Searching for

journey of a ten through talons

By

In-Depth Post #4: Honing, Improving

Since my piano exam ended last week, I’ve spent around 3-4 hours on in-depth every week, and am starting to see the fruits of my labour. I also met with my mentor twice, and we worked more on my exercises and repertoire.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmduMtga

Below are some of the subjects and skills we started to cover:

  1. Nasal resonance: Margo really wanted me to focus on my tone, and create a more full/resonant tone rather than a hollow sound. She gave me a new exercise where I would make an “-ng” sound to gain a resonant and vibrating sound, and then drop my tongue so I had an open note “-ah”, but could still feel my voice resonating.
  2. We spoke/sang at length again about using my core to generate power and breath support instead of lengthening my chin and creating neck tension. Margo used the word “connection” several times, as a way of describing the feeling when I sang while being supported by my core. When I focused more on improving my breath support, I found it much easier to sing high notes without getting tired.
  3. I was starting to develop the bad habit of relaxing my chest too much after singing before taking my next breath. Margo told me that completely exhaling after completing a phrase would be impossible to do when I was actually singing real music, when I only had a limited time to breathe. This really helped reinforce the breath-pause-sing-repeat cycle that Margo was trying to teach me in our earlier sessions.
  4. Finally, we started to focus on my vowel shape. When people speak, we typically use our lips/mouth to create vowels, and our tongue doesn’t play as crucial of a role in vowel formation. However, when we sing, our mouth should more-or-less stay in the same position (an open and vertical shape), and our tongue creates all the vowel sounds. This change was quite startling to me, but the exercises Margo gave me have really helped me to focus on my voice’s mechanics when I sing.

At home, I scoured the internet for recordings of my song that I chose, Silent Noon by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This one, sung by John Shirley Quick, is becoming a favourite of mine, as is another by the great bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (who I once saw in concert at the Orpheum a few years ago!). I also read a few more chapters of Singing for Dummies, which focused more on the larynx and proper breath support. It was very similar to what I was learning from Margo in my lessons, and having labelled diagrams were also enriching as well. A few difficulties I’ve had recently include finding proper tuning! I knew that staying in tune would be challenging from the start for me. I have been using an electronic tuner to check my pitch, and plan on discussing the topic with Margo at our next session. I have also found that having my mouth in a more vertical shape helps as well. Another challenge I’m having is incorporating Margo’s advice about the breath cycle into Silent Noon, as the phrases aren’t as robotic and predictable as my exercises.

Since I’ve been working on singing for almost two (!) months now, I took a quick look at my proposal, and reflected on my progress. I have been working a ton on breath support, and proper posture/the way that my body should look and feel physically when I’m singing. Additionally, I’m starting to work on vowels, diction, and tuning! Hooray! One noticeable deviation from my plan is the timing of when I’m learning my skills. Although I’m not completely following my schedule, I’m still reaching all my goals and benchmarks.

Ms. Mulder’s questions for us:

  1. What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far? Why?

I have found that continuously incorporating what Margo is teaching me into every single note I sing is quite a challenge. There are countless things to think about – the physical feeling of singing, breath cycle, how I look, what the sound is, how I’m breathing, and several more! She does a great job of explaining concepts, but it’s obviously a struggle to combine everything for my exercises. What I’ve found useful is slowing down my practice, and really making sure I’m singing every note the way I want it to sound and feel.

  1. What is working well? Why?

My progress is incredibly so far – we’ve covered so much. Margo even said that it took years for some of her students to reach the level of progress I’m at after four lessons! She has essentially taught the basics of 80% of what I wanted to learn, and now I can really focus on them and actually (try to) become an expert singer! Also, our communication and feedback loop is very clear, and there have been no major misunderstandings so far. I’m taking detailed notes, recording her discussions, and Margo is being very clear with exactly the sound and motions that she wants from me. Finally, I believe I’m benefiting from the exercises she has given me, which are simple but force me to pay attention to the mechanics of my singing.

