April 9, 2017

The Sacred Fire of Real Feeling


The old Italian traditional Porpora method or manner of voice-production and art of singing is founded on science. Porpora was a great composer, musician, and teacher of the singing-voice; the immortal Haydn was one of his pupils. Porpora was born in Naples, 1686, and after living in various cities of the world, died in his native city 1767. The late Dr. Bronson, who was a singer as well as an elocutionist, wrote a treatise on mental and vocal philosophy that has made all these traditional principles clear to the earnest student. This system unfolds the true philosophy of mind and voice, in accordance with the nature of man and the structure of language, which we may call tune,—the body the instrument, and the mind the performer. The principles and practice of the true vocal exercises, tend to develop and perfect both mind and body agreeably to the laws that should govern them.

Clara Brinkerhoff c. 1865
In forming pure tone, or voice, for the art of singing, the first requisite is secure a perfectly healthy distribution of the vital fluids throughout the body and a free and powerful activity of the mind. The point I claim is that without the mind as performer the voice is left too much to the physical utterance of sound, in automatic singing, whereas the singing-voice is above all the voice of the soul, and should communicate with other minds through its own perfect language. If this assertion is incomprehensible to any of my hearers it would not be so if they had heard Jenny Lind. The soulful predominated over and through the physical in her, till she could communicate with all hearers and delight them. This fervent, soulful voice can be obtained only by a full and synchronous action on the brain. the lungs, and the viscera. The soul operates naturally on the dorsal and abdominal muscles, thus setting in motion the whole body. A practical knowledge of these important principles, and specific use of these muscles for healthy breathing. and exercises of the vocal organs, should be the foundation of the art of singing, it being the only mode that trains the voice and gives expression to the passions and kindly sentiments.

To study this method is to convince the mind and demolish all previous theories, wherein the muscles of the throat and breast are taught to do work which will produce bronchitis and other evils rather than voice. This wonderful instrument, the human voice, I repeat, becomes at once performer and instrument. The nervous centre, semi-lunar ganglion, and solar plexus, the great centre of organic life situated under the diaphragm and partly behind the Stomach, and the great sympathetic nerves of vegetable life, have intimate connection with the smaller nervous centres. There are three orders of these nerves: one going to the blood-vessels and other parts of the vascular system; one to the contractile tissue or muscles of involuntary motion; and one to the nerves of organic sensation, conveying the impressions made on the organs. The spinal accessory nerve plays an important part in the Porpora method, it being used in controlling and moving the sternum or chest-bone in respiration, which, when properly arched, acts as a resonator. One of its fellow-roots goes to the root of the tongue and plays an important part in controlling the epiglottis. This little organ is also much used in the Porpora method in damping the sound in singing, and becomes a very important factor, aided by the superior cords in controlling the breath in the lungs till it glows, and then in this elastic condition is sent forth in soul-tinted, mellow tones, vitalized by the inward glow.

The epiglottis stands like a sentinel and does the bidding of the nerves of the spinal cerebral system. The pneumo-gastric nerve sends a branch to the oesophagus, larynx and trachea, commonly called wind-pipe, also to the cardiac or heart plexus, and just here we find the true meaning of music. It is the result of the harmony of our very selves, and is the sense of harmony. The entrance of any emotion, such as fear, renders it almost impossible to sing or pitch tone truly: when we are out of tune in our emotional life. Or unstring our nerves by late hours, loss of sleep or its causes, we are powerless to sing well.

But not to digress further. We find the pneumo-gastric nerve, a recurrent branch, goes to the larynx, and others to the face to exhibit the feelings. This inter-weaving brings the vocal organs into play, with the heart and lungs, with feelings and thoughts, while the main body goes to the stomach and unites with the great centre of organic life or solar plexus, under the diaphragm and partly behind the stomach; but the roots of these nerves are in the cerebellum, the seat of emotion, a receptacle of life. Intensity of thought, anxiety and care, therefore, impede respiration for want of the proper cooperation with the nerves of organic life; hence dyspepsia. The constituents of mind are will and understanding; the upper back part of the head holds the first brain, being understanding and will.

