Here is my interview with Professor Karen J. Bauer, Voice Department Chair and Director of the MMVP Program, North Park University School of Music  She is the author of Essentials of Beautiful-Singing: A Three Step Kinesthetic Approach.


 
Q: Reading the section in your book on male head voice, I kept thinking of D.A. Clippinger, and his 100-year-old classic on problems with the head voice. He states there how difficult it is for many men to learn head voice--something similar to what you say in your book. Did Clippinger play a role in your technique of helping students learn head voice? 

I had not read D.A.Clippinger, but enjoyed reading it online!  He says many interesting things, much of which I agree with.  The reason why the male head voice can be problematic is that it goes into the upper range, difficult for most singers, in the head voice area, which is not part of his normal speaking voice. Most of the female vocal range  is  in the head voice area.  So it is a brand new phenomenon for the male, both in tonal quality and in kinesthetic feedback.  It takes greater finesse of the breath management system and more specific skill with registration. 

Clippinger uses the /o/ and /u/ to help with entering the head voice and there is every reason why this can be effective, particularly considering the vowel formants involved.  Clippinger did not have the scientific findings we have today, so much of his writing, philosophical more than detailed, reflects the empirical method of teaching, the major trial and error method going back to the 17th c.  Having said that, I too realize that science does not teach one how to sing and that other methods of delivery must be developed to do that effectively, all the while being supported by fact rather than imagery or guessing. This applied pedagogical approach, supported by fact, is what my book is all about.

Q: Whilst reading through your book, I kept on thinking I was reading about the Alexander Technique.  How does that technique relate to your teaching method?

I think Alexander Techique and any other serious efforts by qualified people to elicit body alignment are good for optimal health. Good body alignment reduces friction in the body and allows the skeleton to support it. As a result ALL body movements are freer, including those needed for singing.

Q: The exercises in your book seem very simple, but critical to perform correctly.  You mention several times the important of doing them very slowly and carefully. Can a student really tell they are doing them correctly without the guidance of a private teacher

Good question. Undoubtedly the best scenario is to have the quidance of a good teacher. However, for a singer who has studied voice before and is sensitive to the kinesthetic experiences of singing might very well be able to make major discoveries by diligently performing those simple exercises as directed in the book.

Q: You mention Vennard--were there any other major influences on your teaching style?

Venard is no more or less a major influence on my teaching than any of the other authors who have championed fact based pedagogy and voice research.  However, Venard was at the forefront of the voice research that has surged in the last 40 years or so and I studied it before it was common to be reading about the science of singing. Therefore I am comfortable and supportive of educating the singer in science of voice but do not think it teaches one how to sing. Teaching is a different art, and I believe the essence of teaching singers how to sing must be focused on the kinesthetic experience of the singer, experience that can be backed by the facts of science throughout the entire process. The pedagogy for teaching an applied art such as singing demands a different approach than the pedagogy for teaching a cognitive subject such as voice science. The Three Step Approach reflects this difference as well as my years of teaching experience and personal communication style.

Thanks, professor, for your time!