Elided Cadence

Dear Singer and Teacher Friends,

An “elided” cadence is when a piece of music sounds like its on its final chord, but then morphs from that chord in another direction within the same piece.

I’ve reached an “elided cadence” in maintaining this blog and am moving on. It has served as a vehicle for me to share, transition and grow since winter of 2009 and I am oh so grateful for your readership and this medium!

In the meantime, if you have a blog on on anything having to do with singing, performing, melding acting and singing, touring as a musician, singing voice rehabilitation, authentic music-making, pedagogy or mid-life and beyond transitions, please consider inviting me to write a guest post for your blog.

My first guest post is coming up very soon for Justin Petersen, so consider checking him out! In this post I explore a tidbit from historical and modern vocal pedagogy that just may be the single most important thing about singing freely.



Psoas Release and Strengthening in a Tenor: Vocal Master Class #2

Nick is a musical 28-year old tenor with a Theater Degree and college voice lessons. He was on the roster of the Annapolis Shakespeare Company and sings in operetta, opera and golden age musical theater. He arrived full of enthusiasm…and with a voice transitioning from baritone to tenor.

About 15 years ago, through personal circumstance, I realized that the ‘Psoas Muscles’  are an important part of both the body’s Core Muscles and Respiratory System. Somatic Educators are talking about them now, but they remain rarely discussed in the voice teaching community. They are  primary muscles in stabilizing the trunk of the body and in movement and have their insertions in the Lumbar Spine.

The Psoas is deeply connected to the diaphragm through the fascia, and with the main ligaments of the diaphragm  which run alongside the psoas and wrap around the top of the psoas.

Nicks’ postural habits were to stand with his pelvis thrust forward and his thoracic and cervical vertebrae collapsed. He stood and walked with his knees turned out and feet splayed. Vocal pedagogue, Marybeth Dayme, (Dynamics of the Singing Voice and other vocal pedagogy books), advocates that singers stand with their feet pointing straight out, knees unlocked, to help biodynamic energy flow. I use this idea with most students and for most, it stabilizes the hips and pelvic structure so breath management and general grounding work more efficiently. But Nick could not stand this way comfortably, and it made his alignment even worse, so I knew he needed to tea to first release, then strengthen, his psoas muscles if we were going to free up his alignment in order to have his functional voice training really take root.

Releasing and strengthening the psoas  also means working with the “holding” patterns of other muscles around them. For the first two months of weekly lessons, we worked on psoas lengthening, releasing, and strengthening. This took about five to ten minutes of every lesson, and he did the exercises at home. His body alignment used to make him look like a “curmudgeon,” and now reads “leading man!”

There was a gradual change in his perception of standing and moving.

Here are some good sources for learning about the Psoas Muscles and how to release and strengthen them for free and flexible alignment.

Liz Koch’s “The Psoas Book.”  Or Visit her Website.

How to Stretch and Strengthen the Psoas

articles from Align Integration and Movement


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Part V, Final Post, Journal of a Richard Miller Week

Thanks for joining me for the final installment of Journal of a Richard Miller Week. In this series I am sharing my journal notes from a 1994 week’s workshop with the great vocal pedagogue, Richard Miller.

It is interesting to compare these notes to what is available in pedagogy graduate programs now days. This information seems basic now, but 20 years ago it was new information.

Friday, May 27

The first part of the morning is spent studying female registration.
Chest voice “pivotal point” around E-flat above middle C.
From E-flat to F# 5, “voce media”–sometimes called head voice
F# first passaggio.

(I hope we have time to talk about this more. My first passaggio is around E-flat)

High C–F6–Flageolet

The size of the larynx determines the “pivotal point.” In mezzos and dramatic sopranos these points are obviously different. (my question answered.)
Lighter voices have an ease about registration matters.

Whistle voice is not the same as flageolet according to voice science. Whistle voice is a dampening and slapping apart of the folds.

Flageolet is a great assister, but not necessary for all voices. Some voices can’t do this.

