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How Do You Identify and Help a Vocally Gifted Child? (sound added)

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Forum topic by knotscott posted 02-03-2015 08:53 PM 912 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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knotscott

7223 posts in 2842 days


02-03-2015 08:53 PM

This question is WAY off topic from woodworking, but is a question that I could really use some guidance with from the vast resources here who just my have some tips. The youngest of my 6 kids is now a 15 year old young lady. She’s always loved to sing and has always shown considerable aptitude for singing… even when she could barely form words she sang constantly, but always sounded like a cute little kid singing. In the last year and a half or so, that little kid sound has been replaced by a much more impressive sound that we think might merit some additional resources.

I try to be objective, but am certainly biased, so really don’t trust my judgement, though I’ve noted that while my other kids sound “good”, they don’t sound like “Tess” does. I’ve watched enough American Idol episodes of kids who can make a cat cringe from a mile away with their awful voices, yet Mom, Dad, Granny, Uncle Jed, and the whole fam damily are there cheering in full force, convinced that their beloved has the voice of an angel…..I want to be supportive and helpful, but I dont’ want to be ”that Dad”!

How does one go about accurately differentiating between a kid who just sings well, and one who has the talent to sing at a level most of us can only dream of? Resources are pretty tight in our household, so I’m not eager to spend thousands on a lark, but I don’t want that to be the reason she doesn’t reach her potential either….we’ll find away if necessary. She has a very good chorus teacher at school who approached us last spring and suggested that her talent merits some private lessons. He put us in touch with a woman who specializes in young female vocalists. Tess auditioned for her, and got excellent feedback from the instructor. She’s now been taking lessons for a few months. The instructor has been great so far, but there’s monetary gain in it for her, so she may be biased as well. How do you ever really know if a kid has sufficient talent to go beyond what most of us who can sing accomplish with their voices? She loves singing, and seems to devour difficult pieces pretty easily. Aside from becoming an overnight pop star sensation by sheer luck and looks, what types of realistic careers are there for vocalists? How competitive is it, and what else, if anything should we be doing? We’re fortunate to have the Eastman School of Music close by…not that we could afford to send her there, but it does shed loads of talented instructors into our community.

Tips, comments, and hearing about what any of you may done with similar situations would be much appreciated!

Edit 2/4/15:
I figured out how to post a link to a youtube sound byte taken at her voice recital on Feb 1, using a handheld recording device from 30 feet away….not a real slick recording, but with decent headphones you should be able to get an idea of what she sounds like. It’s a song called “Home” from the musical “Phantom” about a girl and her dream about singing on the stage. Honest unbiased feedback encouraged!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK0EK5Y0CQo

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....


16 replies so far

View HornedWoodwork's profile

HornedWoodwork

222 posts in 681 days


#1 posted 02-03-2015 09:00 PM

Youtube. Put her best effort out there and let the world vote. Not every video gets the kind of viral pop that some do, and she probably won’t be a household name by the week’s end, BUT if you subscribe to channels of talented people who have an ear for this sort of thing and ask them to give her a listen you are likely to get honest feedback from people actually able to speak about it, but who have no vested interests.

And it’s totally free.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View smitdog's profile

smitdog

229 posts in 1572 days


#2 posted 02-03-2015 09:55 PM

First off, I am not a professional musician of any sort so take my ideas and experiences for what they are! I have had a few friends in the music business and as a professional printer I have done work for several people in the field as well. So, I have heard a few stories! It can be a difficult field, but what can’t?? I have a friend who’s quite a talented guitar player who has tried “making it” in various rock bands through the years but never managed to get past the bar scene. His son, who is a pretty darn good drummer, has managed to make it another step up and has actually toured with a group but I don’t think he has really made any money doing it, more like barely paying expenses and riding around in a van across the country. I also have family that a group of brothers (my cousins) had a band together, fairly young guys (13 to 18 or so), and moved the whole family out to LA for what was supposed to be a year to see what they do out there, and next thing we new they were back home after about a week!

I think the real problem with “trying to make it big” is that actual singing ability is only a small piece of a complex puzzle to what is “marketable”. That’s why so many talented people fail at it. If she is just passionate about music and is willing to take a more humble roll then your question about what opportunities are out there become vastly greater. She can teach music privately or in schools with a proper degree. She can do theater, Broadway, heck she can sing on the streets in the bigger cities and probably make a living. There’s backup singers that make up a lot of spots, theme parks have actors/singers, cocktail bars and lounges have live entertainment. There’s cruise ships, casinos, even large churches that pay a music minister. If she can write music and lyrics, a good writer has to be able to perform their songs in order to have someone purchase them! And I’m sure there is a ton that I’m not mentioning!

