Cindy Says: Who can say if I've been changed for the better?

Cindy Says: Who can say if I've been changed for the better?

By Cindy Ripley on May 07, 2020

Over the past few months, we as teachers across the world have been looking to create a sense of normalcy for our students, as well as ourselves. Many of you have jumped headfirst into this uncharted territory of teaching online to sustain programs, connect with students, and stay sane as artists and teachers.

So, I asked a dear friend, colleague, and Broadway vocal coach Amanda Flynn, (some of you will remember her from JTF, or maybe as vocal coach for The Lightning Thief, composed by iTheatrics' own Rob Rokicki), if she would share a few tips that might help you breathe easier as an educator.

Amanda Flynn

Experiment with your sound settings to make sure you are getting the most from your platform. Sophisticated equipment is not necessary to teach online, but you do need to adjust your sound settings.

• Adjust your settings. Amanda recommends on ZOOM, to make sure you Enable Original Sound and Disable Background Noise Suppression. Every online platform (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc.) will have sound options that you can play with, so experiment during your lessons to find the right settings for what you need.

• You don't have to yell to be heard. You are more prone to raising your voice to be heard while you're teaching online. This is a normal response to talking to a screen all day. It's difficult to regulate your volume because you aren't getting the aural feedback in the room that you are used to. This is especially a problem if you're using headphones. It's important to make sure that you speak at an easy, gentle volume. Amanda encourages you to take your headphones out often, even in just one ear, so that you can hear yourself more clearly in the room. Most platforms give you the option to control your microphone volume manually, so if someone is having trouble hearing you, consider raising your input volume instead of raising your voice.

• Focus on what you can hear, not what you can't hear. There will always be things you don't hear as well via the internet; however, that shouldn't stop you from trusting your ears and your gut. It's easy to second guess everything right now, but trust yourself.

• Have your students prep before the lesson. If they have a song they want to work on, have them email you a copy of the song before the lesson. If they want to run the song with accompaniment, make sure they have it cued up and ready to go beforehand: (a track on YouTube, a version from an app like Appcompanist, or a track that a pianist recorded.) As much as you'd like to, you won't be able to play live while your students sing because of the internet lag.

• Focus on the benefits of online lessons with your students. Despite us typically focusing on the challenges, there are benefits to teaching online.

• It can improve pitch and aural skills . Because of lag, you cannot accompany singers in exercises, so they have to sing alone. This allows you to hear pitch problems that you may not have noticed in the past. It also requires the singer to work more independently.

It can be a major confidence boost for students. Students have to feel confident in the exercises and songs they are singing to work online.

It forces us as teachers to slow down and take in new information . As teachers, we must listen more carefully since the typical rhythm of a lesson is slower in order to account for the internet lag. This is something that can be frustrating until you embrace it as a welcome change of pace. Instead of being annoyed that there's a slight pause in between each pass of a vocalization, encourage your singers to take that pause to focus on the technique.

You are all caring, talented educators who know what you're doing. Trust what you already know and move forward into this territory knowing you will be richer for it.

Amanda's expert advice? Once you dive in wholeheartedly, you'll find a new effectiveness in your teaching, and you and your students will be proud of everything you accomplish. Amanda, thank you for the helping hand to keep moving forward! CR

Amanda Flynn would be happy to answer your questions via email! Here is her contact information:

Social: @amandaflynnie

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