May 31, 2016

So You Teach Bel Canto, Huh?

I recently read a post by a fellow blogger (goes with the territory, don't you know), who quoted the esteemed vocal pedagogue Richard Miller, who, half-in-jest, asserted that the master class teacher should avoid claiming to be a bel canto teacher. 

Ok, while I don't make that kind of statement in a masterclass, the late Mr. Miller might take issue with my studio website since I note that my teaching "integrates the principles of the old Italian school," and that I offer "comprehensive vocal training utilizing the principles of bel canto."

And I mean it too: I really do teach vocal techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. But we're not talking proprietary information. Rather, we're talking about techniques that have been discovered over the course of many years by teachers with open ears and eyes—techniques that can be rediscovered by anyone with equally open ears and eyes.

While there is no magic method called bel canto, there is a body of knowledge that has leapt flamelike from student to teacher (surprising perhaps, but great students do teach the teacher who then teach students), and can be heard in many recordings as well as found in many writer's works—the most interesting to this writer being Hermann Klein (he dropped the second "n" after the first world war), who came to America in the first decade of the 20th century to teach Manuel García's principles of singing.

It is gratifying to me to know that the great American people appreciate the sound theories of the old school and they will assuredly find in you one among its few capable exponents. —Manuel García to Hermann Klein,  July 1901

Klein wrote about García's teachings, and even utilized the gramophone to illustrate his meaning. Klein's effort—which seems to have fallen on deaf ears—can be found in the side-bar on the right. 

Find it there and you'll also find the meaning of bel canto. 

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