Nov 11, 2013

What's Too Young To Start Voice Lessons?

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard music educators try to argue that voice lessons are only for people “age [insert number here] and up”.

As a beginning voice teacher I used to just go with that flow and only take students who were in 9th grade and above. Meanwhile, in my other career as a middle school choir teacher, I realized middle school students are fully capable of learning fundamental singing concepts, just like the high school students. I had a lot of success with those “younger” students. We worked on aspects of proper singing technique that were appropriate for their age. As those students matured physically and mentally, they developed into intelligent, focused singers with well-defined knowledge of music and singing technique. I just couldn’t figure out why people thought it was “damaging” or “wrong” to teach younger kids private lessons when they sing in school starting in
pre-kindergarten.

About a year ago, a friend asked me to teach her 8 year old daughter voice lessons. I initially told her that 8 was a little young for me… And everyone’s favorite response, “Maybe she should take piano lessons…” She hounded me about it for weeks until I finally gave in. It hit me, “Why not? What do I have to lose? At the very least this could be an educational experience for me.”

In our first few meetings I learned what this 8 year old knew, which happened to be more than I expected.

I took her step by step through beginning music theory and music theory games on the Smart Board. I worked with her on beginning piano skills. I sang with her and helped her match pitch. I taught her to open her mouth tall when she sings and to pronounce everything in a way that her fictional audience could understand her words. Needless to say, we made progress.

And she was having fun.

I am now a firm believer in starting lessons at a young age. Not only have I found success with young students, I have also seen them mature into great musicians.

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Moving forward,
Emily
Emily Frizzell, a conductor and soprano, is Director of Choirs at White Station Middle School in Memphis, TN.  She earned the Master’s in Music Education and the bachelor’s degree in Music Education from The University of Southern Mississippi. Her responsibilities at White Station Middle school currently include teaching the 6th Grade Choir, Chorale, Young Men’s Choir, and Young Women’s Choirs, totaling nearly 250 students each day.  In addition, Mrs. Frizzell teaches private voice lessons. In her third and fourth years teaching, Mrs. Frizzell was awarded TEM 5 Professional Status in Memphis City Schools.  Her choirs have received only Superior Plus, Superior, and Excellent ratings at local and national festivals in each of her four years teaching.  She is currently serving as Junior High Choral Festival Co-Chair for the 2013-14 school year. She also served as a member of the Memphis City Schools Teacher Field Test Group and Development Team, which developed the pilot evaluation method for Tennessee music teachers. Currently, she is also serving as a Peer Evaluator of this new evaluation method. In 2013, she was awarded the Outstanding Young Music Educator award by the Tennessee Music Education Association.