  1. What could be working better?  How can you make sure this happens?

Probably the biggest improvement I want to make during my mentor sessions are learning how to ‘social-ly’ and comfortably respond to Margo’s jokes. Occasionally, when she uses more dramatic or self-deprecating humour, I struggle to respond other than laughing, and I actually believe that improving on this issue will also help our interactions! I have found recently that connecting with her when she makes jokes about her piano/teaching skills by referencing my own struggles have often helped make the conversation less awkward!

“If I cannot fly, let me sing.”

– Stephen Sondheim

By

Sourcing a Significant Personal Object

28312669_403398163421902_1264181007_o

28417841_403398150088570_2017422673_o

Inquiry question: What is the story behind the paintings of hockey cards/Rogers Centre on my bedroom wall?

 

  1. Source:
    1. Primary source – although it may seem like a secondary source because my dad was not witnessing Albert Pujols or Henrik Sedin play their sports. However, my inquiry question refers to the paintings of the players, and my dad and I were both direct witnesses of the paintings because we created them.
    2. My dad created the painting, and I helped paint the larger and less detailed sections of the wall.
    3. It was made in the summer of 2008, and the painting can still be found in my bedroom.
  2. Context:
    1. The Summer Olympics in Beijing – possibly helped inspire this painting because of a larger focus of sports in the world.
    2. The success and popularity of the local Vancouver Canucks team. As seen in the graph, the annual revenue of the team was steadily rising. https://www.statista.com/statistics/196907/revenue-of-the-vancouver-canucks/
    3. The success of the baseball player Albert Pujols. He won the MVP award for the second time in his career, and was recognized around the MLB as one of the best active hitters.
    4. I had just visited Toronto for a vacation and witnessed a game at Rogers Centre.
    5. The 2008 baseball season was in full swing, so baseball would have been on my mind nearly every day.
    6. I had just started my hockey card collection.
  3. Description:
    1. First of all, I’m in the painting of Rogers Centre.
    2. Interestingly, the outfield was painted incorrectly. The bleachers in the painting start right behind the wall, but in reality, there is a section behind the wall for the team’s bullpens.rogers14953

      http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/rogers14953.jpg

    3. Another issue with the painting of Rogers Centre is that the stands are completely full. The average attendance was 29,626 for the season of 2008, and the stadium’s capacity was around 50,000, so the bleachers shouldn’t have been more than half-full.
    4. The scoreboard of the game is from June 8, 2008, when the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4. I chose that game because it was one of the first games I had watched on TV.
    5. Something that can’t be explained by this source is how I made the painting with my dad, and also our relationship at the time.
  4. Inferences about Perspective:
    1. My dad was the owner of our house and also my father (obviously), so he probably made it so that:
      1. He/I could have a summer project.
      2. He could teach me how to paint.
      3. We could enjoy some quality father/son bonding time.
    2. I was the intended audience, and that was definitely the reason why my dad painted me into the Rogers Centre portrait.
    3. Background/values that influenced the source: we are both baseball fans, we had just visited Toronto, and my dad has a background in art and painting, so he chose to paint the hockey cards and Rogers Centre instead of just printing out a poster.
  1. Inferences about Inquiry Question:
    1. I learn from the painting that: I had a close relationship with my dad at the time, I enjoyed watching sports, I enjoyed collecting hockey cards, and my dad has amazing (!) painting and art skills.
    2. Yes, it does answer my question – the contextual evidence helps describe why we chose to paint the hockey cards and why we painted it at that time.
    3. It does confirm and enhance what I knew about the paintings.
    4. Additional questions: How long did the painting take to make? How was it sketched?

