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Notes On Notes

Can You Teach My Child to Sing?

I can, and my waiting list for children and youth is currently closed (November 2023).

Here are some things to consider, when it comes to your child and singing.

How we learn to sing

We learn to sing the same way we learn to speak – by imitating the people around us. And, like speaking, singing is often most comfortably learned in a social, encouraging environment – around a campfire, in the car running errands, doing dishes, in a house of worship, in a community chorus. 

This is especially true for elementary school age children who tend to run in packs anyway. If you’re in the Bay Area, check out Piedmont East Bay Children’s ChoirKairos Music Academy, Young Musicians Chorus, Pacific Boychoir Academy, Marin Girls Chorus. Go to one of their concerts. See if you like the music. 

Before the pandemic, La Peña Cultural Center offered singing classes for young people, and the Community Music School at the California Jazz Conservatory offered vocal performance classes for teens. They might be doing that again. 

What’s true about people, their voices and voice lessons

Our voices change over the course of our lifetimes – most noticeably in puberty – and because the vocal folds are muscles, we’re able to train them, like any other muscle. Muscles change as they are used. This means that there is no specific age beyond which a person can’t learn to sing well. As long as you’re alive, relatively healthy, and willing to try, you can improve your singing voice. 

Private voice lessons take a lot of concentration, self-reflection, curiosity, a willingness to try new things, and a sense of adventure – on the part of both the student and the teacher. They are a great way to sort out technical problems, learn more efficient ways to breathe, build confidence, improve your tone, and prepare for an audition or other performance. 

I have helped students prepare audition material for school plays, talent shows and musicals, for moving up a level in SF Girls Chorus or Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, for admittance to Oakland School for the Arts, main stage shows at Berkeley Playhouse, YMTC, ACT, CCCT, and also for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. 

Does everyone need private lessons if they’re going to be singing in public? No, but they can really help. Your voice is part of your physical body and it’s subject to all the nervous energy that high-stakes situations bring on. Having a teacher who can help you manage your emotions, so that you can sound as true-to-yourself as possible, is simply invaluable. 

My child is a special case

I can help children who sing wildly out of tune, who yell rather than sing, who sing beautifully with the radio and make up their own difficult-to-follow songs on their own, and not all of these children want to be helped, fixed or figured out. Kids often sound fine to themselves, and that positive opinion is an important part of developing a durable sense of Self.

Yes, children can damage their voices with excessive yelling and other kinds of abuse. Most children do not. Most odd, irritating, “regrettable” vocal patterns do work themselves out, often without professional help. As for tunefulness, my own fifth grade teacher asked me to mouth the words for the district music assembly. Apparently at age ten, I could play the violin, but I couldn’t sing, at least not in a way she appreciated.

a smiling child's self-portrait

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