The light, brilliant voice is easily supported by lateral breathing and upper lung action, as it requires but little breath. This kind of breathing is used greatly by the French, who use very little tone-power. This breathing is universal in such singers as Patti, who prefer automatic brilliancy in their art to expression and feeling, that being a secondary condition in the mind of the singer. They make but small demand on those muscles and nerves that reach out to the seat of feeling. In fact, they lack vital contact from the cerebellum to the grand ganglion or solar plexus; without this contact in grand and serious music, all singing appears mechanical and artificial, or merely as galvanized bodies performing. The life is not in them. They may please us as do fireworks, but they cannot thrill us. How then, you may ask, can we be able to bring these varied activities into combined results of fervent voice and controlled breath for song? The answer is simply this: By teaching the pure utterance of vowel sounds consecutively, several times in one continuous breath; this support of the voice is called in Italian appoggiare la voce. The earlier the pupil begins, the better. All little children should learn to sing as a means of health, the pupil learning the exact position of the mouth, lips and throat-opening, for each vowel, which also represents distinct timbre or color of tone. Articulation follows later when the perceptive powers are quickened to watch vigilantly the slightest undirected motions of the organs employed,—jaws, tongue and lips.

There are no perils to the human voice equal to that of abnormal pitch of accompanying pianoforte or orchestra. By vocalization, or nature's own handiwork, as I believe, the vocal ligaments acquire a definite tension which produces a normal pitch for it. To force this voice-pitch higher than true vocal tension, is to attenuate the tones and badly inflame the surrounding parts of the glottis, where all sounds are generated and controlled. It was my misfortune, years ago, to sing a grand aria at a concert, with a piano tuned much higher than normal pitch. It took, to remove the hoarseness and inflammation from my throat, caused from singing with the piano, four months' time, as well as deep study on my part, of “ Hygiene de Chanteur," by Dr. Segond, of Paris. known better as Salviani in operatic circles, to restore my voice, by scientific knowledge, to its natural condition of purity and strength and compass. The doctors thought I had a cold; the professors thought I had simply lost my voice, and there was no help. From Dr. Segond I learned that I had strained the vocal cords. Beware of the high-pitched piano as you would an adder!

I do not believe than any written work on the voice can do more than lead the thought toward vocal development and act as inspiration to study. The vitalized voice of the artist-instructor alone can teach vital contact and artistic control to the pupil, so that he may comprehend at one bound the difference between a physical and a soulful sound, which has true fervor. The singer or writer who can inspire others to learn singing does a good work, but not what he could do if he had the person alongside of him, eye to eye. In learning singing more is done by absorption from the mind of the teacher than by absolute study. That is to say, the mental awakening or apprehension is often instantaneous in the pupil. because singing is, in a large degree, of the spirit. The imagination is often lacking. even with singers of long study and good physical voice; but by a few sharp glances from the inspired teacher, or a biting ejaculation, the mental fog is cleared up, and a beautiful scene is depicted on the mental mirror. It may be a sunset exquisite in color, with brilliant foliage, singing birds. and varied enhancement of nature, which reacts on the tone-quality of the educated voice, giving such timbre as would best paint the summer. Singing is painting with the voice instead of the brush or pencil. To sing without spirit or eloquence is not to sing at all. Mere utterance in similar tones is not painting. because one tone-color could not depict anything. The mere saying of words in one quality of tone would be painting it all blue or all black, or Stating that you did so. It conveys nothing to the mind of nature's truth in expression. This, then, is the great work of the teacher of singing, to draw out the voice in all its beauty and give it to its owner in perfect control.

Every voice locked up, as it is, in the human form, is solo and, sui generis. It rests within its master or mistress, as the case may be, till the brain makes it known. The whole man or woman, and even the little child is the human instrument created with us from the beginning. “The harp of a thousand strings” best expresses it. What a stupendous thought, that we have always had this wonderful gift of song within us, dormant though it be. Having always sung, it never ceases to seem strange to me how people live without singing. To sing: Why that is to live and enjoy life, to be an entity—a very world within yourself, aye! a very universe—to know all that a soul can feel, all that a mind can think, all that a body in all its perfection and beauty can show to prove a divine origin and plan. It is the grand comprehension of all that is heavenly, all that nature brings to us of her grandeur, all that is human in the intellect and soul summed up in sound and song. Yes, the human song-voice holds all the soul’s need of expression within itself. The instrument is a trinity—body, soul and intellect combined. Let us see to it, then, that none be deprived, however poor or wretched, of this great mercy God has given us for our happiness and His glory.

The tiniest child can be taught to sing easier than most grown people, because it is natural to sing. People who cannot sing have not availed themselves of the gift, and therefore are unnatural till they do so. Repression is the assassinator of the human voice in song, the most noble of all that appertains to man; and the greatest power it is possible to wield lies in this much-neglected spiritual resource, the inspired breath in song. All other instruments are imitators of its wondrous. never-ending qualities. in its divine incipiency.

