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Thread: How Do You Identify and Help a Vocally Gifted Child? (sound added)

  1. #1
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    Question How Do You Identify and Help a Vocally Gifted Child? (sound added)

    This question is WAY off topic from woodworking, but is a question that I could really use some guidance with from the vast resources here who just my have some tips. The youngest of my 6 kids is now a 15 year old young lady. She’s always loved to sing and has always shown considerable aptitude for singing... even when she could barely form words she sang constantly, but always sounded like a cute little kid singing. In the last year and a half or so, that little kid sound has been replaced by a much more impressive sound that we think might merit some additional resources.

    I try to be objective, but am certainly biased, so really don’t trust my judgement, though I've noted that while my other kids sound "good", they don't sound like "Tess" does. I’ve watched enough American Idol episodes of kids who can make a cat cringe from a mile away with their awful voices, yet Mom, Dad, Granny, Uncle Jed, and the whole fam damily are there cheering in full force, convinced that their beloved has the voice of an angel…..I want to be supportive and helpful, but I dont’ want to be ”that Dad”!

    How does one go about accurately differentiating between a kid who just sings well, and one who has the talent to sing at a level most of us can only dream of? Resources are pretty tight in our household, so I’m not eager to spend thousands on a lark, but I don’t want that to be the reason she doesn’t reach her potential either….we’ll find a way if necessary. She has a very good chorus teacher at school who approached us last spring and suggested that her talent merits more help than he could provide. He put us in touch with a woman who specializes in young female vocalists...(his first such recommendation in 9 years.) Tess auditioned for her, and got excellent feedback from the instructor. She’s now been taking lessons every other week for a few months. The instructor has been great so far and seems to sincerely enjoy what she does, but there’s monetary gain in it for her, so she may be biased as well. How do you ever really know if a kid has sufficient talent to go beyond what most of us who can sing accomplish with their voices? She loves singing, and seems to devour difficult pieces pretty easily. Aside from becoming an overnight pop star sensation by sheer luck and looks, what types of realistic careers are there for vocalists? How competitive is it, and what else, if anything should we be doing? We’re fortunate to have the Eastman School of Music close by…not that we could afford to send her there, but it does shed loads of talented instructors into our community.

    Tips, comments, and hearing about what any of you may done with similar situations would be much appreciated!

    Edit: (as posted below)
    I figured out how to post a link to a youtube sound byte taken at her voice recital on Feb 1, using a handheld recording device from 30 feet away....not a real slick recording, but with decent headphones you should be able to get an idea of what she sounds like. It's a song called "Home" from the musical "Phantom" about a girl and her dream about singing on the stage. Honest unbiased feedback encouraged!
    Last edited by scott spencer; 02-04-2015 at 02:45 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I would ask the music teacher in school what they think. If she is in the choir at church the music director would give you a idea as to her uniqueness.
    Maybe enter local talent shows ??
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    There are people who can sing in an amazingly natural way. There are people who can sing well. There are people who can learn to sing if they work hard enough. If you've watched the talent shows that are the current rage you have seen good singers and then you occasionally see one that makes you go "wow". As a parent your best bet is to get a judgement from someone who knows this stuff AND who is not a current teacher, paid instructor or anyone else who you have any kind of relationship with that would season the response.

    I would think in a sizable city you would have someone out there like this guy: https://www.youtube.com/user/kentamplin He has made a science out technique and someone like him can certainly tell you whether a person has the building blocks or not.

    When you see someone on "American Idol" who makes it far enough along, they get hooked up with one of these fine folks. That's why some of them seem to be a lot better after a few rounds. These vocal coaches are to singing what a Baseball Camp is to your little leaguer. If you can convice them you are ONLY after a directional opinion, they do know their stuff.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 02-04-2015 at 12:45 AM.
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    Thanks guys. The future is always an unknown, and I'm sure we'll know more as time goes by. I just wanted to make sure we're giving her every reasonable advantage from this point on. The same friend who owns the recording equipment is also an acquaintance with one of the vocal music deans at the Eastman School of Music....when she's a little more polished, I may press him to give her a listen.