Miller feels it is best to start vocalizing in upper middle voice.

Insert 1

Miller emphasizes charging what you are worth. “Is this an avocation or a profession?”

We work with the following–


In upper middle range–
5′ 5′ 5—-1
Eh EH EH—–


Equality of timbre dependent on more appogiuro.

Heavier baritones may need to go toward (a) on top. Use ah-oh-oo combinations.

Do not base tenor (or anything) on the “HEY!” or “call” technique. Introduces too much vocalis pressure which can create imbalance. (Note: this was before voice science knew much about registration balance in popular music or musical theater.)

Insert 1

Mezzo di voce important every day.

Zwichen-fachs must be the patient in development.

We listen to recordings of Boerling, Corelli, Comingo, Pavarotti, all singing the same “pen-sier” to a high B-flat. All very different, all thrilling. Vowel choices interesting.

It is a common male teacher mistake to have women sing up high with too much breath pressure. Female teachers tend to underenergize their male students.

We have been saving our questions all week for today. There are many technical questions and clarifications. I ask him about his wife. What role has she played in his professional success?

Miller seems surprised by this question and says he has never had anyone ask it before. His eyes actually tear up a bit, when he says he would not be where he is without her. She has enabled him in every way to be where he is today, from taking care of his home and children to typing and editing manuscripts to listening to him practice talks.

There is a good-natured disagreement between Miller and the female teachers/singers in the class (myself included) over his assertion that the abdominal muscles have no play in support. He says there is no use of abdominal muscles other than all the muscles of the thorax have their origins in the pubic area and are therefore “used” without thinking about it in appogiuro. All the women have spoken up in disagreement, and we have a show and tell that is very interesting. He concedes that women have more space in the abdomen because of the womb, and perhaps we feel things differently.

We end the week with singing “daily regimen warm-ups.” He emphasizes warming-up before teaching.

On performing dates, sing through the voice by 12 noon. Before performing, sing agility exercises.

Learn not to sing fully during contracted orchestra rehearsals and save bloom for performance.

We leave the room slowly, speaking with each other, trading business cards, thanking Miller and talking in small groups. I am anxious to see the children but don’t fly back to DC until tomorrow morning.

Part IV, Journal of a Richard Miller Week

Welcome to Part IV of recently found journal notes from a 1994 workshop in Nashville, taught by the great vocal pedagogue, Richard Miller. You can find Parts, I, II and III HERE.

It is interesting to compare these notes to what is available in pedagogy graduate programs now days. This information seems basic now, but 20 years ago it was new information.

May 25

A medical doctor by the name of ‘Dr. Mitchell’ is brought in to lecture on vocal health basics.  They are ‘basics’ alright.  He is talking to us like we are 10 year-olds.  He gives us such gems as “A professional instrumentalist must operate at over 100% efficiency in order to do his/her work.”

The number of glands that lubricate the cords and larynx dry up as you get older, just as a course of regular aging.  wow, I did not know this….

Medication for infertility can have a permanent effect of lowering the voice. Aspirin can cause vocal fold hemorrhage.  Blood pressure medications can cause drying and mood changes.

Increase hydration when on medications.  Lord he is on a roll.

He says one vague thing about the female endocrine system–“premarin helps keep you moist.”  (used when? all through the life passages? how? the lack of useful information from this medical person is astounding.)

Other brilliant tidbits include 1) When you are on tour, bring your own food. (which you figure out fast enough when you are on tour, ) and 2.) Environmental allergies are hard to test. (smoke, perfume, carpet cleaners, etc.) Basically got nothing out of his lecture.  pffffft.

Next we observe slides of various surgical processes. First one is removing a cyst from a fold. Also observed enlarged blood vessels due to great subglottic pressure in one singer and during menstruation in another. Observed a laser coagulating blood vessels.

Observed a vocal hemorrhage in an undergraduate singer.

Fig 4 Vocal fold hemorrhage

Miller notes that speech pathology degrees do not include singing training until the masters’ level.