As far as “Is she really talented?” maybe you could save up some $ and buy some studio time (it’s not cheap!) to record a couple high quality demos. Send them to music schools to try to set up scholarship interviews and that may help you find out real quick. They’ll take your money in a blink but they won’t give it away very easily so that should tell you something! Other than that just share them with people who aren’t emotionally attached without telling them it’s your daughter and see what they think.

Other than that hopefully somebody out there has some more experienced advice!

-- Jarrett - Mount Vernon, Ohio

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14167 posts in 3449 days


#3 posted 02-03-2015 10:10 PM

My first step would be to talk to the music department at her school. If that was not helpful contact a local contract music teacher and spend some money for them to tell you how she stacks up. Home that helps.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7223 posts in 2842 days


#4 posted 02-03-2015 11:29 PM

Thanks for the good ideas. I do have a friend with a good ribbon mike who happens to play the piano at church. He’s mentioned recording her before, so that’s probably something we should pursue. Then we’d at least have some decent clips to show off to the people who can help her. I do have some crude phone videos of her on YouTube that I posted for friends and family, but we really need to get some more polished recordings. Her school teacher is already a staunch supporter, and is one of the reasons we think she may have talent….still looking for other qualified sources for guidance and evaluations.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Roger's profile

Roger

19885 posts in 2270 days


#5 posted 02-04-2015 12:20 AM

I think youtube could help. I’ve found many talented old and young folks that have that singing ability. I think it’s the thing of “being at the right place, at the right time” sort of thing. And, that certain someone would have to be knocked off their feet with the voice that he or she knows is the next big thing. Good luck to her, and to you and your family.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9449 posts in 3519 days


#6 posted 02-04-2015 01:48 AM

Yes! I agree with the YouTube approach… BUT, yu must be able to present a GOOD Quality video… with good lighting, audio, and HD resolution… Good accompaniment is also important but over bearing…

Anyone with a camera where a wireless mic can be plugged into it (the only way to fly) and clip the mic onto her blouse, etc. and some lights is all it really takes…

Play with it… Do several songs that she likes the best… setup a youtube account, post them and start spreading the word with Links to a few videos… to light the fire… Keep it up…

Try to be objective… If it really LOOKS & Sounds really good to you & others, GO FOR IT!

... and it shouldn’t cost an arm & a leg… Your current teacher may shed some light on the subject… Just ask making it known that you can’t spend lots of money… Get her spread to the market place… then enter / audition for other things… Musical Plays may be good too… & FUN!

Good luck!

Please keep us posted… we’d like to help criticize any videos you start with… (I would anyway)..

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7223 posts in 2842 days


#7 posted 02-04-2015 02:43 AM

Thanks guys. The future is always an unknown, and I’m sure we’ll know more as time goes by. I just wanted to make sure we’re giving her every reasonable advantage from this point on.

She also plays the French Horn pretty well, and has been selected for just about every Area All State and All County opportunity she’s had….not really as gifted in this area, but is more than proficient so far. Anyone have any thoughts on the importance of playing the piano and/or guitar for getting into a good music school? Alot of the girls in her voice lesson troupe take dance as well, but I suspect that boat sailed quite a while ago.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View JayT's profile

JayT

4786 posts in 1678 days


#8 posted 02-04-2015 03:47 AM

I’m going to offer a bit different perspective. FYI, here is the background this comes from: I was a music major in college and taught band and music theater for eight years. I didn’t have the talent level or interest to be a pro performer, but had college classmates that did and also had a couple of students with that level of ability that chose to try and make a career with their voices. One of those is pursuing a career in musical theater and the other won a national country music competition as an 18 year old competing against other teens and adults. Her victory included a large cash prize and a recording contract.

Vocal performance careers are extremely competitive—there are far more talented vocalists than there are jobs available. For sure, pop music is not all about the voice. There are certainly some talented vocalists, but there are a lot of singers with more talent that never make it. Factors such as looks, style and even luck play a large part in pop music success, much as we hate to admit it.

