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Voice Studio News & Fun
June 8, 2020 | Issue #20 | Newsletter Archive
Voice Study: Singing and COVID-19
COVID-19 is spread through droplets in the air, and singers are potential super-spreaders of the virus, due to the strong movement of air and droplets expelled from our mouths as we sing. A small enclosed indoor space increases the risk of spreading disease. We are all still waiting to find out more as scientists continue their research, but it appears that there will be some degree of risk until a vaccine is found.

Here are some good articles with more information about singing and the transmission of COVID-19:

Here is a long and informative video from my professional organization, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, that discusses the near-term future of singing from a scientific perspective.


Your health and safety is the most important thing. It is my hope to get back to in-person lessons as soon as possible, for those who want them, and I will do everything I can to make it safe for us all. Some strategies include having the window open with fans running, for good air circulation; having time gaps between all students to allow the air to clear out and to allow for disinfecting of surfaces; having a plexiglass guard between me and the student and continuing to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet; washing hands when coming and going; not touching our faces; and checking all students' temperatures and screening for symptoms. Students in high-risk categories (or those with family members who are high-risk) should continue to do online lessons only. Wearing a mask is not a good option for our lessons, as it interferes with singing in a way that makes it very difficult for us to be productive in a lesson. There will always be some risk that students and parents will need to acknowledge in order for us to do in-person lessons. I will send some more detailed information whenever we are moved to an appropriate phase of the re-opening, or if we learn more from scientists. For now we will continue to have fun and gain more experience with the online medium, which does seem to be becoming more dominant in all our lives and will probably continue somewhat, even after things go back to normal.

Thank you all so much for your singing and the time we share, which brings me great joy. I will continue to keep you updated as I learn more, and please let me know if you have any questions!
Folk Song Favorites
Lift Every Voice and Sing – often referred to as the Black national anthem – is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1900 and set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1905.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday by Johnson's brother John. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it "the Negro national hymn" for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.

The song is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the "promised land". "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is featured in 39 different Christian hymnals, and is sung in churches across North America.

Finally, this simple a cappella solo recording by John Legend was produced for a virtual commencement ceremony just a few weeks ago.
It is important for us all to recognize the contributions of the African American community to our society, and to educate ourselves about the injustice and trauma that community has experienced, from the slavery of the past to the continuing institutional racism of today.
Name That Tune
Have fun sight-reading these folk tunes! Do you recognize them?
You've Got Rhythm!
Here are some exercises for rhythm practice - grab your metronome and go for it!
Composer Spotlight: Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin ( 1868-1917) was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the King of Ragtime. During his brief career, he wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first and most popular pieces, the "Maple Leaf Rag", became ragtime's first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

Joplin died at the age of 48, and his death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format; over the next several years, it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz and eventually big band swing.

Joplin's music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award-winning 1973 film The Sting, which featured several of Joplin's compositions, most notably "The Entertainer", a piece performed by pianist Marvin Hamlisch that received wide airplay. His opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full, to wide acclaim, in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Read the full article at Wikipedia.

You can't help tapping your toes to these jaunty rags:

  • Maple Leaf Rag, recorded on a piano roll (for a player piano) by Scott Joplin himself!

  • The Entertainer, played on a 1915 piano - this song was used as the theme song for the movie "The Sting."

Watch the Houston Grand Opera perform the entire "Treemonisha," one of two operas written by Scott Joplin.