I want to teach band so I don’t need to sing” or “I am a band director so I don’t sing” Unfortunately these phrases are said too often by music education undergraduates and band directors. Many band directors will play almost any instrument for their students, but they are not comfortable using their singing voice. This is also true with undergraduates. I have a few friends who are instrumentalists and want to become band directors and nothing else. They are not willing to go out of their comfort zone and sing. I feel it is important that all music educators get comfortable using their singing voice no matter their specialty. All music education undergraduates are required to be proficient in all woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments, so why shouldn’t proficiency in singing be required? Non-vocalists especially need to learn to become comfortable with their singing voice.

Why should I sing?

  1. Certification We are certified to teach K-12 music, band, choral, or general music. We all have our preference of what we would like to teach, but we never know where we may end up. Because of this it is crucial that we are proficient and comfortable in all areas, not just in our specialty. This is why all undergraduates should get comfortable singing. Also in today’s schools music teachers are often shifted around so we need to be ready to teach anything. You may enter a position as the band director, but two or three years later they may switch you to the general music teacher. It is important that even veteran music teachers stay updated in the areas they aren’t teaching in case one day they are moved into a different position.
  2. More Efficient Band directors often will play recordings   or play a passage on their primary instrument to demonstrate a concept for their students. Both of these methods can take precious time out of your band rehearsal. We all have our voice with us at all times and don’t have to assemble it to use it. Band directors could save time and often be more effective by using their voice more often in rehearsals. Rehearsals I have been a part of or have observed where band directors sing during the rehearsal were usually very effective and helped to keep the rehearsal pace moving more efficiently.
  3. Modeling– Singing for your students is a great way to model good technique, musical concepts, and musicianship. Even in a band rehearsal modeling good vocal technique is important. Students can learn a lot from just watching and listening to their teacher. Singing is also a great way to model musical concepts such as dynamics, style, rhythm, and articulation. This can help to get your point across and often the students understand better after they hear it sung to them. Having your students sing during band rehearsal is also a great technique, but often students are hesitant to do this unless their director gets them accustomed to it and models for them.

How do I become comfortable using my singing voice?

  1. Take voice lessons Taking voice lessons or a voice class during your undergraduate career can be a great way to get more comfortable using your singing voice. Voice lessons are usually a more intimate and less intimidating setting which can help instrumentalists come out of their comfort zone. This is also a great way for non-vocalists to learn proper vocal technique so they can teach that to their students. If you are a band director and are uncomfortable singing or feel like you don’t have proper technique you could always ask the vocal teacher at your school if they would give you a few pointers. I feel that it is never too late for instrumental teachers to take lessons and begin singing with their students.
  2. Join vocal ensembles Many instrumentalists only participate in instrumental ensembles during their undergraduate career. I am very thankful that Grove City requires all music majors to be in choir for at least two semesters. This at least gives the instrumentalists a chance to get used to singing. Often there are also other vocal ensembles that non-voice majors can still be involved with. This past semester Grove City started a new pop’s choir which I got involved with. This has been a great way for me to get more comfortable not only singing, but also singing alto instead of soprano all the time. Current band directors could get involved with community or church choirs to help them get more comfortable with singing. There are always opportunities to get involved with singing groups you may just have to do some searching.
  3. Just do it- In my opinion one of the best ways for instrumentalists like myself to get comfortable singing is by just doing it. Before I went to college I was involved in choir, but I still was not extremely comfortable singing by myself. After teaching a few general music lessons and leading band rehearsals I realized the necessity of singing and just started singing. This helped me finally get out of my comfort zone and now I am much more comfortable using my singing voice even in band rehearsals. For instrumentalists who are hesitant to sing I recommend just trying it. We all have the ability to sing we just need to realize that it is okay and even beneficial for us to do it.

Start Singing!!

All of us are given a voice so we should put it to good use. If their teacher won’t sing the students (especially at the middle school age) will usually not be willing to sing either. You don’t have to have the best voice you just need to sing because singing is invaluable for your students at any age and level. If you are an instrumentalist that is uncomfortable singing  start working on that now because you never now what you may end up teaching or how much you singing in class may help your students.