Outside of being a pop music headliner, smitdog has a pretty good list of other possible career paths. In order to be successful in any of them, I think the #1 requirement is resiliency. Some of the best and most talented performers have egos that are too fragile to take repeated rejection until they get hired for something and are successful. Those that make it are persistent, believe in themselves and are wiling to do the work required to get where they want to go. The girl that won the country music contest didn’t have that and ended up back in her hometown. She won the contest and expected everything to just rocket up after that. Problem was that when the first recording wasn’t an immediate success, she struggled with that reality and didn’t have enough foundation to really build on.

For any career in music performance, the more flexibility the better. It’s never too late to start anything and extra performance skills will help in finding jobs. You mention being too late to start dance, but if you look at openings for places like theme parks and cruise ships, there is a range of categories—dancers on one end and pure singers on the other. In between are “dancers who can sing”, “singers who can dance” and “singers who move well”. Each one is looking for something a bit different. Your daughter may not be able to totally catch up on the dance, but any training can aid in fitting into another category. Musical theater performers and backup singers also generally need to have some foundation in dance.

Almost any music school is going to require piano training. She may not need it to get in, but will probably have to take some piano once there. At the very least, some familiarity with piano is good for practicing—picking out parts and accompaniment lines, for instance. Guitar is OK, especially if wanting to get into the pop/rock/country scene at some level, but unless she really shows interest and aptitude, piano will probably do more good.

At this stage of the game, I would absolutely not do YouTube. Unless she is wanting to be a pop star and truly ready to be right now, then YouTube has a good chance of doing more harm than good. People on the internet can be incredibly cruel—how will your daughter respond if/when her video gets some negative comments? Unless she is very mature and, more importantly, emotionally resilient, then it doesn’t take many negative comments to outweigh a lot of positive ones. Most 15 year olds aren’t ready for that, especially if she’s only been taking lessons for a few months. Again, that falls on those who know her best to make a good decision.

Schedule an evaluation with her teacher for six to eight months in. Be open and honest about goals, expectations and expenses. A quality teacher will be honest with you in return. Some of their students may just want to get better for personal reasons, while others want to pursue a career. If all of you (teacher, parent & performer) are on the same page, then progress will be much faster.

Sorry for the book, but I hope it helps. Wishing you and your daughter the best.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View Paul's profile

Paul

721 posts in 1031 days


#9 posted 02-04-2015 04:43 AM

My 2 cents,

Penny #1 – Stay off Youtube! Your daughter is 15 she doesn’t need the world viewing her and having people dissect her, even if you choose to get it professionally done. She has quite a bit of growing up to do before people tear her down. You can parent to the best of them, You can’t parent the internet.

Penny #2 – Stay off Youtube! We are lucky in the woodworking community that we have. YouTube is very good for us, we look, design, plan, show video’s of our favorite woodworking faces everyday.

How will your daughter handle failure?

This is definitely a dad delima only a father can decide on his own.

Paul

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7223 posts in 2842 days


#10 posted 02-04-2015 12:44 PM

I figured out how to post a link to a youtube sound byte taken at her voice recital on Feb 1, using a handheld recording device from 30 feet away….not a real slick recording, but with decent headphones you should be able to get an idea of what she sounds like. It’s a song called “Home” from the musical “Phantom” about a girl and her dream about singing on the stage. Honest unbiased feedback encouraged!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK0EK5Y0CQo

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8260 posts in 2895 days


#11 posted 02-04-2015 03:42 PM

My feedback is totally unbiased but, totally uninformed. I just listen to music. I don’t/can’t dissect it.
Your daughter has a fine singing voice worthy of cultivation. If not towards a professional career, at least for her and others’ enjoyment. Don’t push her. Allow her to take it as far as she wants.

I too, would not expose her to the internet’s ugliness.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1732 posts in 1436 days


#12 posted 02-04-2015 03:58 PM

Hi Knotscott,

I am a professional musician and a music teacher. I have two masters degrees in music also. I have played many musicals and have heard many singers singing those types of songs (geese, sounds like I’m interviewing here. I just wanted to state my credentials so you could see that this is what I do). Your daughter has a fine sense of pitch, vibrato, and lyrical quality. If she is serious about singing or wants to pursue it further she should look into a private teacher. She is a Soprano, so look for the soprano teacher. But any singing teacher should be able to teach her.

You can find a teacher in a local college/university. Or if they can’t do it, they can usually recommend some of their students or another professional to further pursue what she wants to do.

