If you’ve read my manifesto “Everybody Wins When Everybody Sings” you’ll note that my goal is to sing better songs.
I believe that teachers of music, in particular, have a duty to find, develop, and use better songs, whether they are teachers of singing, general music, or other types of music. Better songs are context dependent – they are better for you, your students, your environment, your setting. What’s better for you may not necessarily be better for me. In the end, better songs should result in better singing – more tuneful, more enthusiastic, more accurate, more joyful.
I started out teaching music knowing that students should do three things in particular: listen to and appreciate music, perform music, and create or compose music. Performing music included instrumental music and vocal music. Little did I realise just how important vocal music was going to be.
My childhood memories of music include singing Christmas carols, hymns in church, and songs at school. Though at the time I didn’t think much of these experiences, and more readily identified instrumental music as my ‘thing,’ I was soon to learn just how important and pivotal the human voice could be.
One turning point was learning to apply the movable solfa system to aural training. Suddenly, I was able to grasp the relationship of notes in the scale to each other. Thanks to visionary teachers like Zoltan Kodaly, I and many others have experienced approaches to music education that emphasise the human voice and singing quality folk song, classical music, and selected contemporary music.
My experience showed me that singing is a great barometer for overall musicianship – singing is audible manifestation of physical health, feeling, and thought. It does not require costly instruments or bulky equipment. Singing is so closely linked to speaking that it is an effective starting point for musical training.
Indeed, there are those who not only use it to start musical training, but to develop and advance musical training.
Whatever your stage or experience, if you’re a music teacher, I would encourage you to sing better songs – for yourself, your students, and for the greater good of those you impact and influence.