I often work with young and very young singers, some of them with genuine attitude and powerfully talented. I just teach singing and not music for young age, so the minimum I require is to verify in the first weeks the authentic desire of learning that only can make them be happy in short or less short vocal lessons, without wasting time and parent’s money. When they are very talented they desire to feed that talent with good music and after a little also to give that music to someone in the form of performance. I am not totally against young in performances, broadcastings and competitions, but there are some rules that I find important in all my teaching that should be followed and I see that often are not. All the talented persons I have met of young age showed a double in them: a young person and that talent that when real is out of age. The talent is adult and experimented, not the person who contains that talent. Talent has some necessities that can be very light to the talented and forced requests to the other. I think that nothing is bad if we just don’t hide young singers performances, if we let a space of existence to the characteristics of young persons. In my experience their performances are plenty of fluctuation in the level, in the technique control and in the musical depth. If we want to moderate that before their experienced technique make that fluctuation so little that you don’t really perceive it you will make of them little robot performers and that is what I really can’t bear. I can’t bear to see a little singer having the pressure of making a good performance for a tv public or to make happy people around him and not simply a gentle and respectful way to share and rejoice the music that this little singer desires to give us. Music is giving something to the others in a form correct and acceptable, since when this is possible by the technique level I agree and organize for my students to perform in private or less private or public situations, but always, and I mean always respecting the freedom of being just what they are at that moment, with their qualities and lacks. We are teachers in a path to help them become in the time musicians if they will desire that and if they have the talent to, or simply to enjoy and practice music with correct basis, not teachers who have to show their good teaching by the incredible performances of little robots performers. We have to help them to make and experiment and refine the music they have inside, not to use it for our pleasure or business, and the difference is clear and sometimes very subtle. You will never find before the correct time one of my student required to be “perfect”, they will always have from me the request to have the courage of having the pleasure of performing and the courage of trying what the inside is asking to have music, and after we will discuss and choose what was good, healthy, not too plenty of risk but in their sense of their imagination, of their musical universe, of their musical dream. The level is something that raise all together when it is well conducted, and can be so easy to make one perfect or two perfect songs during one year, but that will not raise the entire level in a balanced and grounded way. I teach to beginners and they have the right to be what they are during the time they get stronger and more solid and stable in their results, and no tv Show or Competition or parent or manger should put the pressure on them of not being enough or to have to do something far from their genuine talent just to make someone happy of them.
The same is to to be said on the vocal performance and the risk of abusing so young instruments: they are growing and they are elastic and not strongly structured instruments. We learn adults not to do everything is possible for our voice to do, we must be much more careful to teach what is healthy and what at a certain age never must be allowed. Sometimes they find by themselves some high tones and too heavy notes that make everybody around them being excited, but in that we have to teach them well what can be done without risking the future of their voice and what will make it age prematurely and ruin it. When they are young they are often less protective toward themselves as adult are and I prefer not to teach what can be dangerous to be sure they will not use when nobody controls or just to be appreciated and loved. But young voice is then another subject.
Here I try to explain a little what in my work is different in perspective. I did not study music and singing in my childhood and when I entered the Conservatorio I had to fill the gap in an adult brain and body, with an evident talent but yet formed and structured. To do that I used part of the body-work knowledges and principles I learned in the Jacques Lecoq method Theater School which I followed. I asked myself how I could solve some of my most relevant defaults and make singing easy and plenty of all the colours and dynamics a voice can healthily produce to be all the music I had to sing and I wanted to sing. Inspired by Feldenkrais method’s results I invented a reprogramming possibility of movement patterns coordination that could become totally automatic and natural. I had a problem in the tongue that I discovered during the career (a short tongue frenulum, operated in 2002) that made a shorter vertical movement of the larynx so that the risk margin was very narrow in high notes; the complete depth of low range has appeared only after the surgery. However I didn’t want to give the sense of stiffness of a too controlled voice or not to sing Amneris or Wagner or Ravel or Bach. By studying in that way in addition to the vocalisation I could improve the skills of my technique so that nobody never thought I had a tongue problem. I added some new exercise made on the inspiration of the work with the italian osteopath Francesco Corvasce who changed forever my respiration conception, so to develop the breathing work as explained in here . Singers have a limitation in their daily practice, but two hours per day of plenty singing was certainly not enough to study well all we have to, so I found a way of studying without using the voice and the sound. There are many things we can do and solve and study without using a sound, but involving exactly as we were singing properly. so to work on every little part of the singing. The work I do is not based on merely repetition that many times lead to a studied and more structured default but by understanding what the problems are, to fragment it into simple components to work separately than to come back to the problem to control what has been really solved and so on till the complete resolution. I don’t work by improving a bad vocal gesture, but by creating a good new vocal gesture. I use in this purpose exercises, some sort of choreographies associated to the voice, my example. I normally use my example to propose the exact complex movement he has to do and if the student doesn’t think but just executes after me, without talking but just playing as children he will make a lot of what I am proposing even without knowing what he is doing. When a new gesture become possible and it is a better pattern to do something, the brain and the body will very often automatically choose that, and it will result natural. Only when used, some parts become felt by ourselves and to explain some movements is often unproductive. How can a person move something he even doesn’t feel or see, or that simply is out of his movement patterns? That’s why I use myself to obtain from the student doing something. I have noticed that if I execute something possible for the pupil with myself immediately before him, he will be able to reproduce it. The problem is to propose something possible for the student. I never make examples in my way of singing but shaping myself as the student instrument and than improving in me his positions and by asking of doing after me I normally have him in the ameliorated shape I put myself. I this way I never work directly on defaults but by using or creating good patterns. This gives a sense of calm and ease that helps the work, being the work on deficiencies a creator of stiffness that often renders impossible a good voice in beginners but also on professionals. The relevant defaults I normally face directly only when it will be possible to get free from them, and that’s happens in most cases during the second year and in that case it is no more a movement coordination to change, but a mental habit, the idea of a route to take immediately, and natural after all along. For the first period is like to seed a garden, and for the first part I ask not to study what we are doing, so to be sure that the different movement patters will not be changed by the student’s habits. I had to find something effective even with the voice that students use for speaking all the day and they are not yet able to understand or to feel what they are doing. When well sowed every little aspect will work by itself and the brain and body will choose the better pattern so that we don’t have to destroy the ancient bad route. The surprising thing for the student is the rapid feeling and evidence of starting having a good natural instrument and sometimes the sensation they are doing nothing to sing correctly, and that’s exactly how I work to have a better instrument. Of course this is just the starting point to sing well, but yet a good starting point.Then the real training will be done on good vocal patterns.