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Choral Workshops

The following information concerning a deep interest as to the sounds of choirs I have  encountered across America, which has motivated me to share an honest "reality check" for directors at all levels of educational backgrounds!  It is EXTREMELY SAD that directors neglect to constantly seek PROFESSIONAL GROWTH personally developing their skills in the area of helping people "free their voice!" A child in elementary school with several years of piano lessons can help a choir chase notes and learn rhythm! 

Directors that have only one rehearsal a week need to record their rehearsal and spend at least eight hours studying and intensely listening to the tape before the next rehearsal studying the faults of his leadership and the timbre, balance, interpretation, purification of vowel sounds, resonance, etc. of the choral sound.

Through the years, I have experienced that most directors (with a open teachable spirit) tell me that they have learned more than their choir members and are "electrified at the most unusual timbre, brilliance, power as they hear the difference they begin to hear coming from their choir during the choral workshop.  People want to be stretched with discipline and with love!  They begin to hear all the new sounds around their voice and get excited about hearing and feeling all the wonderful rich, vibrant sounds as the entire choir is working toward total beauty and excellence as a choral ensemble as they acquire a consistent "tonal continuum

Let me challenge "all directors" do not just chase notes and bang out rhythms!"  Take more time to work on  a beautiful "oldie-but-goodie" and cause people to weep from the loveliness of a balanced, sonorous, resonant, vibrant choral sound coming from a beautiful sounding choir when the members of your choir achieves their "primal sound" while singing and causes the listeners to "weep!"

Please do not be offended and seek out help with a vocal seminar and choral workshop as your group will learn .  It is sad to say that from my experience on the road full time  with frustration when adjudicating hundreds of choral groups of all ages.  I hear all kinds of inadequate vocal production coming from children's, youth and adult choirs all across America!

When a host director attends or sponsors a seminar, they are allowed to observe the private lessons people sign up to observe.  They begin to become aware of the many various problems that people allow to become the "ab-norm." This has been my experience with thousands of Music Directors traveling across the U.S. and Canada. since 1982.  I ask that you seriously consider sponsoring a two-three hour seminar (seven hours on Friday evening- three hours and Saturday morning - four hours ) for singers ten years of age through senior adults.  "If" most of your regular adult choir will attend the seminar, I will be glad to conduct a "free" choral workshop.  However, I reserve the right not to conduct a workshop unless most of the choir attends the seminar.  Recently taught in the Grand Cayman Islands in the British West Indies had a fantastic turnout.  The best way to make the seminar a success is commit six or eight churches to agree to pre-pay/pre register their choir members  for the seminar.  Pre-paid registration is $25.00 per person.  Those registering at the door is $35.00.

 "IF" most of your adult choir will attend the seminar, I will conduct a free choral workshop.  Let me suggest you will need to select four to six previously prepared anthems for your choir.  A great suggestion is invite the other choirs that participate in the seminar to prepare the same octavos to come and have a mass choral rehearsal.

Singing with vocal freedom means using the vocal mechanism correctly, freely and naturally with beauty, power and full-throated ease!!  The vocal sounds of all choral directors is usually imitated by their singers.  Many directors (after attending a seminar) are coming to my home from many states for personal improvement for their individual voices.

   Someone has said that there are as many methods as there are teachers, and that really good teachers could be counted on one finger!  Very few of them think it necessary to try to learn something from others.   In recent times, this concept has been changing.  Today there are many directors  seeking enlightenment from others with a broad background in VOICE SCIENCE,  like that of the VOICE FOUNDATION for more in depth understanding how to free the voice.  THE VOICE FOUNDATION is made up of some of the most knowledgeable vocal scientists in the world.  Many VOICE RESEARCH LABS ARE BEING ESTABLISHED ACROSS THE COUNTRY!   There is a new spirit in the air today, with so many advanced procedures in discovering how to gain VOCAL FREEDOM  by singing with total "free flow phonation" with  beauty and ease.  As a choral director, do not be "left out" with the many exciting new concepts available   teaching the human voice!  As a choral director, I strongly encourage to continually study - study  - study.   There is no individual that has all the answers to vocal production.  That person does not exist!

