ready.
This series of blog posts will go in depth into our Explorers program, so you can see where we are heading and why we do what we do. Admittedly, this could turn into a PhD thesis, but I will work hard to limit myself to short posts, because I know how busy you all are!
Explorers Explained: 1 – Singing Skills
‘If you can sing it, you can play it’ was a phrase I heard from my instrumental teachers throughout my violin & viola studies, including my university teachers. There are violin professors who insist their students minor in voice, because having the music come from within is such an important part of being a musician. Even if your preschooler doesn’t end up being a professional musician, our voice is an integral part of communicating, presenting and expressing ourselves, and focusing on singing skills of course strengthens their language skills too.
All our programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers are based on using our singing voices. It is important to me that the singing activities we do in class foster healthy vocal technique, as it is so easy to damage developing vocal cords. Newborn baby vocal cords are only 6 to 8 millimetres in length (can you believe they are so tiny! It is amazing what they can achieve with such a small instrument). By the time they reach adulthood, these vocal cords have roughly doubled in size, added extra layers and changed the proportion of cartilage and membrane tissues. One of my goals as a teacher is to make sure students can use their voices safely, and project well without straining. Dr. Päivi Kukkamäki developed the Suzuki singing program, and I remember hearing her present many years ago at a conference. She said that when walking past a primary school she often hears students damaging their voices when using them incorrectly. Certainly something we want to avoid!
Good technique is our cornerstone, but in addition to that in Explorers we work on singing as a group, as well as solo singing. Group singing is a comfortable, accessible way to start developing ensemble skills, which is the same as teamwork skills. Learning how to blend our voices, rather than one sticking out of the group, is the same skill set as understanding that we are all equally important when working together on a project.
Solo singing is a great opportunity to help the preschooler to feel comfortable in front of an audience. I often imagine what kind of brilliant presentation my young Explorers students may end up giving at Executive level, or perhaps a speech in parliament! These are skills that develop true confidence, and will carry them through life. On the other side of the equation is the audience, and learning how to be a supportive audience member is also an important life skill.
Stay tuned for Explorers Explained: 2 – Inner Hearing/Audiation