Meet your Instructor “Miss Stephanie”
Across the course of a peerless career, Stephanie Spruill represents excellence in music recording, performance, composition, and education in a profound plethora of ways...in every genre...and on all of Earth’s 7 continents. The God-gifted and studied coloratura soprano ascended from A-list music, film and television sessions singer, and international touring sensation to starting her own School, Spruill House School of Voice and Artist Development.
MASTER CLASS 2
The promotion of healthy vocalism based on vocal principals including breath management, the onset of tone, resonation, articulation, flexibility and an equalizing of the registers.
Exposure to a variety of art song in English
Appropriate stage presentation of art song.
Opportunities to integrate vocal technique and interpretation in a safe, supportive studio environment
Gain diction proficiency in a variety of languages depending on the curriculum
Improvement of overall musical skills including phrasing, dynamics, intonation, etc.
Preparation of recitals as specified by Infinity stars
Coaching on choral solos as needed
I am counting on each and every one of you to do your share to ensure that we are inclusive in how we support everyone – regardless of his/her vocal proficiency. Making music is one of the more collaborative experiences you will have in life. You already experience this in the choir, but it is also true of solo performing, where the stakes are much higher for you. Hopefully, the more you perform in studio, the easier it will be to communicate the music comfortably, bringing into the performance the same technical abilities that you show in lessons and in the practice room. Good performing skills are achieved by consistent practice and risk-taking.
Many of you are going to be working to train singers as a profession, so I truly believe that this opportunity is a valuable investment in your education, whether you plan to perform as a solo singer or conduct a choir. Remember that as solo singers, we are first and foremost ‘communicators of text’ by the use of vocal color, clear diction, appropriate stance, and facial attitude. The audience is looking for cues from you on how to experience any given selection.
Your Role as a student
Please remember that your vocal progress is as much your responsibility as it is mine. Our relationship should be a joint collaboration, with you taking initiative in asking about your progress regularly. Your consistent vocal practice is crucial to your progress and will aid in gaining self-confidence for performing.
Because singing deals with positioning and coordination of muscular/skeletal activities, I may feel the need to physically check your facial, neck and ribcage muscles during singing. I will always ask permission first and will respect any requests to the contrary.
It is the responsibility of all voice students to practice daily to develop and maintain laryngeal muscle tone and flexibility, as well as learn to adequately prepare your vocal repertoire. Voice majors and minors should build their singing stamina to practice plan to sing should plan to practice vocal solo repertoire 30 minutes daily.
Additional non-singing time should be spent: studying text/translations; practicing the correct pronunciation of songs in foreign languages, listening to recordings of great artists; and research on song and text (style/period). If you have a sore throat from illness, overuse, or extreme fatigue, the above non-singing activities can take the place of singing for that day. Try to return to your normal singing activities when you are healthy so that you do not break your disciplined routine of practice.
How to practice
To begin, stretch out your body and practice a few low breaths to prepare physically and mentally for singing. Make a commitment to have fun singing and leave the cares of the world outside the practice room!
Begin singing with a warm-up of assigned vocalizes to prepare the voice for your song literature: blubbering through your range, humming, fai-lo’s, Hi-there slides, etc. are great ways to start, followed by scales, arpeggios, range builders, vowel clarity/diction articulation, etc.
Be mindful of the sensations each vocalize produce. Remember that you are training very small muscles to coordinate together to make your professional sound. Just like an athlete, you will need plenty of repetition of vocalizes to produce the desired skill: smooth registration, range, flexibility, vowel unification, articulation, etc.
Check yourself in the mirror: are there any visible tensions while you sing? Is your deep breath expanding the lower abdomen without raising shoulders? Is your jaw jutting forward or releasing downwards and slightly back? Are you hyper-extending your jaw opening, or merely allowing it to drop for adequate space? Is your tongue releasing towards the front of your mouth behind the teeth? Is your larynx rising excessively when exploring a higher range or remaining in a stable, lower position?
After 10 – 15 minutes of warm-ups, sing through your repertoire using the ideas expressed in your voice lesson. If you made a recording of your last lesson, listen to the repertoire portion to help you with the remainder of your practice.
MASTER CLASS 3
The following are elements of your songs that need to be considered and perfected:
Listen to at least one recording of the song, several times. Can you sing the melody of the accompaniment? Can you name each note of the melody and play it on an instrument? Can you sing the melody without help from the piano?
Rhythm – can you clap out the rhythm of each measure? Conduct while speaking the text?
Text – Do you know what each word means? the overall meaning of the entire text? Have you translated text in a foreign language and IPA’ed the text? Practice speaking your text with emotional content. Can you speak the text in rhythm?
Accompaniment - What form is the song in, e.g. are there phrases that repeat? Are there elements in the accompaniment that bring out the meaning of the text?
DO’S AND DON’TS OF VOCALIZING
- Do start vocalizing with a lighter sound (head voice quality) for blending purposes, starting in the mid-range and work downwards before exploring the higher range.
- Avoid accenting as you vocalize--try not to over-sing the top note of each pattern, working instead for evenness of scale and tone..
- Chew during sustained notes to release jaw tension if necessary, but try to keep the jaw from moving on every note of a scale.
- “Blubbering” is a great way to connect the breath when you are fatigued.
- Use nasal consonants to begin vocalizes which will energize your tone and give your sound a sense of height.
- Use “th, l, pl, t, fl, etc.” at the beginning of vocalizes to naturally position your tongue, especially if you are working to overcome a retracted tongue position.
- Do facial muscle exercises (buccal and zygomatic) for diction and expressive purposes. Massage those jaw muscles.
- Vary the breath demands of your vocalizes, i.e. catch-breath, nose-breath (quiet) and deep inter-costal breath.
- Listen for intonation in descending passages to check for excess weight in your production.
- Do not sing the beginning pitches of the next vocalize pattern before the pattern begins. Trust your ear--you should be preparing your breath and tongue for the next phrase.
- Always be mindful of a buoyant posture and a relaxed, but deeply centered breath.
- Don’t avoid exercises you find difficult or simply don’t like--they are your “vocal vegetables”!
- Avoid ending vocalizes on an extremely high or low note--always sing back into your middle range to avoid maintaining vocal cord tension.
- Make sure you vary your vocalize patterns: arpeggios, five-tone scales, scales to the 9th, 11th, octaves, triads, etc. A good technical workout addresses vowel precision, flexibility, clear articulation, and range extension.
- Remember to be expressive and project attitudes as you vocalize to keep this task more interesting. Try to find creative ways to reward yourself for vocalizing each day.
We want you to have a successful performing experience, one in which you learn to set healthy practice habits and standards of excellence, to be taken into future venues. Dates and locations for recitals and dress rehearsals are arranged through Vivian Luu, Music Coordinator.