In  the periodical magazine The Master Teacher there was an article about the voice  which stated: The first seven seconds a person  (you can add choral ensembles) audibly utters a sound vocally, the audience begins to size up the individual (s) with whether or not they respect them.  Certainly, that can be true for a soloist or a choral group.

 There are no NATURAL singers!  What might seem natural to the singer certainly can be "incorrect!"  All individuals sing either "correctly or incorrectly" period.  Nature means "law and order" in the highest sense.  In singing one must conform to the "law of function!"  Where there is order and excellent "mind/body" coordination in expressing vocal sounds from all ages,  there can be beauty, loveliness, power, resonance with unification of all pure vowel sounds with the explosion of all consonants producing unusual beautiful sounds for individuals and choral groups!

In my seminars, the singing process comes from an unusual awareness of precision coordination of six basic areas:

1.  The energy source.  2.  Free phonatory  process.   3.  Precision tuning of the vocal tract. 4. Pure vowel sounds (we do not sing vowels in English).   There is only one pure vowel in the English language.    5.  Exploding and  Vibrating all consonants.  6.   Acquiring total "ONE-NESS" in choral sound.

While teaching, I strive to create a desire for teachers and singers alike to understand that SINGING IS REALLY LOTS OF WORK, TRULY, IT IS AN ATHLETIC ENDEAVOR!   IT IS A VERY  UNUSUAL MENTAL DISCIPLINE!  But as directors, the labor in question is that which we go through with untold years of preparation developing mental skills ( we must constantly realize that we need to meet and fulfill nature's requirements) to gain a degree of expertness without which...there can be no true art in singing freely and at the same time - be great enjoyment while singing. 

WE SING WITH THE BRAIN....NOT THE VOICE!  ALL MUSCLES ARE DUMB.  NO INTELLIGENCE.    THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD IN SINGING IS THINK!

My teaching  choral workshops (following the "prerequisite" of presenting a VOCAL FREEDOM SEMINAR (with the majority of   choir members registered)  is filled with good, solid ,trenchant, straightforward philosophical concepts.    A long time experience as a choral conductor and voice teacher (fifty years) has given me a wonderful opportunity to work with many hundreds of choral groups and help them become equipped to create beauty as never before during the choral experience.  You might consider this bragging, but after these many years of "TRIAL AND ERROR" teaching and constantly  studying, has created  situations where people can respond to the simplistic- "nuts and bolts" ways of creating  an unusual powerful, rich, ringing, resonant beautiful singing, with proper coordination of a  mind-body relationship. Helping choral groups of all ages reach plateaus of richness working toward the "singer's formant" (that unusual brilliant ringing resonance) no doubt is one of the greatest thrills a director can ever experience!

One of the greatest joys of my teaching is working with young people!  CHILDREN TEN YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER-THROUGH COLLEGE!  (click on seminars of past experience and scroll down to the Coy Jamerson family and observe what has happened to their four children).  Taking the breathiness off the young female voice and helping the young male understand how to avoid problems through the period of development when the boy soprano begins to slowly move to the adult male voice during the development  of puberty. HELPING YOUNG VOICES UNDERSTAND THAT THEY CAN MAKE SOUNDS WITH A MORE MATURE, RICH, RESONANT  QUALITY  while not abusing the young instrument is so very exciting! Many ladies in their thirties and forties continue to sing with a very breathy tone.   This is a carry over from the sounds made during the development time  of puberty.

