I’d like to share with you a bit about how this class came to be. To be succinct, I’ve known ever since college that I had some holes in my music education. There are some things I’m very good at - reading complex rhythms has not been difficult for me. I probably owe that to my dance experience. Some things, however, have always been a challenge. I was not taught how to read tones properly. I could sight read playing clarinet just fine. But singing? No. I had to hear it first. I would play it on piano first and that is how I learned my music. I was terrible at taking dictation. Dictation, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is hearing a section of music and writing it down. This is a standard expectation in a college music program and I was lost.
Now, keep in mind, I still found a way to learn and perform very difficult music. Bach, Handel, Stravinsky, John Adams, Conrad Susa are just some of the composers I remember from my undergraduate days.
When I went to graduate school, this sight reading and dictation business became an issue once again. The assumption was that this should be a review. I should know this already. A snarky comment from an instructor led me to walk out and drop the class - the only time I have ever done such a thing. So I started searching for a better way. I’d heard of a sight singing class in New York City taught by Liz Fleischer. I took her class and it helped a lot. It certainly went a long way to patching up a very bruised ego. It did not, however, give me a framework for continuing to work on my skills or helping others to do so.
So a couple of years ago, I knew that I wanted to get back to conducting choruses. I was starting a job assisting with a youth choir and part of the position was instruction in musicianship skills. I was also noticing that many of my private voice students didn’t have the skills to learn music by themselves. I started looking for resources and found Dr. Carol Kruger’s book Progressive Sight Singing. The reviews of her book stated that it was a great resource, but her workshops would really teach you how to use it. I was expecting to have to travel and pay an arm and a leg, but when I searched I found an affordable workshop with her here in Raleigh! Jackpot!
That first workshop was a bit like drinking from a firehose. It was an absolute deluge of information. Much of it was familiar from music education classes, but I had not seen it applied. Dr. Kruger gave me the framework I had been looking for to work on my own skills, but also to teach these skills in different settings.
These skills are not limited to singers. Truthfully, all musicians need these skills. I’m starting with the singers first because there are so many of us, and so many of us feel at a disadvantage because we must depend on someone else to teach us our part.
Yeah, we’re going to fix that.