Vocal folds should vibrate in phase relative to each other.  When they fail to oscillate in phase, these phase differences contribute to dysphonia. Normal is when the vocal folds open and close together.  Out of phase vibration is when one fold in the open phase while the other fold is in the close phase.  Phase shifts can occur in the lateral/medial plane or anterior to posterior direction.

Many possible variations in vocal fold oscillation means that some seemingly abnormal vibratory patterns are actual normal variations.  Miller says the “open posterior chink” is common, especially in women.

“Bowed vocal folds” typically applies to the aged voice.  It appears that the front part of the folds have atrophied or there is nerve injury to the folds.  This means that the Bernoulli effect takes place through a smaller space and picks up speed.

(I am belly-missing my children but it is a relief to have a break from continuously coordinating all my moves so the kids are taken care of…)

Afternoon Masterclass

Soprano sings Schumann “Widmung”

Miller uses the interval of a 6th on (eh), followed by (a) and back again to even out a wobble on the top.  He maintains that just by opening the mouth while ascending, vowels are modified.  He does not think one needs to substitute different vowel sounds to modify.  It seems to me that he is using “opening the mouth” to mean how the jaw moves through an ascending pattern.

Most of today’s master class singers got lessons on vowel migration or lack thereof.

May 26

Epiglottis covers the larynx in the act of swallowing.  Epiglottis responds to the tongue.  He recommends the book “Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Larynx” by Sir Victor Negus.  (Note today: look for this in discount venues and used book stores because it is crazy expensive on Amazon.)

Vibrato is a healthy relaxation principle. The shaking jaw or tongue may be tension, but it is more often in a healthy, relaxed posture, particularly in sopranos because of the size of the larynx.

Miller abhors straight-tone singing.

The “tracheal pull” occurs with lower abdominal breath–lowers the larynx automatically.  Note: this does not mean ignore the width of the ribs or movement of the back when inhaling.

The false vocal folds move away from the true folds as pitch ascends.  This is not a conscious thing, but occurs with proper coordination.

Vocal folds have three parts (skin or ligament, middle, vocalis muscle) The muscles and tissues of the larynx are as sensitive to minute adjustments as the eye.

Chest voice vibrates more fully in the vocalis muscles, Head voice vibrates more on the edge of the folds.

There is fixed subglottic pressure in trachea and bronchi.

Voice scientists at present think there are only 2 registers. (? really?)

When Leontyne Price sang Carmen, she carried chest voice up to a4 and b-flat4 and got nodes.  Had to take off for 6 months.  Miller admits he knows nothing about mitigating technique for popular styles.  (He was good-naturedly accused of living in an ivory tower.)

Point–I don’t want to imitate technical differences between vocal styles. I want to be able to teach technical differences and have been trying to develop methods to do this for years.  Feel like I am out on my own, with few resources. Disappointed Miller couldn’t speak to chest registration and belt more. He does mention that he has observed that a higher larynx allows a singer to sing in chest longer.

All his slides this afternoon are from his book, The Structure of Singing. He also has pictures of the epiglottis/folds from Appleman’s book.

Miller insists on a quiet breath for efficiency.  Sub-mandibular muscles are attached to the hyoid bone which is attached to larynx.

The mouth, pharynx and larynx are the main resonators, just occasionally, the naso-pharynx.

The Germanic school often teaches “cover.”  The Italians teach a small amount of graduated modification at first passaggio and continues on up. Miller recommends starting this adjustment right below the primo passaggio.

Use falsetto in men to counter rigidity.  Falsetto is not head voice in men!

Increase appoggio for high notes.  We compared visual performances and spectrographs of Price, Tebaldi, Steber and Shirley Verrett singing “Visse D’Arte.”  Miller calls Verrett a “zwischen.” She was not as successful singing this aria as the others. She used high clavicular breathing, head bobbed all over the place, very unstable compared to the stillness of the others.  Tebaldi was under-energized in appoggio.