 

 

By

AND SO BEGINS SOCIALS 2.0: Historical Thinking Outline

Understanding how we learn history is rooted in what we learn; therefore, considering evidence as an agent of knowledge is the most crucial historical thinking area to consider in order to achieve a rewarding Socials experience for our class this year. During my Eminent Person Project this year, I often struggled with the fact that the wider public considers Testimony, a supposedly-authorized memoir of Dmitri Shostakovich, to be the most valuable source one can find about him (click here for a wonderful article about the scandal). Although most scholars discredit the book, an outspoken camp supporting the validity of the book still exists, and I often found myself torn between using the supposedly primary source or not. However, once I started to look at more credible primary sources such as government documents, letters, and programmes, I realized that Testimony was not an accurate source of evidence at all. Using tools such as the CRAAP test, and interviewing musicologists and music journalists helped me uncover a realistic and human view of Shostakovich. Also, determining what sources to consult made me a much historian, as I considered the backgrounds and motives of the creators of the sources, and whether there was bias. Using historical evidence directly shapes our opinions of events, because the primary sources we consult affect the inferences we create about the event. By finding credible pieces of evidence, we can paint a more accurate picture of a person/place/time period. In conclusion, as time separates us from historical events every passing moment, we tend to lose perspective on the event, and therefore need to consider and analyze pieces of evidence so that our interpretation of the event is accurate.

By

In-Depth Post #3

Two more weeks have passed, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a large amount of progress! First of all, I read the first four chapters of Singing for Dummies, which focused on proper posture and breathing techniques. Also, I learned a few characteristics about my singing range (strength is chest voice, weakness is head voice), and the names of some famous baritones such as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Gerald Finley. More significantly, I met with my mentor Margo for one hour, and we had a long discussion about singing technique and posture in addition to learning a lot of new skills and exercises. Here are some of the main takeaways from our lesson:

  1. Breathing in classical singing is a three-step technique:
    1. The breath: the rib cage must expand, and the belly button shouldn’t be leading the breath, but dropping down as more air enters the lungs.
    2. The pause: Margo likened this stage to a feeling of suspense, or floating.
    3. The singing: this stage should not feel easy, as the lower chest area should be expanding and pushing the notes forward.
  2. The area directly under the sternum is where all the power for singing comes from. Margo called it “the squishy spot”, as she didn’t really know a proper term for the area! I attempted to find it on Google images, but was stumped too.
  3. Because the energy for singing comes from “the squishy spot”, there is no need to tighten and lengthen other muscles, such as the chin. Margo explained this very well to me, and I’ll try to paraphrase: when we sing higher notes, our vocal cords need to be tighter, so a way that they can be tightened is by stretching them, or lengthening the chin. However, a lot of tension is created, whereas by focusing energy in our chest, we aren’t squeezing our throat.

To put all this theory and methodology into play, Margo created a practice plan for me for the next week, which included four exercises to help me build my singing muscles and technique. I practiced 10 minutes a day for the next week. Some major difficulties I encountered were mostly about actually making sure I was following the proper singing procedure, and I often caught myself stretching my chin or not properly breathing and pausing after. To help overcome this obstacle, I placed a mirror in front of my piano so I could monitor my singing, which I found was quite successful!

https://flic.kr/p/21FLrTY

A photo of my practice plan.

My next task was to choose a song for my final product. Margo sent me four songs, all in English. They are:

  1. “Silent Noon” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
  2. “Wayfaring Stranger” by John Jacob Niles
  3. “Sleep” by Ivor Gurney
  4. “The Vagabond” by Ralph Vaughan Williams

As of right now, my favourite song is “Silent Noon”, and I’ll talk with Margo when we next meet to nail down our final choice.

Below are the answers to the questions Ms. Mulder asked us:

  1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

First of all, I thought that we were able to cover a very large amount of breathing and posture technique in one hour. This was a result of Margo being very clear with her instructions, with helpful analogies, and me being able to synthesize her teachings and  use the correct technique. Also, I was able to properly feel the muscles I was supposed to be singing with, and use them independently. For example, I would feel my latissimus muscles, and oblique muscles properly before taking a breath in, and then I would make sure that all of them relaxed after I exhaled. Moreover, Margo created a list of “dos and don’ts” so I could make sure that my practicing was effective. This list included making sure I was following the breathing cycle, using my chest and not my chin to gain energy, and making sure my facial muscles were relaxed.

  1. What learning challenges emerged?

Since, obviously, I am new to singing, all the skills Margo were teaching me were pretty hard to pick up at first. I found it particularly difficult to make sure to keep my chin relaxed, and also to pause after my breath. Also, finding time to practice was difficult, as my grade 10 exam was yesterday! But I was actually able to practice 5 out of the 6 possible days I could have practiced.