    She also plays the French Horn pretty well, and has been selected for just about every Area All State and All County opportunity she’s had….not really as gifted in this area, but is more than proficient so far. Anyone have any thoughts on the importance of playing the piano and/or guitar for getting into a good music school? Alot of the girls in her voice lesson troupe take dance as well, but I suspect that boat sailed quite a while ago.
    Last edited by scott spencer; 02-04-2015 at 02:46 AM.
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    scott i am not a experienced person in music what so ever,, but its easier to teach a younger person that hasnt learned the wrong habits.. dont wait to get her that listen so if she is good enough then get jump on the training time
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    Quote Originally Posted by larry merlau View Post
    scott i am not a experienced person in music what so ever,, but its easier to teach a younger person that hasnt learned the wrong habits.. dont wait to get her that listen so if she is good enough then get jump on the training time
    You make a good point. I suppose any veteran vocalist or vocal coach will recognize that she's not yet trained, but will her raw talent and potential if it exists. When she auditioned for her vocal coach, she had some nice voice related comments, but ended with "and she doesn't have any bad habits! ....really, it doesn't get any better than that!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott spencer View Post
    when she's a little more polished, I may press him to give her a listen.
    You are right to nurture anything she may have an interest in. Especially a gift like music. Someone who knows what to look for doesn't need a performance-ready audition. If the basics are their, an instructor will see it.

    As to music school, speaking as a former music major, the piano is the tool box for the study of music. You do not need to be proficient on it at a performance level but, it is what you will do all your "work" on if you take any musicianship or music theory classes. It is the basic composition tool.

    The gift of allowing her to follow an interest in music and to support her in this is a gift that will enrich her as a person whether she pursues music full time or not. Best of luck.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

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    I so wish I could sing. Well, Anything music related. I try.

    The most important thing I can think of is to provide her the tools and encouragement to succeed. But be careful about too much pressure.
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  9. #9
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    One of my Sisters in Law is a professional singer. Graduated from college with music degrees - I am not sure what portion of music, but I know it included a lot of theory and composition. Her advice is to never sing in a church choir. It creates bad habits, and is bad on your resume. At her wedding she sang, as did some of her friends. Her performance was perfect, but her friends performance had a spark that made you want more. She does some composing and performing, but her primary income is as a top level waitress in a high end restaurant. And on a good night she can make $1000 in tips.

    One of my nieces wants to be a musician - went to college for it, but never completed her studies. Has a few CDs that have sold a few copies. Has toured with a band (or several), earning enough to cover expenses... just. Since her father died, the parental support has diminished, and she is starting to have to support herself.... as a waitress. Starting at the bottom of the waitress hierarchy - cheap restaurant, low tips, bad shifts until you gain seniority. I have some of her CDs. They don't have the spark that makes me want to listen more.

    I would contact the head of vocal music at Eastman since it is close. Buy him/her a bottle of good wine to listen to a tape (oops, showing my age, listen to a CD) and advise whether he/she thinks the voice can be trained, and whether it is likely to develop the spark that makes people want to listen. Whether it has the potential to be a solo voice, or will always sing in the chorus. And if the chairperson isn't willing to do it, perhaps he/she can suggest an experienced faculty member who will.
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    Lots of good advice already. I'd vote for nurturing as much of her natural talent as possible via teachers and performance opportunities. Don't hold back on getting her heard by the folks at Eastman. As was said earlier, they should be able to spot raw talent regardless of how polished her performance is at this point. (And I'd try to set up a live audition as opposed to a CD or MP3.)

    What type of music does she prefer? Would she rather do classical or contemporary music? They require similar but different skill sets. I'd suggest a teacher who specializes in the genre your daughter is interested in. I also wouldn't be too worried about a teacher telling you that your daughter is great just to try to get you to buy more lessons. Ask the teacher point blank if she thinks Tess has what it takes to go to the Big Leagues. If she honestly, sincerely believes so, she'll make it clear. And every teacher I've ever known wouldn't hesitate to send a star pupil to a better teacher if they shought it would advance the student's learning.

    Regarding making a living as a singer, the main question is how badly does she want to make a living as a singer? Without the fire in her own heart and mind, she'll never make it. Even WITH the fire it's not a sure thing. There are a lot of very talented people with tons of desire who are working "real" jobs to make ends meet. I worked solely as a musician (performing 6 nights a week and and teaching 4 or 5 days a week) for several years when I was younger, and it was a pretty spartan time in my life. It's a tough business, but it also had its rewards. There aren't many jobs where people applaud for you every 3 or 4 minutes. That part never gets old. But it's a fickle business and these days stardom often has more to do with having a gimmick than having talent. Keep in mind my experience was in the rock/pop genre. Other markets (classical, jazz, spiritual) have different hurdles, but are still a tough market to make a living in.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

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