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Subject: Re: Opera Singers Reading Music
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 1 Apr 2010 15:57:48 EDT
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In a message dated 4/1/2010 11:11:11 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

Before I  ever took a voice lesson, I read music, because I played the 
piano and  clarinet first.  From my contact with other voice students, I would 
say I  was typical of my group.  Most had had piano lessons, some guitar, 
before  they ever took their first voice lesson.  Many had choir experience  
before they decided to concentrate on voice, so they had experience of music  
as something bigger than just what they sang.

BUT there certainly the  ones we called "the hummers."  These were the ones 
who not only read  music only rudimentarily, but who actively resisted all 
the attempts to make  them more proficient at it, or to get them to be more 
holistic musicians at  all-- in short, they conformed to the stereotype of 
singers that has plagued  us all for years and years.  

The exquisite irony of this -or  maybe not- was that broadly speaking, 
these were the usually  the ones  with the big natural voices, the ones that 
make themselves known very  early.  They saw singing as a wholly "natural" act 
that was somehow put  at risk by knowing anything about the nuts and bolts 
of music-- either that,  or making sounds came so easily to them that they 
did not see why any  additional effort should be necessary.  Especially when 
they have sort of  a decent ear, and can pick up the tunes by listening.

And when a voice  is beautiful, and big, and easily produced, eyeballs 
everywhere roll up into  their sockets.  It is the sonic equivalent of being a 
38-24-36 blond with  blindingly white, straight teeth, or a lefthander with a 
96 MPH  fastball.  You can get away with a lot for a long time, but not  
forever.  Most of those big voices I went to school with haven't been  
successful in the big world.  Most voice students don't get terribly far,  period, 
numbers-wise. 

I beg to differ. I'll take a musical illiterate over an unmusical literate  
any day. Just because a person knows how to read music doesn't make them  
musical. Most singers don't even discover they have a voice until their early 
 twenties, then they do the best they can to catch up. The ones who end up  
with the careers are the ones who have voices and are musical, whether they 
can  read music or not. Believe me, professional singers cover a broad  
spectrum of musical literacy. As long as they deliver, and accurately know 
their  music on the first rehearsal in a musical way, an opera company really  
doesn't care how the music was learned. It's a performing art that needs to 
be  memorized anyway, and the fact that they can do it in a way that is  
indistinguishable from someone who can read music indicates an equal if not  
greater talent.  
 John Rahbeck 
 



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