We then spend some time talking about exercises for men’s voices.  He suggests 5-4-3-2-1-5-3-1, starting on “oo” and going to “ah” on 1, using falsetto if the voice is rigid.  He works with several different volunteers from class.  If a singer has a  break going from 5 to 1, he has them sing softer and slide more, sometimes changing the vowels.

Increase appoggio for high notes.

Afternoon Masterclass

Tenor-“Comfort Ye….Every Valley”

Miller vowel-tracts (has singer go vowel to vowel) for more legato and brilliance in a beautiful voice.  Also uses “nie, nie, nia, nia, niu.”   Just an observation–he seems much more comfortable working with male voices.

Soprano–(did not note what she sang) but she has a wonker of a voice–very loud with crazy vibrato.

Miller first realigns support from “pull in” method to appoggio.  He says this will change her subglottic pressure which is currently creating throat tension.

This soprano is large breasted and he has her put her hands behind her back, walk slowly forward, kneel, walk backwards while singing on “ya.”  1—5—1—54321—-5—-1.   This seems to help her alignment and freedom of breath.

Soprano sings John Duke “Nobody Knows This Little Rose”

Miller starts by using agility exercises in mid-voice:


He is trying to build focus in her middle voice, which doesn’t have much of a presence.

The old wisdom “inhale through the nose like you’re smelling a rose,” pertains to the zygomatic arch.

Stuck in between the pages of this journal at this point were two postcards I sent my children that week. wow.  remember hand-written mail?

Part I, Journal of a Richard Miller Week

I recently came across a journal I kept during five days of intensive teacher training with the great vocal pedagogue and singer, Richard Miller, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1994 . It is a combination of notes, observations and feelings–but not a standard academic report.

It is also record of how far we’ve come as teachers, because now, much of this information is considered standard fare in masters and doctoral programs and continuing education workshops and webinars. But back then, it was not, and few people had access to the Internet regularly.

At this point in life, I had been teaching 14 years, established a credible performance career regionally in contemporary chamber music and opera and had two young children.

May 21, 1994  Been looking forward to this week in Nashville to study with Richard Miller for a long time.  This damn travel anxiety messed with me on the way to the airport and I am already missing the kids even though I am looking forward to a break.  Breathe into belly and exhale.  Breathe and exhale.  A thought flits across my consciousness: “your knowledge comes from your belly and heart, not from your head.”  2.5 hour layover in St. Louis from DC where I get to read a book for more than a few minutes before being interrupted by little Neely’s age 2 and 6.  Arriving in Nashville, there’s my sweet brother, Jim, smiling and waiting with a big hug to pick me up and take me to his house.  I get to see Benjamin. (my brother’s first child)

May 22, 1994

Systematic Vocal Technique, first session with Miller

There are 50 voice teachers from around the world here.  I met 4 teachers from the DC area already.

His comment that “The process of staying in the inspiratory position has no counterpart in speaking except for stage speech” really strikes me.  Miller uses a microphone to teach. There’s static on the amp. EEK! How can a room full of voice teachers stand this?

Breath Management is establishing the cycle of Inspiration with Onset/ Phonation and Renewal. Air seeks to fill its reservoir at its lowest point. Atmospheric pressure should lead to subglottic pressure.

Fast staccato on one pitch    mm  mm  mm  ha ha ha

Miller calls the ‘rectus abdominus’ the outer shell for all the muscles of singing–not as important as the external and internal obliques, etc.  I guess I have been focused on this sheet of muscle because of all the abdominal surgeries over the past 4 years.  Perhaps the rectus is the only muscle I can feel right now due to scar tissue and trauma??

Miller suggests starting warm-ups with “onset exercises”

Insert 1

He says “we’ve been brought up with too many vocal myths.  Cites a quote by Lamperti “do not crowd the lungs with breath, but satisfy them.”  He says that British oratorio circles advocate upper back breathing, which collapses the sternum.  I want to ask him more about this but he has requested that we note all our questions and ask them at the end of the week in a Question session.