  1. What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?

To solve my technical issues, I placed a mirror in front of my piano so I could observe my chin. Also, personal reminders were effective, as I repeatedly told myself to focus on the pause after I inhaled. As for practicing, I set a consistent time every day to practice, and created an alarm on my phone so I would be reminded to practice.

  1. What logical challenges affected your communication?

Margo and I ‘hit it off’ pretty quickly, as we are both classical musicians and enjoy listening to the same composers. The main challenge we faced concerning communication was that she was using more complicated and scientific terminology when referring to muscles and body parts, and I had never heard of some of the muscles she was speaking of. However, she used a lot of gestures and visual indicators so I would be able to understand. As for communication outside of our sessions, I originally had to go through a secretary at the music school where Margo gives lessons if I wanted ask her a question or send her a message. After our first session, Margo gave me her personal email, so we could email each other much faster.

  1. What factors affected your ability to interact effectively?

Margo and I are cross-generational, cross-racial, and cross-gender, but that wasn’t a roadblock at all during our session. Since we were both very open to each other and gave background info about ourselves, I felt more comfortable already. Most of our conversations were about singing, but after the session, she asked me about my upcoming piano exam and we had a short chat about that, too!

The only thing better than singing is more singing.

-Ella Fitzgerald

By

Mercutio: The Campaigner

So I may have inspired Mr. Morris to make us do this assignment…(sorry!)

screenshot-www-16personalities-com-2018-02-01-22-38-21

The Campaigner personality is a true free spirit. Charming, independent, energetic and compassionate, […] Campaigners will bring an energy that often times thrusts them into the spotlight, held up by their peers as a leader and a guru. [However], particularly when under stress, criticism or conflict, Campaigners can experience emotional bursts that are counter-productive at best.

-From 16personalities.com

 

Mercutio, a relative of Prince Escalus, only appears in four of Romeo and Juliet‘s 24 scenes, but creates a profound and lasting impression on the audience. This is due to his extremely extroverted and imaginative personality, which lends one to believe that his Myers-Briggs personality type is that of an ENFP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Prospective). Mercutio displays his spontaneity and extensive imagination during his ‘Queen Mab’ speech, when he creates an entire story about “the fairies’ midwife” that “gallops night by night/Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love” (1.4.54/70-71). He essentially creates a conversational tangent, in which he rambles about Queen Mab for several minutes, but actually only communicates a simple point: that he thinks dreams are stupid. This suggests that Mercutio isn’t a laconic speaker, a characteristic typical of personality types with “J” instead of “P”. His improvised and wild speech demonstrates that Mercutio does not give much thought to what he is saying, reinforcing his ENFP personality type. He also ‘performs’ the speech in front of a rapt and attentive crowd, suggesting that his extroversion draws others to him. Furthermore, Mercutio’s easily incited temper proves deadly for him, as he calls Tybalt a “king of cats” and intends to take “one of your nine lives […] and dry-beat the rest of the eight” (3.1.76-78). Mercutio, disgusted at Romeo’s refusal to draw against Tybalt, calls Tybalt a cat of great standing, and wants to kill him once with a sword, and then eight more times by beating him. Although Mercutio may be joking, Tybalt still agrees to fight him, and eventually stabs him under Romeo’s arm. Mercutio’s lack of foresight is a characteristic of an ENFP personality type. Also, his derogatory comparison of Tybalt to a cat is typical of someone whose emotions control their actions, and do not think before they speak. Readers of Romeo and Juliet often find Mercutio as a foil character to Romeo: he is extremely energetic, easily angered, and coarse. However, the audience and characters alike can sense his presence in every scene he is a part of. As the poet John Dryden said, “Shakespeare show’d the best of his skill in his Mercutio, and [was] was forc’d to kill him in the third Act, to prevent being killed by him.”

