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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Back to Basics

I sometimes wonder at how amazing it is that I have grown a business essentially based around teaching the basics of communication.  These days our classes are not so much about "drama and performance skills", we have to go back to basics.  How to join into a discussion. How to speak your opinion. How to look people in the eye when you talk to them...and of course the list goes on. In years gone by, where did we learn these skills from?  I am fairly certain it was not from an extra curricular provider!  Don't get me wrong, we love teaching this stuff and seeing what a difference it makes but I do think that sometimes we need to go back to basics.
 We are so busy in our lives that often we don't have time to sit down and talk to our children or the neighbours children or any children! Many of us don't often eat together or play together.  The holiday period is a great time to reconnect with each other and I have enjoyed doing this.  I am often surprised with the depth of conversations we have and we all enjoy it. 
I had coffee with a friend yesterday who is an English teacher.  We were talking about this exact thing.  I was wondering how a student can do all the study for English, tell you all about the study they have done, have a clear understanding of the work but when it comes to the exam, receive an average result.  Of course there are lots of reasons for this but we decided that in many cases it is simply due to the fact that our youth are not used to pushing a pen across a page for 3 hours at a time. I remember the callouses on the fingers, the aching arm, the three pens needed to complete some exams.  Many students get into the exam room and run out of stamina and cut answers short. Why?  Most likely because they are used to submitting all answers type written, spell checked, grammar checked and neat and tidy.  A written exam requires you to deliver on all of the above and provide an answer to the question...tricky stuff if you are not used to it.   She told me that some year 12/13 students will even fail a written exam because the spelling is so bad.  So, fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) for my teenagers this year, mother will be encouraging no PC written homework unless it is specifically requested and many more conversations around the dinner table....back to basics.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Musical Theatre" Sing it Loud Sing it Proud

One of my biggest regrets (if we are allowed regrets in this day and age) is that as a child/teenager I never had the confidence to explore the discipline of Musical Theatre.  In my own children I have watched with interest as they sing loud and proud as toddlers, preschoolers and early primary students and then slowly but surely they develop a self consciousness that prohibits them from singing aloud, solo in front of an audience.  Putting together my observations of their development and my own experiences as a child I have some assumptions to share:
1.  When we are little, we are encouraged to sing out loud regardless of talent, we have not yet developed the sense of comparing ourselves to others.
2. To sing solo in front of an audience is one of the most fearful things that we can do.  Singing in the shower is easy but we think that to be an accomplished singer takes training.  I agree that it does to be an expert but a good singer...  NOT TRUE.
3.   I have three children who have inherited lovely singing voices from both sides of the family. The 15 year old boy accidentally found himself in the school choir and was appalled and embarrassed by this accident of nature, even going as far as to keep the public performance a secret from his family so we would not attend, the 13 year old girl loves to sing but will only do it ensemble and the 7 year old will sing anywhere anyhow.
So where did we miss the flip...what is the difference between Justin Beiber and my apparently talented 15 year old?  (He would suggest there is plenty of difference) I suggest that there comes a time when singing is mystified.....made to seem more difficult that it really is.....possibly by pretentious music teachers (who are often failed singers themselves) but I think there are huge parallels to the modeling industry here.  Our kids listen to music most days, singers they perceive to be "good" and they will never be like that.  Just as the Top Model Competitions have our young people thinking they could never be that beautiful.  Just like Top Model, singing is digitally altered tidied up all the time, we just don't know it.

As a teenager I did explore my vocal capabilities.  Wanting a career in the performing arts I knew being a great singer is a must.  Alas it was not to be....I had three not so positive experiences.  Firstly the singing teacher my parents so kindly funded for a year, said to me one day "that has really improved but don't sing it to your parents just yet will you"....keerrrpppppoooooowwww, that was a confidence buster! Second, my friend (who shall remain nameless but who had asperations for a Musical Theatre career too) and I auditioned for a part in the chorus in our local Musical Theatre company (amateur), rehearsed, were very brave.  What a terrible experience! It will suffice to say that it involved a very large stage, 2 elderly gentlemen who failed to introduce themselves, two pairs of spectacles being frowned over and a bell!  Keerrrrrppppppooooooow another blow to the ego.  The third was when my friends parents pulled some strings and we made it into the chorus of a production of the Pearl Fishers...grand opera.  It was a great experience but we soon figured out that it was not our singing we had been cast for....I was a Vestal Virgin complete with bikini style top and full body blackening, perfect for a 16 year old with a DD rating!  Keerrrrrrppppppooooow...there goes number three.  So I basically gave up the singing lark until last year when I decided to give it another go, a lovely teacher, had fun and gained confidence.  I am by no means ready for the Dixie Chicks but at least I have faced the demon and I know I can sing loud and proud!
Our children need to be encouraged to be the best they can be, to over come the fear and do it anyway.  Singing is just another string to the bow of talents we can walk the planet with and if nothing else, I believe it is truly great for the soul. 
So with this in mind, Tall Poppies are offering Musical Theatre classes for children this year...no experience necessary!  And to steal a lyric "The sun will come out tomorrow, bet ya bottom dollar for tomorrow, come what may"....perhaps we will have All Blacks who are confident enough to do more than just lip sync the national anthem.....and I say, watch more Glee!