Insert 2

The diaphragm expands sideways more than down.  Miller frequently cites faulty teaching he’s observed by artists and clinicians at NATS’ functions.

  1. The Voice is an Acoustical Instrument
  2. The Voice is a Physiological Instrument, therefore it must go by the laws of acoustics and basic physiology

Miller disagrees with the statement that “all voice teachers are after the same thing,”  No we are not–there are too many tonal ideals, he says.  I am glad to hear this because every time a colleague says that, I think “nope.” Just listening to all the voice teachers at the university (where I was adjunct at the time) and what’s going on in their studios and in juries… wow.

Lordy I miss my babies.  I am listening to Miller and taking notes, but my heart feels sad- mother-lonely-longing sighs.

He is discussing the German “grunt and hold” technique:  Take a breath and grunt to cut it off, then let go at the throat and begin to sing without losing thoracic pressure.  Says it is not necessary to prepare to breathe!

There is a relationship between onset and agility.

He REALLY nixes “squeezing the anal sphincter” because there are sphincters all over the body and they all respond at the same time.  Please, no “pinch a penny’ or ‘hold a coin in your bum.’  People really try to sing that way??????? People really teach it????? Why???????

The most efficient coordinated singing will also be the most appealing to the ear.

It is very easy in any “system” to go rigid.  Do agility exercises.

Insert 3

He suggests using the term “support” only with the body’s structural system, not with muscles.  You can not have the appoggio without starting with the structural system.  He is assuming we all know what appoggio is, at least intellectually.  I am feeling like a dum-dum.

The singing voice as a Tripartite Instrument:  1.  Motor Source (breath management) 2. The Vibrator (larynx) and 3.  The Resonator (supraglottal or vocal tract)

In a balanced and free structural support, you must be able to hop on one foot. (visual image of 50 of us all clattering to our feet to hop about like the Dufflepuds in the Narnia series)


Reminder-the front lower ribs are attached to each other–it is the back ribs that float.

When the sternum falls, the rib cage HAS to cave in and the diaphragm HAS to mount.

He talks about physical types of bodies and how that influences breathing.  I wish he’d talk more about this.  It seems crucial.

The ideal is a balance among all four of the following muscle groups:
pectoral, epigastral, umbilical, pubic (hypogastral)

He says most teachers emphasize one or two over others.  He is showing us pictures of muscles before resonators on purpose.  Slides show origins and insertions of thoracic and pelvic muscles.  These slides show me why the chiropractic and body work have been so integral to starting to reestablish health after all my surgeries.

I’m hungry and my focus has gone to the beach.  I may have met a distant cousin who is a voice teacher, too.  We know enough about Frazier family history that there seems to be a connection.

  • Coming Up Next: Part II, Journal of a Richard Miller week










Is Your Child Ready for Private Voice Lessons?

Making a Joyful Noise: Is Your Child Ready for Private Voice Lessons?

Does your child love to sing? Is she interested in private voice lessons? This article will help you find a good voice teacher and smooth out the wrinkles often associated with formal music study.

Q: When can my child start voice lessons?

Many voice teachers say that a girl should be at least 14 years old or past puberty before starting voice lessons, and a boy should wait until after his voice changes. Until these hormonal changes occur, the larynx and vocal cords are growing rapidly and they feel that voice lessons will pressure these muscles. In the meantime, these teachers advise students to sing in an ensemble, listen to good singing and/or study an instrument.

However, since these hormonal changes now occur much earlier than in previous generations, many children are ready for private lessons much earlier. With the right teacher, students can establish good vocal and musical habits and also foster an awareness of personal interpretation and beauty.

An adolescent’s rate of physical and emotional growth, and her interests and talents, determine when she is ready to start lessons. It is important that the voice teacher working with your child understand the physiology and psychology of young singers. They need experience and interest in working with this age group. Adolescents are not small adults. Males and females differ in vocal development as much as they differ in physical and emotional development. I recommend steering clear of any coach or teacher who manipulates an overly-mature or adult sound from a young singer. Without fail, child sensation singers who are encouraged to sound like adults often end up with severe vocal problems that are hard to heal when they are in their 20s. And you should know that often the business practices associated with promoting child stars don’t always have the interests of the young singer at heart. But by then, the next child-sensation has made the rounds on Youtube and the young adult singer is left with a barely functioning voice.