By the way, I always tell my students who are thinking about a career in music is this question? “Can you breathe without music in your life?” If they answer yes or have another career in mind, then I tell them to just enjoy it for what it is and do it when they can. If they answer “I need it in every facet of my existence” (bear in mind they are teenagers and it can change from second to second). Then they have no choice in the matter. Then they should definitely pursue it.

Also, if she is serious about musical theatre, she needs to not only sing well, she needs to dance, act and sing well. All auditions for shows involve, singing portion, a dancing portion, and an acting/reading portion. So there is that element involved also. And she needs to get used to hearing the word “no” when she auditions.

It is a hard life, but rewarding. I don’t regret it for a second

Let me know if I can help further

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View dbray45's profile

dbray45

3187 posts in 2243 days


#13 posted 02-04-2015 04:06 PM

I am going to offer something that you may not expect -

Be very careful of what you ask – you might get it. The entertainment world is more than what you see, in all directions.

It is abusive
It doesn’t pay – unless you get that one in a million shot
Then it gets more abusive

This sums it up – saw an interview of a a famous performer. It was in a ghost town saloon. The reporter asked why this place – the performer stated that this was not someplace the fans would literally rip the clothes off his body. He indicated that he wanted to be famous when he was young but now his life now belongs to others. For all of the fame and money – you will pay for it in other ways.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View JayT's profile

JayT

4786 posts in 1678 days


#14 posted 02-04-2015 05:10 PM

Kaleb has some great points, so rather than re-type them, I’ll steal ‘em. (Just like I steal good woodworking design)

Your daughter has a fine sense of pitch, vibrato, and lyrical quality.

Agree on this. She has the foundation to develop what is already a very good voice. Right now there is a lack of strength and some breathiness—totally normal with someone this age. With proper training and some physical maturity, this will improve. She will also need to work on improving transitions across the vocal range to keep a consistent sound—again, totally normal for someone without a lot of training. I’m sure the private teacher is addressing these and a good reason to stay with some personal training.

There are elements we can’t see that need to be there, as well, in order to be successful, such as stage presence and facial expression. My educated guess from just hearing the recording is that there is a good foundation here. Believe it or not, that does come across in the voice. Most people cannot produce that lyrical quality Kaleb mentioned without some of those elements being there.

By the way, I always tell my students who are thinking about a career in music is this question? “Can you breathe without music in your life?” If they answer yes or have another career in mind, then I tell them to just enjoy it for what it is and do it when they can. If they answer “I need it in every facet of my existence” (bear in mind they are teenagers and it can change from second to second). Then they have no choice in the matter. Then they should definitely pursue it.

Wise words. I enjoyed music and acting, but didn’t eat, sleep and breathe it, so went a different path. I loved teaching students through music and theater, not teaching music to students. Subtle difference, but a vitally important one.

Also, if she is serious about musical theatre, she needs to not only sing well, she needs to dance, act and sing well. All auditions for shows involve, singing portion, a dancing portion, and an acting/reading portion. So there is that element involved also. And she needs to get used to hearing the word “no” when she auditions.

Yep. One of the big challenges if she goes this route is going to be her “type”. Leading lady sopranos are the largest group of women at any audition. (Leading tenors are the most common for males) That means any professional audition she walks into will have dozens, if not hundreds of women that don’t look too much different and have a similar skill set. There’s a reason that open auditions are known as “cattle call”.

The challenge is not insurmountable, by any means, but it does exist and someone who pursues this work needs to be mentally ready for it. That may also change as she matures. The chair of my college theater department started out as the leading man type and struggled to get roles. A few years, some thinning hair and fifty added pounds later, he fit perfectly into roles for sidekicks, fathers and brothers and worked steadily until deciding to get into teaching. And no, I’m not telling your daughter to become something she’s not. That particular person’s family all had the body type he finally became, he didn’t add the weight on purpose.

Welp, another book. Still wishing you and her the best.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7223 posts in 2842 days


#15 posted 02-04-2015 05:26 PM

I can’t thank you all enough for some really excellent insights that I’d otherwise have no clue about. We’ll see where it leads, and I’ll do my darnedest to support her without pushing her if she doesn’t want to go. So far, if left on her own devices with no other obligations, she’ll sing…..I see singing (music) as a gift from God, and I’d hate for that to ever become anything other than something she loves to do. Thanks again.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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