As we each dwell alone in this world. without other companionship in our temples than our individual soul or spirit, with which we hold communion or fail to do so, we can reach out to others only by means of this spirit or soul within us. The better we are acquainted with our spiritual self. the easier we can commune with the spirit of others. The eye tells much, so does gesture, and, at times, so does speech; but all these are less potent to reach out from the individual to others than the voice in song. How-it sweeps at once over thousands in space, where no speech could be heard or understood! But as we one and all. I repeat, dwell alone in our temple and communicate only just so much as we can understand. one to the other, let us try to get at this oneness of comprehension that exists through the one element that can reach out to all humanity, hand to hand, heart to heart, spirit to spirit; then whatever there is of omniscience within us shall grow, so we need not always stand in the dark one toward the other. We must look for the key to this understanding through the element that is given us—vocal music.

First, let us agree that consonants are forms and vocal gestures, while the vowels, although differing a little in different languages, serve the same purpose for all human beings, that is, to convey the feelings of the speaker, reader or singer. The formation of the larynx is suflimently similar in persons of all nations, to give us the right to say they are all alike. There is but little doubt that if the German babe were placed in Italy at the age of two months, it would acquire the same smooth, pure utterance of Italian vowels as a native, provided it did not hear any German utterance at all. The climate would be an aid to this end. Reverse this order, and have an Italian of the same age placed wholly with Germans; it certainly would speak as a German, not as an Italian. Each child’s spirit and individuality might retain by heredity the characteristics of his nationality, but the Italian would have to be taught how to sing and utter through the larynx sounds suitable for song, and to articulate with delicacy every muscular motion so as not to mar pure sound; while the Italian surroundings would obtain such an influence over the German child in Italy that very little more would have to be done for it than for any native. But the Italian child in Germany would not have the same likelihood of becoming a fine singer without much more study of an analytical nature than the other, because his tongue and throat would be full of obstacles to pure tone, and his ear misguided from the cradle. Therefore, we who understand what work it takes to make a great singer out of a German throat and tongue, hearing him sing with the smoothness of voice and delicately-articulated language that we have lately heard, should not refrain from naming such a shining example as Herr Schott, who, for vocal color and pure method, leaves one no point to cavil at, without one descends to malice.

English, although pleasanter and less guttural, is nearly as difficult as German. The English vowels vary by position, depending very much on the preceding and the following consonant. We say there are four sounds of a. The a name-sound has a vanish e, second sound. Ah has none, and is made in that part of the scale or set of tones that favors medium color, not gay, not sad ; therefore, continual training on this vowel in vocal exercises to the exclusion of the others, does not build up a voice for emotion and expression, but simply a voice for the ordinary, quiet thought in life. The quality of tone may be excellent, but without gaiety, sadness, or breadth for grand thought and uplifted soul, it cannot give varied expression in song. The e, long and short, has a tendency to what is light and brilliant. 0 is dark; therefore the o, in order not to be too doleful, must be formed by intent near the teeth for brilliant music, where the E is naturally, with tongue and teeth lightly touching. But to go back to the a in hall, which opens the throat at its widest, and taking the deepest color in it, the voice can give more warmth than a or u (oo). I has a vanish, partaking of ah-e. All these vowels resound at separate points or foci in the mouth, or rather at the hard-palate, easily taught to the pupil by touching the angle or point the sound glances to with ease and vibratory quality. That this is as true as mathematics can make it, is easily proved. The fourth a, as in at, is at the back part of the hard-palate; never changes, is always there.

The mouth must open conformably to obtaining that particular point of resonance, which also indicates the timbre, which will be gay and brilliant and nothing else. It has no contact with nerves or muscles that are called upon for deep feeling, which the will can obtain when needed. The tone personifies pleasantness, and almost mirth and joyousness. To use this quality in church music would belittle the subject.

The purest delivery of tone is the grand desideratum. This occurs only after the skilful automatic articulation has been thoroughly learned, so as not to become in the slightest degree an obstacle to the elastic column of air, which unwinds itself as if from a spool, giving itself out in lengths and breadths suitable to the phrases of the music. These measurements are made by the damping of the voice, done by the epiglottis; not that one has any sensation or feeling, but the pupil does what he or she is told; the result is perfect control of the breath in voice and artistic phrasing, full of grace and expression. This could never be done with a person who has been badly taught to work the larynx and make a shackly effort wrongly called stroke of the glottis, until the habit was broken. All articulation must be made in the mouth; none in the throat, for good singing. The larynx is not in the mouth, but articulation is, for singing. One of our sweet singers who, I believe, never took lessons of a lady, or, if she did, not n English, consequently had, when I heard her last, defects in singing that tongue not noticeable when she sang in Italian. On one occasion, she was singing at a concert in St. George’s Church, from the organ-loft. There is much echo in the church at times; it was so at this time. A lady in front of me asked me to explain to her what the strange noise was that she heard when Miss Kellogg sang.