By

In-Depth Post #2

It’s nearly impossible to believe that In-depth is one month over! I’ve only had a chance to meet my mentor once, but I think that I’ve laid some very important groundwork and foundation in order to create a successful project. This includes the following progress in the last two weeks:

  1. I visited my library, and borrowed Singing for Dummies! Although I wasn’t sure how useful the book would be, it has turned out to be a very engaging and thorough read. There are countless exercises listed inside the book, but I haven’t had a chance to try them out, because I want to run them through my mentor first.
  2. I’ve been listening to some classical and pop singing more closely, and this video in particular was very inspiring. Luciano Pavarotti has a very commanding presence on stage, a skill I want to improve on when I’m performing. Obviously, I have no complaints at all about his singing – his power, tone, and sheer will are unbeatable.
  3. I tested my range on my piano, so I can have a general idea of the songs I can sing:
    1. Chest range – E2 to Eb4
    2. Head range – E4 to A5
    3. The range I’m most comfortable in – A3 to C4
    4. This range puts me in baritone territory, which is between tenor (highest range for males) and bass range (lowest range for males).
  4. I recorded my first song of this project. It wasn’t too hard to sing in terms of range, but one specific skill I want to improve on in particular is my projection, which comes from my breathing.

Most importantly, I had my first mentor session with the wonderful Margo LeVae! We met for 45 minutes, and were able to fully discuss the scope of my project in detail. Margo also tested my singing range (see above), and I sang a bit of And So it Goes for her. After our lesson, I answered the the first set of questions below that were mentioned by Ms. Mulder in her blog post.

  1. How fast the mentee’s learning should progress?
    1. Margo told me that my progress all depends on how much I practice. She recommended that if I practice for around 2-3 hours a week, I will see rapid progress.
  2. When should the mentor intervene?
    1. Margo will provide constant feedback for me in mentor sessions, and I will record myself as much as possible so she can see my progress and judge whether I’m creating any bad habits.
  3. How best to collaborate with the mentee?
    1. We decided that we would choose the final song for my presentation together.
  4. How to keep the focus on the learning process?
    1. Seeing as I haven’t officially started to learn singing with Margo for an entire session yet, this question will be answered as the project progresses.
  5. How to set up the best environment for learning?
    1. I will be learning with Margo in her studio, which is equipped with a piano, and she will give me handouts throughout the project as well.
  6. How to structure the learning relationship and process?
    1. Our mentor/learner relationship will be structured around our lessons, where I sing for her and she comments on my progress and what I need to work on. During our lesson, we will work on various singing skills, and then I will practice at home and record myself throughout.

The second set of questions are discussed below:

  1. How did your mentor gain their experience/expertise?
    1. Margo gained her expertise at the University of British Columbia, where she completed an undergraduate and Master’s degree in Voice and Opera (Honours). She also performed roles in operas at UBC, Edmonton and with the Vancouver Island Opera Society. As for her teacher expertise, she has been teaching at various music schools (I take lessons with her at the Tri-City School of Music).
  2. What were those experiences like for your mentor?
    1. Margo said that becoming an expert in her field was, obviously, a difficult journey that took thousands of hours of practice. However, the performances and relationships she was able to create as a result were absolutely worth it. Also, she said her past and current teaching experiences are extremely rewarding, and she deems it her passion to bring out unique qualities of each student’s voice.
  3. What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?
    1. The first nugget of wisdom my mentor imparted on me was that the feeling when I sing should resemble the feeling of holding my breath between inhaling and exhaling, and that it shouldn’t necessarily feel physically comfortable.
    2. Another piece of wisdom was the importance of spending time practicing breathing exercises. Margo likened this to bodybuilding – someone who trained at the gym every day for five months would not look like Dwayne Johnson, but would still be exercising new muscles and training them.
  4. What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?
    1. First of all, Margo asked me several ‘probing’ questions about my project – why I chose it, how I thought it would benefit me, etc. It not only gave her valuable information, but also allowed me to verbally reinforce and articulate why I chose singing to be my skill.
    2. Also, Margo created a very comfortable learning environment, by telling me a bit about herself, and also comparing similar musical interests we had.

I’m really excited to continue exploring the realm of voice, and will be sure to continue to report on my progress!

When one teaches, two learn.

-Robert Heinlein

css.php