Consult with two or three recommended private teachers (it is worth paying their consulting fee to save money in the long run) or ask to visit voice classes with your child to make an informed decision together. You can also ask to observe another student’s lessons, with permission from the student, her parent and the teacher.

Look for a teacher who joyfully encourages regular healthy vocal production and musicianship. That teacher should also hear your child as an individual and not try to make every voice sound the same. Ask the teacher or coach if she enjoys working with your child’s age group and gender.

Q: What is the difference between a voice teacher and a voice coach?

A voice coach helps students learn new music, plays the keyboard and guides the singer in musical selections and style. A voice teacher can function as a coach, but is responsible for developing the physical, mental and emotional aspects of singing called “vocal technique.” Both voice teachers and coaches need to be excellent musicians, although a good voice teacher does not necessarily play the piano, and a good coach does not always know the best ways to develop skill.

Q: What is considered “healthy singing?”

Healthy singing does not make the student’s throat hurt, leave her hoarse or cause her to cry at the end of a lesson. Healthy singing normally does not make neck veins strain, the jaw thrust toward the ceiling or breath come in gasps. Healthy singing means that the student’s body is working in a well-coordinated and natural fashion. Natural does not mean habitual. It makes her feel good and possibility a little tired, like working hard at something you love can do. It gives her the capacity to relate to beauty and to express many emotions. Healthy singing is a tool for expression, not a means to an end in itself.

Q: What is meant by “chest/low voice” and “head/high voice?” My daughter sounds great on the low notes but gets wispy when she sings higher notes.

There is a 300-year old difference in opinion among voice teachers about the proper use of “chest voice” and “head voice.” Ideally they come together in a “middle voice” that is expressive, flexible and reliable.

Adolescents use one of these registrations naturally in singing, depending on a host of variables, such as the child’s basic personality, shape of her torso and head, the music and language she’s heard growing up and even the religious tradition from which she comes. (Compare the African-American gospel music tradition to the boy choir sounds of the Anglican church, for example.)

Chest voice or “chest registration” incorrectly produced is either forced or the voice “bottoms out” in a whisper. Head voice or “head registration” in its underdeveloped stage can be breathy and weak. Some teachers insist that singers use one or the other of the registrations exclusively which results in disturbing differences and “breaks” in the voice as it moves up and down the scale. Neither is complete, healthy or beautiful singing UNLESS it is a DELIBERATE choice such as in yodeling.

Learning to “sell” a song and sing well involves a sustained, coordinated activity of both registrations. This process involves physical, mental and emotional coordination that require time, patience and the “P” word—practice.  The years between 14-16 can be especially frustrating for young singers because they will no longer be able to sing as they did as children and are having to learn to use their natural gifts more consciously.  They have the emotions to understand a song and feel the music deeply, but the voice is not ready to handle the physical demands of adult expression.

A good teacher makes it fun and interesting and knows when to develop this coordination and when to leave it alone. Singers can systematically build “one voice” which combines the best qualities of both chest and head resonances AND gives them the flexibility to chose what they need to sing in the musical styles they prefer. Each registration is meant to assist the other in developing tone, range and consistency.

However, it a appropriate for your child to feel a little frustrated occasionally. Remember the old adage, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” A good teacher can recognize when your child is feeling frustrated and communicate with her and you about the whys.

Q: My child sings along with the radio and CD’s all the time and sounds great to me. Any comments?

Imitating favorite singers is a great way for children to develop musical style, but it is not the best way to develop their own vocal instrument. Parents, students and educators should realize that:

Recordings now days are the result of sound engineers and producers electronically manipulating perfection. Even live performance these days often features an immediate electronic manipulation of sound, which is what the audience hears.