Her voice was as clear as a bell, but her articulation was so crude that she articulated in the throat audibly. The echo exaggerated the defect, but it was there. I admire the lady very much, and thank her for many delightful hours in the Italian opera, and feel very proud of her for her courage and perseverance. But had she had teachers who knew the difficulties of the English tongue and corrected the automatic bad articulation she used in speech, that hampered every effort no matter how hard she studied to do well, she would stand higher to-day in the world of song. The very fact that the chin, which is the controlling will-power of the voice, supported by the diaphragm and abdominal muscles in proper breathing, was continually moved up and down while she sang, laid her open to criticism from those who knew that her method was bad.

It has been the fashion to overlook the teachers located here, and go abroad. The people of to-day are beginning to look at things for themselves. Spiritual thought is displacing materialism; so we may look for singing of a higher order, and voices trained on truer principles, right here.

The tremolo, so common, is caused by the forcing of the larynx, causing oscillation. This is sometimes supposed to be an ornament, but it is not. It is an excrescence. Those who press the larynx produce it and cannot help it. It is very different from the sacred fire of real feeling, which passes into the tone of a spiritual singer, causing a tremor of electric force to reach out to the entire audience, as if the singer were inspired, for in that the pitch remains true. But a tremolo is always false coming from a disordered larynx, is offensive to persons of good taste and is unmusical to the last degree. It is a mark of crudity and base art. Let it be frowned down.

I have been particularly requested to give an opinion on the work and influence of the conservatory on vocal art. If I say anything at all I must say what I believe, no matter whom it hurts; for if my speaking on the subject were not for the purpose of advancing art and vocal music, why should I say anything about an institution which has come to this country to stay,—because it makes money. What can be said in favor of an institution that universally neglects the primary theory of music and the two cardinal points on which it is based—difference of sound, and difference of value—in its vocal department, and leaves it to chance as to how the pupil obtains it!

A conservatory, as generally understood, is a public place of instruction, designed to preserve and perfect the knowledge of some branch of fine art, as a conservatory of music; and is a word derived from the French in this sense. The Conservatoire of Paris is devoted to the drama and music in all branches. Its scholars are mostly French from various parts of France. To those who reside far from art-centres the conservatory should be a boon. Whether it is or not, is partly what I wish to discuss.

As one of the multitude of those who give a portion of their time while in the full control of their own artistic powers, for concert room, oratorio, or, as in some cases, even opera, to teaching their art, I will take our side of the question: Where should the individual go who desires to learn the art of singing and naturally music? I will say go to the private teacher, by all means, maestra or maestro, of any nationality who loves the art of teaching, who has creative power, who has knowledge grammatical and rhetorical of English, who is well read, who, if not a poet, must at least be acquainted with the poets in several languages, and have sufficient knowledge of physiology to be able to explain and answer simple questions, such as will be asked by most of the intelligent pupils of to-day, who read musical literature, and all should read it. The teacher should have a fine feeling for accent rhythmic, grammatical and rhetorical, or, as I would rather call it aesthetical, which cannot be taught by rules, but depends on taste and feeling. When the words for vocal music are lacking in any aesthetical sense and accent, the teacher should be able to change them or supply a better sentence. In English music, this is an every-day necessity, even in works of very good composers, because they have not studied singing. For this reason, teachers who can only speak broken English should not be allowed to teach American or English opera, oratorio, or songs. They know nothing of the requirements of the language when set to music. The Latin languages are more facile and adaptible for music.

The greatest of all needs is the fine feeling for tone per se; to know tone~quality; to be able to class a voice correctly, keeping it within its natural limits. Articulation alone can designate these limits.

What can give this fine sense? Only great cultivation, either by cumulative heredity or by means of hearing and comparing voices, and aknowledge of the structure of all that appertains to voice-production; knowledge not obtained by books in a theoretical way, but from possession of voice; a voice used in every way possible. A man or woman who could not recite finely a short poem, in order to cultivate the mind of his pupil, and lead on by such means to expression, as well as sing it, had better learn to do so, or be relegated to teaching the tonic sol-fa system to the masses where it may not be required of him.

