Vocal Edu Series (5): A Complete Vocal Experience
by Stefan Rheidt, originally posted in August 2012
August 15th, 2012
Wednesday. ICE 104 on the way to Frankfurt/Main Airport. I’m on my way to Copenhagen, where I have been studying singing for one year now. Stefan Rheidt, 52 years old, choir director – yes, that’s me – I have gone back to school again. It’s not that I don’t have a degree: I am a jazz music graduate. No, I’m learning for my life. Or, to be more exact, for my profession. And what’s even better: All of what I’m currently learning, I can make use of immediately.
Be it a soft “Neutral”, a moanful “Curbing”, a shouting “Overdrive” or screaming “Edge”, all modes of singing add so much to my work with choirs, that even untrained listeners realize, how the sound changes. The terms “Neutral”, “Curbing”, “Overdrive” and “Edge” are the pillars of an innovative singing and teaching method called “Complete Vocal Technique” (CVT), taught at The Complete Vocal Institute based in Copenhagen.
The little downside: To become a CVT teacher, you have to travel to the CVT headquarters based in Copenhagen, Denmark. However, not only the Danish go there: My 13 fellow students come from Iceland, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands and Germany, most of them board a plane for their way to school. The reason is: CVT is groundbreaking and unique in Europe. As opposed to the past, vocal technique was merely taught by classical musicians for classical music, CVT offers the full spectrum of sounds the human voice can produce. That’s why for three years we are going to meet six times a year for four-days onsite learning periods.
So here we go for school year no. 2: After we had learnt to teach singers in our first year, this second year is all about presenting CVT in lectures. So we memorize the so called “Presentation Manual”. In English, which is the language during all lessons. It comes to show that we Germans are the bottom of the table as far as English as a (actually not so) foreign language is concerned: The three of us are regularly stammering and stuttering on our quest for the right words and explanations whereas the Scandinavians and Dutch seem to sing and talk almost accent-free. Anyhow, it’s all about singing, and singing is clearly a global thing.
August 16th, 2012
Thursday. The first lesson starts at 10am. Our homework for today included to sing a song, that our teachers had specifically chosen for us as a special challenge. I “won” “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. So the first thing to do is to check out the song on YouTube. Until today I liked myself interpreting my favourite jazz ballads in a most individual way. Which doesn’t help me the slightest bit in this case, because now “Heavy” is on my to-sing-list. And screaming with an effect called “Rattle”. Not sure if I’m going to enjoy this. However, my colleagues seem to like it, they want to see more of my “evil side”. Together we invent a hopeless scenario and I shout out my (invented) frustration. I am rewarded – like all my fellows – with warm applause.
August 17th, 2012
Friday. Today we got back our written tests from school year number one. We weren’t given marks, but we have to rework the problems we got wrong. That’s the way it works here in general: We are not being graded, but mistakes are not allowed to be made without properly reworking the respective topics.
In the evening we attend a special lesson by CVT director and founder Cathrine Sadolin. Research keeps going on and we and some of our teachers are brought up to speed. Today’s topic is the vocal flageolet. Cathrine and her team of specialist have constantly done research on that topic and we are being presented the newest results.
August 18th, 2012
Saturday. The focal point of our education is teaching. CVT has developed a quite sophisticated system, which addresses different types of learners. There are tipps and tricks for everyone, we teach each other and learn to give feedback, that is truly valuable. This doesn’t only sound good – it really works.
In the afternoon we are taught on a very interesting subject: To teach things that we ourselves aren’t capable of. There are tricks to do that, too, and it’s not about cheating, but about being very professional. Which brings us in the mood for the next seminar: Only very few of us have sung in a classical way. So next time we will be confronted with doing exactly this, the next but one time we will teach classical singing. How can this work? I have no idea, but up until now, everything here worked out fine, why not this time, too?
August 19th, 2012
Sunday. It’s the last day of this workshop period. Everybody is pretty tired today. One of my female colleagues is asked to sing a classical aria, but being tired she is unable to hit the high notes. We spontaneously decide to bring forward the lunch break, so that she finds some time to regain strength. And guess what, after the break, it all works out fine including the high C.
Wrapping up the time in Copenhagen, we assemble for a feedback session. We Germans are surprised to find the otherwise laid-back Danes to complain about the fact that courses often start late. We end up for a final beer on the square in front of the school. Final hugs follow and everybody disappears to their home countries and to everyday life. See (and hear) you soon, in six weeks, to be exact.
August 20th, 2012
Monday. No school today. I have decided to stay in Copenhagen for one more day to finally get an impression of the city. Right now I’m sitting in the Royal Library, enjoy the silence and finish my report. The Library, called “The Black Diamond” is a successful mix of old and new architecture. A dignified building with ancient wooden shelves full of old books, that opens up in the direction of the harbour with a glass front and offers a spectacular view of the harbour and the surrounding buildings. Copenhagen is worth a trip – that’s one thing that is for sure.
Stefan Rheidt, based in Teningen-Nimburg (Germany) is a musician, music teacher and choir director, who graduated from Swiss Jazz School in Bern (Switzerland). He sung with Jazzchor Freiburg for more than a decade and now works with jazz and pop choirs like Vocalise and PopVox in Germany’s South West. If you are interested in CVT lessons and workshops, don’t hesitate to contact him through his website.