Vocal Health in the Choral Rehearsal: Common Ground for Operatically Trained Singers, Studio Voice teachers, and Choral Conductors

John R. Weiss, D.M.A.
School of Music and Theatre Arts
Washington State University

Recent research and experimentation by Johan Sundberg, Ingo R. Titze, Mirano Hirano, William Vennard, and many others have contributed greatly to the understanding of voice physiology and function. Nevertheless, much anecdotal evidence reveals continuing problems experienced by operatically trained singers in the collegiate choral rehearsal. Previous studies have dealt with this topic in various specialized ways. The findings of Slusher (1991) showed that a conflict exists between studio voice teachers and choral directors relating to vocal pedagogy. The Cook-Koenig (1995) study extensively explored vocal fatigue in choral singing. A pilot study conducted at the University of Arizona (Weiss, 2000) corroborated Slusher's findings.

Unfortunately, no study integrates contemporary voice research with vocal pedagogy and choral methodology. This presentation, therefore, will show how recent findings in voice physiology and function can be applied in the choral rehearsal so that operatically trained singers can participate without experiencing vocal fatigue, compromising vocal development, or risking vocal injury. Specifically, it will recommend two techniques that will help operatically trained singers meet the varying vocal demands of the collegiate choral rehearsal: physiologic Vocal Function Exercises as developed by Joseph C. Stemple (Sabol, Lee, and Stemple, 1995), and traditional messa di voce exercises. An empirical study at the University of Arizona (Weiss, 2001), successfully integrated these techniques into eleven 50-minute rehearsals of stylistically diverse repertoire requiring different sound ideals.

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