Today we find a very wide range of approaches to teaching voice in the classical world. Often, teachers are teaching very different and sometimes opposing vocal technique within the same university or school. Voice students can become frustrated and decide that no instruction at all might be best and begin to focus on listening to recordings they feel they would like to emulate.
It has been said by voice teachers of the past, that singing, and Bel Canto in particular, must be learned directly from a teacher trained to teach this technique. By listening to recordings or reading books on the subject, a student can gain insight perhaps, but full vocal technique in classical music must be learned from someone who can demonstrate as it is being taught. The best approach to developing successful vocal technique is to find a voice teacher who is able to help the student find vocal freedom, and then stay the course with the chosen teacher.
The technique taught at Jubilate Conservatory of Music is from the Bel Canto school of Manuel-del-Popolo Vicente Garcia (1775-1832). Manuel Garcia “the elder”, as he is known, had two children who became renowned voice teachers; Manuel Patricio Rodriguez Garcia and Mme. Pauline Viardot. The technique of Pauline Viardot is very different than that of her brother who became interested in science, developing the laryngoscope to study the physical properties of vocal production.
Laya Field studied voice with mezzo soprano Blanche Thebom who studied voice with Edith Walker. Edith Walker studied with Aglaia Orgeni, who was the student of Pauline Viardot. This vocal technique is complete. There are very clear steps which must be adhered to. It is not a technique that can be combined with other approaches to singing. It is simple, and safe to teach to young children and adults alike. Laya Field has changed some of the words used to describe the technique when teaching children. When working with adults she uses the same descriptions as she was trained to use by her teacher, Blanche Thebom. This technique has been used successfully by singers of many styles including Broadway, Blues, Jazz, and Classical.
In the world of voice and vocal technique the atmosphere is somewhat charged with conflicting ideas. Under particular dispute is the vocal technique referred to as Bel Canto. Bel Canto is simply a term that was given to describe the kind of singing taking place in Italy in vocal schools beginning in the 17th century. It translates: “beautiful singing”. If we bear in mind that every teacher has a slightly different approach to presenting their subject matter, as life experiences and personalities are unique, and also note that there were several Bel Canto schools and many trained teachers within those schools, it becomes easy to understand these differing ideas.