Students for Change in the Classical Voice Program

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We, the students who are enrolled in the classical program at York University, specifically in the area of Classical Voice, feel that there needs to be changes made to this program in order for both the students and the over all program to succeed. Though this is not a complete list of what we feel needs changing, these changes are perhaps the more manageable ones.

The suggested revisions for the program are as follows:

1) The language in the course description be amended from mandatory participation in a major ensemble, to suggested participation in an ensemble of the students choice.

We pride ourselves on providing a diverse music program at York University, and forcing students into very specific curriculum, we feel, narrows the education. Students will still participate in both Concert and Chamber choir, as many students love the experience and it attracts lots of students from outside the department as well. This would however allow our classical singers to acquire a greater appreciation for the different styles of music. It also allows them to, if they choose to participate in an ensemble, explore both the minor and major ensembles if they so choose.

2)Chamber Choir needs to be restructured.

-If those in Chamber Choir are expected to attend the majority of Concert Choir classes, and perform with them in addition to Chamber Choir, it needs to be a 6.0 credit course. We are frequently participating in 6 hours of rehearsal a week between the two choirs, and only getting 3.0 credits. That is not a structure that is sustainable. Our students voices are strained after 3 hours straight of rehearsal, and then they are supposed to rehearse multiple hours a night (as encouraged by other classes) on top of 6 hours of essentially what equates to screaming for those who do not have the technical background to sing without pushing and damaging themselves.

-The other option would be make it a 3.0 where the participants have the option to also do Concert Choir, but are not required to do so. Many students will do this regardless.

-Students are dropping out of classical voice lessons at York because they do not want to do choir. When our students, in first and second year especially, do not have the technical skills to sustain their singing for 3 hours without causing damage, they end up wrecking their voice for the week, which then makes it so they have issues rehearsing their rep at home, as well as in lessons and other classes.

-We, as a department, need to be more accountable for the vocal health of our students. Music education is not what it used to be in high school, and many of our students are not technically proficient to sing for extended periods of time, without damaging their voice. This structure better allows our students to grow as singers, instead of damaging their instrument.

3) Masterclasses should be provided to first and second years, as they are to third and fourth years, as well as being combined with vocal diction. They should also be mandatory and in one 3-hour class.

-First and Second years do not receive performance opportunities outside of Singfest and Aria with me, as well as the occasional masterclass. The problem with this is they are often scheduled at many conflicting times, and they are not assigned a mark, therefore attendance is low.

-By making diction and masterclass a 3 hour class, it assigns a mark to the student, which helps them form the habbits of learning music quickly. In the current set up there is no urgency to learn the music, and first years often do not have the required skills needed to learn quickly. Giving them a masterclass where every 2-3 weeks they need to perform a piece, forces them to learn quickly and efficiently. We will see an increase in the musicianship of our vocalists, the technical and interpretive skills of our vocalists would increase as well.

-A big issue that we have in the program is all our lessons tend to push is rep, rep, rep. The students often fall behind in their technical skills, and this creates inferior performers, except under some circumstances. Making first and second years have to learn their rep for Masterclass, allows professors more time to focus on getting their students technical and support issues to the professional level over the 4 years.

-Diction is difficult enough forcing us to learn 2 languages a year, which is extremely difficult as it is. Forcing the lecture and singing into 1 hour 20 minutes, is not working. If you have the first 1h 20m as a lecture on the language, and then the second 1h 20m as a master class where we can work on both the song in diction and rep, the students will learn better.

-Making diction mandatory is also essential, as to be in classical voice outside of York, post graduating, you need to know various languages, even above and beyond what is taught in the program, in your choirs, operas and concerts beyond York.

-Diction currently takes place from 11:30am-1:00pm for first years and 1:00pm-2:30pm for second years on Tuesdays. The lecture times do not need to change. The fix would be first years have Italian/English diction from 11:30am-12:50pm, with a 10 minute break, then Masterclass from 1:00pm-2:20pm. The second years would be flipped, doing Masterclass then diction. The only potential issue is that there would need to be a separate teacher teaching the master class portion (Stephanie would teach both diction portions) OR have a professor teaching 1st years, and a separate one teaching 2nd years.The date doesn't need to change, but the timing would.

-This would also turn diction from a 3.0 credit class to a 6.0 credit class when combined with Masterclass, which is also more reflective of the course load.

4) We the students feel that part of our tuition, in the fees for classical voice lessons, should go towards the shows that we are required to see in order to write our reports. The department of Theatre does this, with much success, to expose our students to not only the theatre scene in Toronto, but also to write their reports. Implementing this program encourages the students to explore the musical community in Toronto as well as for those who cannot afford to attend these shows on top of the high costs of tuition, it allows them the chance to actually attend.

We feel that students would actually continue taking the voice lessons through to 4th year if these things are changed. This is good for the department as more students would take 3rd and 4th year voice courses, where as now many just drop and take private lessons because of how it is set up. There NEEDS to be a change.

We want to excel in this program, and for that to happen, there needs to be some changes. You want the students to want to take the courses, this will encourage that.

Looking forward to hopefully working with you moving forward to improve this program. We want this to be the best program it can be, both for the students and the university. We are looking forward to working with the department to help push for these changes, and will continue to advocate for ourselves.