Interview with Lynne Gackle: Summer Institute Sessions (Part 2 of 2)

By Aimee Mell, Unison Editor

We’re so thrilled to have Dr. Lynne Gackle of Baylor University as our headliner for this year’s Summer Institute. Read on to learn more details about her sessions on the adolescent female voice.

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AM: Could you please give us a preview of the sessions you’ll be leading at our summer institute? What topics will you cover? What works might we study or sing in your sessions?

LG: The First Session will be the Adolescent Female Voice: A Framework for Understanding. I’ll discuss research that focuses on the female voice, not just my work, but other study subsequent to that.

I’ll use a power point presentation to cover such topics as:

  • Symptoms of voice change
  • Anatomical reasons for voice change
  • Methods of classification of young voices (according to phases of change)
  • Repertoire considerations
    Basically, I’ll give an “in-depth look” at the female changing voice.

The Second Session will employ a more hands-on approach. For me, the main goal for classifying voices according to stage of development is to determine where we should place the singers within the ensemble. Girls’ voices change just like boys voices though then remain treble voices, changing more in timbre and tessitura: they might be more comfortable singing Soprano 1 at some point, Soprano 2 a bit later and/or alto at another point. So it becomes our job to listen to them and determine what is vocally best for them at that time.  In this way, we can help to enable them to have both a healthy vocal experience and a better aesthetic experience through the developmental process.

There are some choral educators who are very challenged by voice change in their students. I find that male teachers who work with girls’ changing voices are as challenged by the inherent changes in female voices as are female teachers who work with the changing boy’s voice.

Hopefully, we will have some girls at the session, ideally ages 8-15. We’ll listen to their voices and we’ll go through the process and then talk about how we would classify them and where they might be placed in an ensemble. It’s always a fun session for me because I never know who is going to walk in the door, but that is also the real world. That’s what we see in schools and when we are building programs. I hope to make this session as practical and “real world” as possible.

The third Session is entitled Painting with Sound: The Female Voice and Choral Tone and focuses on working with female voices, in general — not just Jr. high and high school, but also collegiate and adult. At Baylor, I have an advanced women’s ensemble and they are 98% voice majors.   This can bring interesting challenges as well.  How do you encourage healthy singing with women’s choirs of all ages?  When it comes right down to it, healthy singing is healthy singing.   What are some descriptors we can use to help people understand what we’re asking for when we’re asking for a certain style or color within a piece? What are some specific teaching strategies for various voice types?  Also how can we help improve vocal tone by moving individual voices around acoustically? Sometimes just physically moving singers can change the color and create the desired sound without the director having to ask the singers to “pull back” or “sing a straight tone,” and so on. We can make some of these changes happen by simply being aware of the vocal colors within the choir and ‘painting with the sound.’

This session is also fun. I will use people in the workshop to demonstrate, and we’ll play with the sound, listen and see what people think. Some directors do this as a matter of course.  It is simply a matter of placement of the voices and knowing what you want and then working to get that sound.
The last session is a reading session: MUSIC FOR AGES and I have everything from music for children’s choirs to middle school, collegiate and some church choir music. There is also gender specific literature. I had to select only twenty pieces, so I tried very hard to cover everything!

AM: I know you are a highly sought-after conductor and clinician. What other travel and performance plans do you have on the horizon?

LG: I’ll direct several All States this year —  in Utah, Mississippi, New Mexico, and California and an Honor Choir in Idaho. In the spring I will be working with two invitationals at Carnegie Hall.  Conducting the All States, and Middle and Elementary Honor Choirs keeps me working with various age groups and I try to stay up to date on the repertoire. I love working with all the different ages of singers and types of choirs because I am constantly learning and feel more “connected” to my singers and to the process.

Otherwise, I love my work at Baylor.  I have the Baylor Concert Choir which is a mixed choir of 85 voices and the Baylor Bella Voce, which is a women’s ensemble of 28 voices. (I’m also starting a Community Children’s Choir in Waco this fall!).  So, I often feel like I have two hats on. I’ve not always worked with college singers, and the perception might be that teaching at the university level is the pinnacle musical experience.  However, I also work with non-majors (about 45% of my mixed choir are non-majors) and even at the college level you are still building voices and often are working changing voices as well. Although the voice changes at this stage are not as dramatic as with the younger singers, the voices of these young adults are still not fully mature and  won’t be until they are in their mid- to late- twenties.

AM: Thanks so much for your time. We are very excited to have you at our ACDA Washington Summer Institute!

LG: I’m looking forward to it!

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