What we're learning this summer

At Grand Rapids Voice Collective, our teachers are naturally curious people who are always on a quest for knowledge. Summer time is often when we attend conferences, take continuing education classes, perform our own music, and so much more. This year our summer school looks a little bit different. We sat down with our teachers to find out what they are doing this summer to continue their own learning.

What are you reading for fun right now? Hannah: I’m in a book club and we are reading “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World" by Vivek. H. Murthy, MD. I'm also reading "Talking as Fast as I Can" by Lauren Graham, because I love Gilmore Girls way too much. Corie: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Norton

Emily: I LOVE TO READ. I have a Book of the Month Club Membership and most recently devoured The Book of Longings by bestselling author, Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees/The Invention of Wings and so many more). I just cracked open The Vanishing Half (historical fiction) by Brit Bennet. 

Elizabeth: I am reading "Outlander" for fun & I'm diving into the work of "Me and White Supremacy" I am also reading One Weird Trick: A User's Guide to Transgender Voice which is the companion text to the class I'm taking (more on this later).

What are you learning that's teaching you something outside the musical realm? Hannah: "Together" fits this bill! I have been getting into non-fiction-y books about the human experience.

Corie: White Fragility is definitely teaching me something outside the musical realm.

Emily: When not reading, I like to listen to NPR stories, The Moth radio hour and podcasts. I recently was listening to Brené Brown's Unlocking Us, a series where Brené unpacks and explores the ideas, stories, experiences, books, films, and music that reflect the universal experiences of being human, from the bravest moments to the most brokenhearted. Her June 10th release featured Austin Channing Brown, author of I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for WhitenessAustin Channing Brown’s anti-racism work is critical to changing our world, and her ability to talk about what is good and true about love, about our faith, and about loving each other is transformative. She is a writer, a speaker, and a media producer providing inspired leadership on racial justice in America. In this episode, they connect on her book and talk about her online television show, The Next Question.  Elizabeth: "Me and White Supremacy" is teaching me so much about myself and the privileges I hold as a cis white female. To balance the journaling work, I love watching cooking content. Some of the Carpen-Barry Family favorites are Binging with Babish, Joshua Wisseman, anything on Food 52, and anything on Munchies. The new Padma Lakshmi show on Hulu, "Taste the Nation" as well as Roy Choi's show "Breaking Bread" are also two new favorites.

Why are you curious about that topic?

Hannah: Quarantine has been a great time for me to reflect on who I am as a person and the kind of person I want to be. Especially after finishing graduate school (where I had very little free time), I feel like I have the time now to take a breath and do some quality reflection. 

Corie: There's so much going on in the world right now regarding racial inequality: I'm compelled to keep unpacking my whiteness and its impact on my life & those I interact with in order to create a world that is more inclusive of diversity.

Emily: I seek knowledge to better myself. Like Brené Brown's podcast topic above, being a human is a universal experience of moments ranging from broken to brave. I aim to be the best version of myself as a friend, teacher, mother, musician, wife.

Elizabeth: I think the best way I can elicit change in the world around me, is to start with myself. By committing myself to the work of being anti-racist, I can hopefully encourage others to do the same. Does that topic tie into your teaching style at all?

Hannah: Yes! I've especially been thinking about my adult Sip & Sing class as I read this book, because an important part of this class is fostering a sense of community among adult women who want a break from their busy week. It's also a vulnerable space, since it involves performing in front of other people. So this book inspires me in my journey to create a space where I can encourage people to form friendships, be open about their singing journey (it's nerve wracking to sing in front of others! And it's hard to not be extremely self-critiical when you work on your singing!), and to feel secure enough to try new, crazy, goofy, vulnerable things. Teaching singing is such a personal job, because one's entire spirit is wrapped up in their singing, and this book speaks to this. 

Corie: Absolutely - the performing arts should be a place where ALL voices are heard, respected, and appreciated. I think there's a lot in the music industry that profess to support inclusivity and equality, but how much of that is genuine on an individual level? We've recently heard so many experiences of POC in the business that are now expressing the inequalities they see and experience on a daily basis. I think EVERY white person involved in making music & professing to support inclusivity MUST do the work NOW: performers, teachers, students, composers, directors, casting agents - everyone. 

