MMTA NOTES Fall 2019
Fall 2019, Letter from the President


I wish everyone a productive and exciting return to busy fall teaching schedules!

As you may know, registration for Auditions opened a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to take a moment to describe some of the changes.

Problems from the last couple of years have forced us to make a rather dramatic shift in our approach. The main reason for this shift is that we want the registration process to go as smoothly as possible, and the previous system (which had been recommended by other state MTA’s) simply had too many problems. So we are going with the simplest solution possible and hoping that this approach will minimize issues.

Registration will be handled in two main steps: 1) Student registration and 2) Payment. The registration occurs using a Google form (link on our website). We don’t anticipate any issues with this approach since it is a simple and robust piece of software. The main downside is that you have to enter more information manually than before. However, this also means that you don’t have to worry about logging into the website.

Payment is still handled online using well-established e-commerce software. The main downsides are that this process isn’t integrated with the registration process, and teachers have to manually add up what they owe. The VP’s of Auditions and I decided that these were acceptable changes since this approach should help minimize technical problems. We welcome your feedback as we continue to refine this process.

As you may have also noticed, MMTA’s website got a facelift over the summer! We’re very excited about our new look and hope it will be both more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate.

We’re also very excited about a new event at our state conference this year: Collegiate Poster Sessions! They provide at least two major benefits: 1) professional development opportunities for teachers and students, and 2) involvement of future teachers in our organization. Please share this opportunity with the college students and teachers you know. Additional details are provided in this edition of NOTES.

Thank-you to each of you for being a part of our organization, and thank-you for all you do to promote the teaching, learning, and involvement in music throughout our state! We are all crafting a legacy that impacts the lives of thousands of students. I hope you find inspiration in the work that you and your colleagues do each day.

As always, feel free to contact me to share ideas or express concerns. I appreciate your involvement in MMTA and look forward to seeing you in November!

Musically Yours,
Robert D. Carney, DMA
President, Missouri Music Teachers Association
Associate Professor of Piano, Chair of the Department of Music, Southwest Baptist University
Sharon Parker, VP for Local Associations and Collegiate Chapters
P lease mark your calendars for the MMTA State Convention to be held November 7-10, 2019 at Missouri State University, Springfield, MO. Our Collegiate Chapter Luncheon will be held on Friday, November 8 at 12 noon---location TBD. Click here for more info:  We want to invite all collegiate chapter members and their advisors to this luncheon as guests of MMTA. RSVP to – number of those attending will be needed by October 15, 2019.

NEW to our State Convention this year--- Collegiate Chapter Poster Session.
(Please see info above.)

The Matching Grants Guidelines and Matching Grants Application documents are available on the # website –the deadline to apply is February 1, 2020. Matching grants are available for local associations to apply on a biennial basis. If you have any questions, email Sharon at
Note from the Editor
Greetings! This month’s issue features an article on diction for singers by MMTA member and University of Missouri voice professor Steven B. Jepson. I admire Steve’s work as a pedagogue and a performer, and I hope you will enjoy reading his thoughts below. 
I love to hear from our members! If you would like to contribute an article to NOTES, send me an email at . I look forward to seeing many of you in Springfield this fall.
This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of  Classical Singer Magazine  and is reposted with permission of the author. For the original posting of this article, including links to video examples, see .
Make Diction Understandable – and Entertaining! From Singers Diction: A Tailored Approach for Modern Times – Part IV of VI
Steven B. Jepson, Assistant Teaching Professor in Voice, University of Missouri
  • Use of multimedia for illustration/humor
Diction is usually considered a dull subject, usually focusing on the correct understanding of rules, rather than the practical application of those rules to improve understanding and interpretation. There are a lot of “wrong way/right way” examples from YouTube and other video platforms which I utilize, but I always stress that these are not meant to shame, but rather to illustrate that correct pronunciation is key. Some examples include:
  • The Mari Lyn video of Una voce poco fa with subtitles
  • The “How things are said in German compared to other languages” videos
  • The “Ken Lee” Turkish Idol video
  • “My name is John Daker” with subtitles
  • Rhabarberbarbara” (great for German compound words)
  • “For Scent-i-mental Reasons;” a Looney Tunes Pepé LePew cartoon with made-up French (through this, my students learn the “other” definition of “AVEC!”)
  • Diction – oriented memes, developed by fellow diction “nerds” and posted in various Facebook groups
Again, these examples are chosen to entertain AND to illustrate common issues we deal with when approaching various languages for the first time. Of course, I will always use “tried and true” examples of quality singers (Fischer-Dieskau, Quasthoff, Pavarotti, Freni, Flagstad, Bernac, Souzay, etc.), with a discussion on what the student  hears  (and occasionally  sees ) a singer doing. I also throw in some occasional “wild card” considerations:
-            Is a singer native or non-native? What does the student perceive to make that choice? What particular reasons can they give?
-            Native singers “breaking the rules” (ex. Pavarotti with open/closed [e/ɛ])
-            Variants of accepted diction ( Français soit/Français coeur ; Weinerisch; etc.)
  • Basic understanding of common grammar in each language/common words
There is a major difference between understanding and properly pronouncing a language, and fluency in that language. As singers, it is obviously beneficial to take language courses; in some schools, voice majors are required take at least a year of each of the three major languages (Italian, French, and German). Fluency is not achieved after only a year, although a student can gravitate to one language over the others for further study. However, there is no reason why basic grammar cannot be taught within a diction class.
Due to the internet, it is possible for a singer to have a career without ever opening a foreign language dictionary, or needing to look through the Nico Castel books for a translation. Again, acknowledging that we are working with a  tool  for current and future use, it is important that we give students as many tools as possible for their success.
I believe it is important to teach basic grammar in diction in order for the student to:
-            locate the verb in a sentence, and know whether it is in a particular form (as compared to the infinitive)
-            understand how accent markings change the meaning of a “small word” (In Italian, {e} = “and”, compared to {è} = “is”)
-            recognize common forms to signify between singular and plural (in French, -s added to common words indicates plural)
-            understand common sentence structure in each language to help with interpretation and diction variances
-            understand the poetic flow of each language (the “foot”), and when  it does not apply  (as in French)
In my class, each student has a goal to develop a lexicon of 10-15 words commonly found in classical art song in each language; they must understand the meaning of each word  and  be able to pronounce it correctly. The words are their choice, and I check at the end of the course to see if they are correct in meaning and IPA.

Presentations in each language
Towards the end of the course, students are required to sing/recite in each language in class (recitation is for students who are not singers). After each piece is performed, any pronunciation issues are discussed and students are encouraged to comment, but must keep their comments positive and to the point. This is also helpful for Education majors - the ability to give criticism in a positive and helpful manner will be important in their careers. However, this can also be a tricky situation, especially if you are also a voice teacher on the faculty (as I am) and a student is following a different pronunciation structure given to them by their teacher. It is important before teaching these courses to ensure that the other members of the voice area are aware of your teaching “style” to avoid confusion. The students’ teachers are always welcome to view the class presentations.
My preference for students is that they write the IPA into their music; it’s not required to transcribe the entire piece, but trouble words can benefit from some transcription. I have found that the most common error is not adhering to the rules for specific sounds or words throughout a piece. Remember, you are concentrating on the diction, not the musicianship. It is preferable that the piece be well-polished, but we are working on one aspect of the whole (diction), and focus should be on that element.

Laura Wiebe, DMA
Assistant Professor of Music
Central Methodist University