Teaching more than a thousand VOCAL FREEDOM SEMINARS across America - full-time since 1982 has been extremely rewarding.  Especially now, through these most unusual opportunities while conducting CHORAL WORKSHOPS, experience of meeting the different   needs of so many various size choral groups,  has enhanced my ability (because of constant - in depth studies )to drastically change the timbre, brilliance, resonance of the total ensemble sound.  It also "opens the eyes"  of the local director, and they learn more than their choir.....that is, if they have a mature, emotionally, open teachable spirit.   Incorporating incisive, trenchant, and   understandable techniques of vocal production - while working toward a magnificent fullness , power and beauty is such an overwhelming joy and thrill for me, the director and the choir. Most directors speak to the choir and share that they have never heard sounds so beautiful from the group!

When a Vocal Freedom Seminar is scheduled, I share that  if most of the choir will register for the seminar, I will be am willing to conduct a choral workshop in addition to the seminar.  Fee for the choral workshop can be discussed after scheduling the voice seminar.    However, I reserve the right to refuse to conduct a workshop, if most of the choir members do not attend the seminar.  To begin with, they do not know how to respond to the suggestions made during rehearsal concerning vocal production.   Those attending the seminar are so excited about the new sounds made individually from the new concepts learned,  it becomes an electrifying experience.  The group reaches plateaus of beautiful sonorous sounds never experienced before!  In contrast, where there are only a small group from a choir attending the seminar, there is a lack of understanding how to produce the sounds called for because so many did not receive the six hours of vocal pedagogy from the seminar.    The seminar and/or choral workshop I do  not "PUT THE CHOIR DIRECTOR DOWN"!  ON THE CONTRARY, I BUILD UP THE DIRECTOR TO HIS CHOIR, AND   IF THE DIRECTOR HAS A VERY TEACHABLE SPIRIT, THEY WILL LEARN MORE THAN THE CHOIR.  ALSO, THE DIRECTOR WILL BE ABLE TO CONTINUE TO INSIST THE CHOIR PRODUCE THE SAME EXCITING SOUNDS THEY EXPERIENCED DURING THE CHORAL WORKSHOP.

A wonderful friend (Alvie Allison, MoM, Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington, TX)  who has used me many times for seminars and choral workshops (Youth and Adults) stated:

"I WISH EVERY MINISTER OF MUSIC (and I add public school and college choral directors) WOULD BE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO ALLOW RAY HOLCOMB COME AND MAKE A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TO THEIR CHOIRS!"

There will never be any individual who has all the answers to problems with vocal production.  At my age, the more I learn about the voice, the more I crave how to gather more "nuts and bolts" to show singers ( with simplicity)  how to gain more power, beauty, flexibility, vocal ease while using the voice individually  for solo, or choral singing. 

Without a doubt, my favorite groups to teach are young people.  The excitement of taking all the breathiness from the tones of teenage female voices; making young men sound like "horses";  tuning up hundreds of voices (especially young male voices), is quite thrilling.  There are no individual (with all their normal physical and mental faculties) monotone or tone-deaf  persons.  The last area of  awareness that leaves the memory bank of individuals with DOWNS SYNDROME..... IS THE CAPACITY TO SING .....when they cannot do anything else coherently.   We all use more than an octave JUST WHEN SPEAKING! 

When a music director has a teachable spirit, and realizes the unusual potential of what their choral group could achieve, and shares such excitement before I arrive, there is no way to explain what happens to their choir during the    seminar.  Every host director is requested to observe all private lessons. Video taping of all lessons are required.  Those signing up for private lessons must come thirty minutes early to observe.  I do not teach ladies unless someone is present. If time and finances are available for the choral workshop,   there is a transformation of vocal sounds with power, beauty, purification of vowel sounds, a rich ringing resonance from all sections in the choral group!

As you have read the marques moving through the home page of this web-site: SINGING IS NOT A TALENT OR A GIFT, IT IS A HIDDEN CAPACITY.....NOT REVEALED....FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF CORRECT TECHNIQUE!  IT IS AN ACQUIRED SKILL AND/OR DEVELOPED CRAFT WITH LOTS OF SWEAT AND BLOOD!"