There are undoubtedly teachers in the city of New York and in all the principal cities of the Union, who can be classed as thoroughly able to fill all that I have said the private teacher of vocal music should have, and many other qualifications not mentioned which really belong to the art of singing; but this 15 all taught by the same person; even to giving them the elementary knowledge of Italian;—a very necessary study, as it aids in forming pure tone, and cultivating the ear of the pupil for the niceties of timbre or tone-color, unimpeded by too many consonants, while the automatic art of intonation is being taught.

The great truth in this art is there is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. The slightest motion of jaw, tongue or larynx, may be an intrusion, and out of place.

I think the curriculum I have given, if one may so call it, will show what the private teacher should do, if able, as our best teachers are, to obtain from $4 to $5 a lesson. But it must be remembered that all comes from one teacher. Now, how is it at the conservatories?

Who can tell us? I will begin with the Conservatoire of Paris, in which I had the honor to go through all the vocal classes, as auditeur, by permit of Auber, who gave the privilege, never before accorded, because I was an American. Alter passing through several classes and noting the manner of teaching, I felt greatly discouraged as to the possibilities of adding to my store of knowledge as a teacher of the vocal art. At last I reached the class of declamation, taught by a thorough musician who had been a great Italian tenor singer, and was every way a model teacher; but his great faculties were handicapped. I wish I knew a better word to express my meaning than that, but so it was; harsh voices, unimproved minds, and ambitious individuals, came to this judicial teacher, who was to decide their fate for the future. To the Lyric, to the Provinces, or to teach—he was the one to say, and from him there was no appeal. I criticised his class. He said, excitedly: “It is not my fault, it is the system; the voices are trained by several teachers, so that by the time they reach me they are half worn out.”

The Academy in London brings out singers—or at least tries to; how many succeed? But when we think that these pupils are suffering all the time with one throat trouble or another; some taking iron—or size, as they call it,—Others having uvula or tonsils cut; all goes to show that there is something wrong in the system.

Now we come to New York and Boston. I know of my own knowledge of voices receiving very great injury, and in other cases neglect. The cause of this in many cases is money. A pupil goes to a conservatory to learn piano or take singing-lessons, thinking it will cost less. The question is put to the visitor: “Well, Sir, or Miss, which teacher do you want; how many in your class? The terms are so and so for Mr. this or Madame that. If and three~quarters of the hour you can sit and listen to the others do the same as you do.” “Oh,” will say the young lady, “I think you charge very high for so little time devoted to me."

“I cannot help that; we have to give $5,000 a year to that teacher for his name, so we consider that the terms, $30 a quarter, for his class are cheap for only four in the class.”

At the present time I know two pupils who spent considerable money and time in a Boston conservatory, taking private lessons there. One, a gentleman, was taught to deliver the voice throatily and nasally; was not taught time, or to count; did not know the syllables of do, re, mi, fa, etc.; did not learn the keys; never sung scales to other accompaniment than the notes be sung being played by the teacher on the piano. He pursued this course for two years.

In this time two songs had been given him, but the words were neglected and the phrasing was without form or meaning. He was dissatisfied and complained to the manager, who offered to take charge of him himself; but the task was too great, even if he knew how to do it, to place the voice, which was nasal and guttural by education. Still he tried to encourage the young man, and urged some of the other pupils to tell him he was doing well. But the pupil was dissatisfied with his voice, and no wonder. The sweetness had all gone. It is too bad, with all the light we have, that a voice should be treated as if all were still in darkness.

A young lady I know went to a conservatory in Boston, and sung her fifteen minutes with three others in the class; but finding no improvement in scales, on the contrary, singing worse at every lesson, she withdrew. Her voice was extremely nasal and totally unformed; she had no idea of breathing except to draw in the abdomen and squeeze the throat. I doubt whether any good could be done in the presence of three other girls, giggling and sneering, if a teacher should attempt correction of the difficulty. When she got tired of singing la, la, she went away. The conservatory people were very kind to her (she was a boarder), and asked her to choose some other teacher; but as she did not like the singing of a lady teacher that they referred her to, she gave up the conservatory. Whose fault was it? When I questioned these two pupils—in no wise related or acquainted with each other,—why they had not done this or that work, such as I required from my own pupils in the first three months, the reply was that they could not afford to go into so many classes, as it would take at least eight to obtain the information obtained from one instructor in private teaching, who taught the old Italian system of voice production and singing. Every pupil in singing using ordinary notation should be taught the key-board of the piano, that he or she may have the occular demonstration of the scale as it changes in position, in different keys.

