One growing concern in today’s educational world is fitness. With child obesity on the rise, many parents are looking for activities that are healthy, fun and that promote a high self esteem. With the best of intentions, many schools push students toward sports and physical exercise.
However this can be demoralizing for many students if they are not talented in sports, and can be very embarrassing to publicly lag behind, while their peers are excelling. The solution to this problem is of course to find an activity that is both physically healthy for the body, and that comes naturally to the student.
If the child enjoys music, can sing on tune, and has a basic feel for rhythm, formal vocal training can be a very good option. The principle of proper bel canto singing technique (Italian for “beautiful singing”) promotes healthy habits such as good posture, abdominal strengthening, aerobic breathing, stretching, and of course vocal health. Studies say that proper singing can also enhance respiratory health, and can boost the immune system .
Most good voice teachers will insist that students practice these techniques daily, so to instill muscle memory. In doing so, students are sure to breathe deeply and aerobically for at least the duration of their practice session.
Posture is also a topic too often neglected in main stream education and culture. With heavy book bags, improperly sized desks, and extended time on the computer, the back is constantly curved in an unhealthy position. Additionally, muscles are contracted in ways that can restrict breathing. Studying a good singing technique can repair bad posture, and can lead to more confidence in the way a student presents himself.
Successful voice lessons can also be a great self esteem booster. By encouraging creativity, focus, and self awareness, students of voice learn to express themselves. They can also become more comfortable in their bodies. For singers, the body is the instrument, so when they learn to respect and value their instruments, students learn to respect and value themselves.
If parents are interested in finding voice lessons for their children here in the greater Harrisburg area, there are a number of options for contacting a voice teacher. One idea is to talk to the choral teacher at the child’s school. Chances are he or she has had quite a bit of vocal training and could teach voice lessons on the side. He or she may also know of some professionals in the area that teach voice.
Parents in South Central Pennsylvania can also go to the “National Association of Teachers of Singing” website and click on the “Find a Teacher” link to search teachers in our state. NATS offers wonderful opportunities like singing competitions, concerts, and field trips in which students can participate.
Another strategy is to contact one of the following colleges, all of which have music programs. Depending on the age and ability of the child, a college music student would be a very good beginning voice teacher. Since college students typically charge less than more seasoned voice teachers, this can be a cost effective option as well.
Some colleges in the greater Harrisburg area with music programs include:
Dickinson College (in Carlisle)
Franklyn and Marshall College (in Lancaster)
Messiah College (in Grantham)
Millersville University (in Millersville)
The Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg College (in Gettysburg)
York College (in York)
In short, formal vocal study can be a great option for students who are musically inclined, and who are looking for a healthy after school activity. It can lead to healthier life habits, confident self expression, and higher self-esteem. Whether a student pursues music professionally, or merely uses it as a creative outlet, it is a worth while art that has many long lasting benefits.
 (“Singing Leads to Better Health”; Medindia November 30, 2005; October 15, 2010.