Emily: Yes - I think everything I learn attributes to my teaching style. Life is a collection of moments to be referenced as a teacher. I believe that teaching breaks down to equal parts: knowledge of your craft and relationship. Relationship is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. 

Elizabeth: Yes! The thing that is sticking with me in the anti-racist work so far is the inequality in classical music & musical theatre. I recently asked our class of advanced singers to google every composer in their music anthologies and asked them what they noticed. Each of them has a different book from several different publishers. Across the board, we noticed very few women represented in their 8 books and only a handful of people of color. Predominantly these books are filled with music by white men. Which to be fair is great music and it got us wondering, what else is out there? So now we are seeking out music written by BIPOC and women - bonus points if you find someone awesome who is living! It's a really awesome project and we're compiling a playlist of the music we're discovering!

What are you singing right now?

Hannah: Not going to lie, I just moved across the country and that has sucked up most/all of my energy, so practicing has fallen by the wayside for a little bit. I am going to rework my Master's degree recital soon (my recital was canceled due to COVID, so I will eventually get to perform it in Michigan). It's titled, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and features female poets and composers.  Corie: Despina (from Mozart's Cosí fan tutte)! Emily: Without any looming performances, I have been rifling through music books and playing with new rep. I have chosen a few things with piano in mind so that I can challenge myself on piano as well. Schumann's "Er der Herrlichste von Allen" is my current play and sing project. I am still noodling around on a few different Concert Arias from a 

Mozart song book and with the recent release of Hamilton on Disney+ I have also been getting my Angelica on!

Elizabeth: I keep joking about starting a bluegrass band, so I'm experimenting a bunch Americana/Folk music. I'm also learning the ukulele so I'm playing a bunch of songs that were awesome from 2002- 2012. I've always loved singers like Kate Nash, Fiona Apple, and Ani Lenox so I'm playing around to find my own unique sound through songs that I loved in middle school/ high school/ early college.

Tell us about any classes/workshops/conferences/programs you are doing this summer and what you are learning about!

Hannah: I virtually attended the NATS conference this past weekend, and although a lot of my summer is going to be spent just adjusting to life in a new state (even though I lived here for the first 24 years of my life, I realized it's still a huge transition to move back after a few years away!), I'm making it my own special project to watch and listen to more contemporary musical theatre (I am finally in my Heather's phase) and learn more about teaching contemporary singing style).

Corie: Attending the NATS virtual conference has been a great experience this summer: I've learned a ton about female composers, particularly women of color, and exploring their compositions has me SO excited to introduce students to their music. I'm also learning about new techniques to help work with singer/songwriters to help them keep their unique color without vocal constriction. It's really invigorating work because when working with CCM singers, we don't need technical perfection as much as we need a clear sense of artistic message; I love getting to the heart of who an artist is and what they have to say, and helping them find the best way of expressing and connecting that to their audience. There's also been some fascinating seminars on working with transgender/transitioning voices: I need to keep reading and learning because this science is so new to me, but I love the fact that voice teachers can help transitioning individuals explore a voice that matches their identity. Aside from NATS, I'm also working on a Mental Toughness certification from the National Association of Sports Medicine. The intersection of sports psychology and performing artists has ALWAYS been at the center of my research fascinations, and I love the multitude of practical applications for today's performers. We need to think holistically about our training, and the field of sports medicine has so much to offer when we start thinking about overload and tailoring a vocal workout program to help singers peak at the right times.  Emily: Virtually I will be attending a Music Ed Tech Conference! Elizabeth: I just finished taking the teachers edition of "One Weird Trick" with Liz Jackson Hearns of the Voice Lab. I also attended the online NATS Conference from the comfort of my porch. I'm still unpacking all the new knowledge! I'm super excited because I ordered a couple new books for the studio of music by female African American composers!

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