The greatest fallacy of the age is the idea that a great length of time is required to learn singing. Singing well is a brain-art, and not a throat-gymnastic exercise of skill. When the rational brain understands, the will controls breath and voice-production. I leave it to you to say why a pupil should be kept singing exercises without words, when the principal difliculty in the art of singing lies in the articulation. No scales of consecutive notes should be allowed till the tone produced is good, and firmly fixed in the mind of the pupil.

To sing exercises of several notes before the breath-control is understood, is to foster a bad method and keep the pupil from progressing.

I do not believe this breath-control is or can be taught in any conservatory, as at present managed; because it requires the most assiduous attention of eye and ear on the part of the teacher, as well as an entire sympathy with the desire of the pupil to obtain as soon as possible all that comprises the art of singing in a delightful manner, and suitably represents the noble spirit of song, as given expression by the best composers of music and poetry, through the human voice.

We hear it said by critics (who unfortunately are rarely singers) that one of the pets of the day, whose influence is great in the concert-room here and in London, has a miserable voice but is a good singer. This is an impossibility. His voice is harsh and disagreeable.

George Henschel is not a good singer; his voice is not properly formed; pure tone has not been developed. He is a good musician, but does not understand the instrument voice. He may be a good conductor; but nothing but ignorance of vocal art, or a life unworthy of a singer, could produce execrable tones. Bad, throaty method can so disfigure the voice as to dishonor the singer; wretched quality of voice does not belong to the good man or woman who is healthy enough to sing at all. The teacher, then, should take the pupil to task and exact proper conditions of life from him. Could one use such influence for good in class-teaching? I doubt it. Each voice and the mind of its owner must be wrestled with alone. The amount of mental battling done to bring a pupil up to a proper standard is unknown, and would be incomprehensible to the large number of half-taught teachers, or self-taught pupils. But as conservatories are to be preservers of art, or should be, they should come to some open decision; whether the pupil entering for vocal instruction is to be retained in the entire charge of one teacher till graduated, or be promoted from class to class, as is done in Paris. In any case, the pupil should be told distinctly what method of singing is taught in that conservatory. No conservatory has a right to the name of art-school which has not decided on the method that will be taught there, and until every vocal teacher has proved equal to the work required of him.

Then the public can choose either the clavicular breath-singing, shoulders touching ears; or the Garcia drawing in the abdomen method, an error picked up by him in 1824, in France, which makes the throat do the work, and destroys the beauty of voice by pinching the tones; or by the old Italian deep breathing, which leaves the throat free from all pressure, such as Garcia taught his daughter Malibran, previous to 1824.

The teacher who taught the last named (and only true method of voice-development) would not be willing to teach those who preferred to sing throatily or nasally. Students ought to go to the conservatories which have adopted this manner of teaching pupils to sing; then no dissatisfaction could arise. Let it be printed on every circular. Instead of being able to begin with a pupil in a rational manner, the teacher has a battle to fight against the automatic errors forced upon the pupil by faulty instruction for years. By this time the pupil begins to be disgusted with his or her own voice, and the results of the tuition. It does not make it any better to say that there are just as many errors committed by private teachers everywhere. They are not conservatories of art, but people scrambling to get bread, in many cases. It is a pupil’s own fault if he is taken in, you may say; but it seems to me that an endowed conservatory, such as we have in New York, should be far from anything like charlatanism, which is not the case when they take pupils at certain rates for fifteen minutes' time per lesson. As the other pupils in the class do the same work, it is only fifteen minutes of information to the pupil; therefore it is a matter that should be reformed at once by public opinion. Conservatories for instrumental music I believe to be advantageous; but never for the voice. The conservatory vocal teachers advise the pupils to take private lessons of them, because they know it is the proper way to learn singing as an art, whether for private or public uses. The National Conservatory has been unfortunate in its business affairs, so one of the principal teachers has hypothecated seven of the best pupils, and holds them for unpaid salary. The Conservatory has, therefore, a peripatetic adjunct not intended in its formation.  —Clara Brinkerhoff 

Lecture Delivered before the Polytechnique Section of the American Institute, by Special Invitation, October 20, 1887. Published in "The Voice" in three installments, December/January/February 1887-8. Brinkhoff's mother was a student of Domenico Corri, himself a student of Nicola Porpora. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your comments.