Many of your child’s favorite popular or classical singers have studied and coached singing and continue to do so throughout their careers. Some famous singers boast that they’ve never had a voice lesson, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t learned how to use their instrument or haven’t been coached along the way.

Most famous teachers of pop, musical theater and classical music insist that students master basic fundamentals of healthy singing before branching off into differences of vocal style and technique that are required for those crafts.  This does not happen in a few lessons or months, but develops as the child matures, practices and has the guidance of good teachers.

There is a connection between children who are pushed to fulfill their parents’ creative aspirations and adults whose voices cannot fulfill the promise of their youth. Trained and experienced teachers can hear when the voice is stressed, no matter how much acclaim a singer is getting on TV or in contests or in school. A child singer is not an adult. You can always find voice teachers and coaches who will take your money to fulfill YOUR dreams, not is what in the best interest of the child.

Q: What is my role as a parent in helping with practice?

Be realistic about your child’s time before you commit to lessons! Practicing efficiently is a skill. It is reasonable to expect that the teacher will help your child learn to practice. Here are some hints from my dual roles a professional voice teacher and the parent of two children who studied music.

Record lessons. My children and I used to listen to practice tapes in the car, before CD players and phone recorders came along. Teachers need to jot down practice hints weekly in a student notebook or some other device. Beginning voice students might practice only 10-15 minutes, three or four days a week, gradually increasing practice time. Feel free to ask questions of the teacher, but please do not ask right after a lesson. Ask either at the beginning of the lesson (where is will count as part of the lesson), or send an email.

As a parent, I have learned that children view us as part of the “practice problem.” If you are a musician or have performing experience, PLEASE resist the urge to correct or comment unless your child asks for help, and, even then, start by asking, “what would your teacher say about this?” Of course, you still must insist that practice does occur! Singers may be sensitive to practicing when the family is around, so make sure there is some privacy where they work. I used to set a timer for 10 minutes and then help my children say focused on the lesson plan their teachers wrote out. There were power struggles with my own children that I do not have with my students.

My mother, now 80, who raised three professional musicians, recently told me that she used to sit with each of us for 10 minutes as we started to practice. She viewed it as a way to sit down and relax with a cup of tea. Occasionally she would say “check your fingering on that,” or “now how can you play or sing that more musically?” She told me she never paid any attention to what we were doing but we thought she was laser-focused on us….She maintains that no child in their right mind wants to practice lesson material, and that this 10 minutes was crucial to progressing in lessons. All I remember is that I liked her company.

Even though your child may be talented and love lessons, children do not normally practice on their own. You will hear them singing away, which is awesome, but it probably is not lesson material. Keep in touch with the teacher about what you are hearing. Occasionally ask your child what a certain exercise does for her or how a piece of music makes her feel when she is singing. Ultimately, practicing is up to the student, but there are interim years where your guidance is necessary.

Your adolescent can blossom before your eyes and ears in the hands of a good voice teacher. Singing involves the whole person, which is why parents need to stay tuned. Happily, it’s a task that can bring joy, health and beauty to your child, to you and to many others. What a great way to live!!!!!!


Child singers who are students of Cate Frazier-Neely have sung in Broadway roles appropriate for children: Kurt in The Sound of Music, Chip the Teacup in Beauty and the Beast, and in regional theaters and national touring companies: Oliver in Oliver!, Young Cosette in Les Miserable and Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis. Children’s roles in opera include The Cunning Little Vixen in Washington National Opera’s The Cunning Little Vixen, and singers in the Washington National Opera’s Children’s’ Chorus. She is the East Coast voice teacher for several Los Angeles-based child singers touring with Disney, Bella Thorne and the Kennedy Center touring cast of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She has ushered several high school gospel singers to first place in the Maryland Distinguished Scholars’ Talent-in-the-Arts’ Award and helped thousands of high school singers place in vocal music competitions, music schools or to just plain increase their love of singing.