[My background: When I began singing lessons at age 14, I learned the 24 Italian Songs & Arias and a slew of handsome show tunes by the wonderful Mrs. Carolyn Seeman of Toledo, Ohio. After starting my “Opera career” at the Cincinnati-Conservatory of Music, I bailed when I had to learn languages. I was self-taught for the next eight years and then I got a masters in jazz. So, while I had awesome technique teachers, like Jeanie LoVetri, Peter Eldridge, Theo Bleckmann, and Kate McGarry, I have little knowledge of repertoire outside of jazz and the musicals I did as a teen.]
What to teach my young students? I’m not qualified to help them become Classical singers per se, and teaching only jazz wouldn’t make sense either. [I mostly teach ages 12 to 17, which I hadn't done before, so it's become a necessity for me to have a game plan for giving more general training.] So, here’s what I came up with:
- I started out by thinking through what the long-range goals might be for my young students who pursue singing. They will either:
- Attend a college program and major in vocal performance (either a general vocal program or a jazz/contemporary music program), or
- Begin singing professionally during childhood, or directly after high school.
- I then researched colleges and their audition requirements for all non-exclusive Classical programs (mostly jazz-focused so far). Specifically in the U.S: Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN, New England Conservatory, and Columbia College Chicago which has a Bachelors in Music Performance in Contemporary Urban & Popular Music. Not a comprehensive list by any means.
- I planned out a holistic repertoire approach to educating these young vocalists in both genre and music history. And I started with songs I already know.
There are six categories of music that I came up with for my students to be able to sing commercially, get into a general music program, or at least provide a framework to base their singing on. They are:
CLASSICAL: English & Italian Art Songs - Including basics for a student to audition for a general vocal program, or one in musical theatre that still requires a classical audition piece. Ex. 24 Italian Songs & Arias, Linden Lea, When Love Is Kind.
AMERICAN ROOTS: Folk Songs & Spiritual - Ex. Deep River, The Riddle Song, Shenandoah, His Eye Is On The Sparrow
THEATRE: Broadway Musicals & Movies
CLASSIC POP: Jazz, Blues, & American Songbook
WORLD: Brazilian, Bossa Novas, Etc. - Jobim (Brazilian) tunes, Besame Mucho (Mexican), Dos Gardenias (Cuban), throw in some French, etc.
CONTEMPORARY POP: 1950’s to present American Popular Music
So far, I’ve really enjoyed introducing my students to such a range of music. It always surprises me when they haven’t heard of Ella Fitzgerald or Judy Garland. Sure there is a lot of overlap in vocal production for many of these categories, but when to introduce songs and in what order is still something I’m working on. I also feel that I really need to flush out each category with real gems, and plenty of them.
What are your thoughts and suggestions on repertoire for each of these categories? What do you think about this approach?