For the past fifty years, I have been conducting choirs for a living.   When I first started directing, (and for many years after) my leadership was choosing music, arranging the rehearsal room teaching melodies and parts; banging out rhythms; attempting to keep the group together; trying to straighten out bad sounds (by usually asking them to "sing that phrase again")......most of the time.....never helped; trying to start and stop at the same time.  Then, when hearing other choirs, I would always WISH MY CHOIR COULD SOUND LIKE THAT!  What really needs to happen with every singer - is to constantly work to attain the "SINGER'S FORMANT!"  The singer's formant is an unusual brilliant resonant ring outside the surrounding space of each  individual singer, which is created by an precision tuning of the resonating chamber just above the thyro-arytenoids (vocal folds) in the "RIMA GLOTTIDIS" which is the space between the two sets of vocal folds - the thyro-arytenoids (true folds) below the ventricular bands (false folds).  Dr. Johan Sandburg, PhD, Stockholm, Sweden, an internationally known research scientist, says that the "SINGERS FORMANT" is created in the "piriform sinus" (this area is not a sinus cavity, it is located  where the food travels down both and/or either side of the vocal mechanism - when swallowing).  The glosso-epiglottidean folds  and the arytenoepiglottidean folds totally cover the laryngeal opening to the trachea.  When  this cavity  is opened up  with precision tuning.......an unusual resonant ringing quality occurs in the human voice!  Recently, I was studying at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.  A friend of mine, Dr. Michael Warren, brought one of his young voice students (fifteen years old young lady) down from New York City.  She sang for our class!   I have never before...or since....heard such an unusual ringing -resonant sound.   I kept looking at the chapel windows....thinking at any time....all of them would shatter!  Her singing was so easily produced.  There was a pleasantness about her countenance.  She sang with freedom and ease.  Yet, there was this awesome brilliant - full rich over-ringing sound.  EVERY INDIVIDUAL....EVERY CHOIR CAN ACHIEVE SUCH SINGING.....IF THEY ARE  WILLING TO BE DISCIPLINED, AND FREE THEIR AESTHETIC JUDGMENT (that personal opinion pre-conceived in their brain as the norm.

Also, in the past, my directing always included  singing with the choir.    I would sing my heart out and smile, not knowing that in reality, I was covering up sixty-five percent of what my ears could hear from the choir!  Now, when directing, I only mouth the words, so I can tell what needs to be tended to with better directions while conducting.

There are so many conductors in our Universities who are excellent musicians, however, their background in voice science is highly in adequate, because of a lack of proper training  in their previous education.  TRADITION CAN BE A VERY EVIL WORD IN MANY CASES!  Especially, when a teacher becomes stale with old concepts and techniques  ....YELLOWED COBWEB TERMINOLOGY IN THEIR BRAIN that IS TOTALLY ANTIQUATED AND INADEQUATE.  Recently,  while teaching all the ministers of music in the United Methodist Church at Stetson University, Deland, Florida, I had the privilege to teach a great choral conductor (DON BAILEY ,PhD , Baylor University, Waco, Texas  how to begin to use his personal voice correctly!  While teaching him, he would often interrupt me and say: "I HAVE NEVER HEARD THESE CONCEPTS BEFORE......AND THEY REALLY WORK!"

There have been hundreds of people across America with degrees in music, come up to me - after attending my six hour seminar and openly say: I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH MORE IN THIS SIX HOUR SEMINAR THAN I DID FOUR YEARS AS A MUSIC MAJOR.    This of course, is a very sad statement.  So many professors, OR SHOULD I SAY VOCAL COACHES) with tenure, seem to think that they can "rest on their laurels" and teach German lieder, French chansons, Italian art songs, Oratorio and Operatic arias, along with English songs - and think they are really helping the student.   In essence, they are only vocal coaches teaching notes, rhythm and interpretation of the phrase ! Practice not only makes perfect, but incorrect singing can make permanent.  What the singer needs is "PERFECT PRACTICE.....ALSO MAKES PERMANENT!     We need to be aware in our advising young students as to the school they attend for training.  Do not choose the school, choose the teacher (a vocal technician) that can take your voice and guide and develop the instrument toward   total "VOCAL FREEDOM !"  I promise you that they are "few and far between!" 

A great choir should have more male voices than female.  The reason is that the timbre of the male voice (with rich, brilliant harmonic overtones) produce a color and quality that adds depth and beauty to the overall sonorous vocal sound. 

It is my strong conviction that every choir rehearsal, regardless of the size or age of the group, must be a group voice class! Otherwise, the director is only teaching songs!   Any individual (assigned to lead) can learn a song prior to a rehearsal.  They can teach the song to a choral group (a good personality)    ...SMILE AND BE NICE certainly helps).  But when it comes to improving the over-all timbre, vocal power, resonance, a most unusual brilliance of sound, vowel purification, interpretation of the text, singing with "ONE-NESS OF TONAL QUALITY (no voices sticking out), good phrasing, good vibratos (no wobbles or goat bleats) crisp attacks and releases,   never singing with mouth resonance , improper energy source, singing flat or sharp,........    CONSTANTLY STRIVING FOR THE SINGER'S FORMANT .....all of this takes years and years of constant study in the area of VOCAL PEDAGOGY!

By the way, every singer can sing with a very good vibrato.....no matter the age!   Old people usually revert to the wobble, because they do not know what to do to correct it. That is, the director does not know how to correct it.  We discuss in great detail - how to establish and maintain a good vibrato - one that never sticks out above the choral sound.   There is less effort on the thryo-arytenoids (the true vocal folds) when a singer allows the vibrato to appear, than when the singer forces the voice to sing with a straight tone!  Wow! 

At best, the average choral director, with a degree in music, has one course in CHORAL CONDUCTING  AND VOCAL PEDAGOGY!  When they graduate, they are expected to take the average untrained vocal ensemble and have them singing superbly in a short time! 

  WHAT A CROCK!  The more I learn, the more I want to gain a greater understanding how to "FREE THE HUMAN VOICE" to produce a healthy, long-lasting , attractive vocal sound!   All choral directors (including all ages) should constantly study and find efficient ways for their choral ensembles reach levels of excellence in singing! 

Dr. William Vennard, one of the greatest vocal pedagogues of the twentieth century stated: " the first five years a person teaches voice, they should pay the student!" Could we not say the same for public school music teachers and choir directors in churches?

Let me encourage to take advantage and enhance your individual learning and excite your choral group by sponsoring a Vocal Freedom Seminar, and schedule a choral workshop a day afterward. You will be a better director - I promise.  New goals can be achieved.  Your choir will be much more open to work harder to achieve more beautiful choral singing.  You will be more knowledgeable concerning the development of a good choral sound, because you are going to learn how to "FREE THE VOICE".

Who are great singers?  Where are the great choirs?  They are individuals and groups with normal abilities with very insatiable appetites - with a very sensitive, obsessive DESIRE - DISCIPLINE  AND DETERMINATION to rise above the average sound or sounds!

Stretch your voice!  Gain some very exciting new concepts and techniques for stretching you and  your singers!  Show them that you love them, and deeply desire that they begin to attain levels never reached before!  Do not constantly wallow  Expose them to new insights in learning.  Do not be afraid to invite others that have spent a life time specializing in teaching singers to "FREE THEIR VOICE!"  Your choir will begin to sound better, because they have gained an understanding how to sing freely and naturally (correctly, that is)!

CALL, E-MAIL (voice@vocalfreedom.com) , FAX, OR MAIL TO SCHEDULE A VOCAL FREEDOM SEMINAR AND CHORAL WORKSHOP TODAY.  YOU WILL BE VERY PLEASED.  YOUR CHOIRS WILL BE EXCITED AND GRATEFUL!

Amen!  SO BE IT.

611 Raintree Drive
Tyler, Texas 75703

Phone (903)-581 0291
Fax (903) 581 0547
E-mail voice@vocalfreedom.com

 

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