Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy
The ‘What, Why and How’ of Vocal Pedagogy with Voice Scientist Kerrie Obert

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Welcome to Voice Study Centre’s course for teachers:  A Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy for the Modern Voice Studio.

Twenty years ago, voice teachers were expected to be proficient at teaching music from the Western Classical tradition with the occasional extension into the Golden Era of Musical Theatre. People who sang music outside these genres often did not take voice lessons or were encouraged to learn “traditional ways of singing” in the hopes that the skills learned therein would somehow transfer to whatever style they preferred. Today’s students know better and expect more. My name is Kerrie Obert, and I am the course instructor for this neatly designed ten-week course.

I was one of those students many moons ago; a musical theatre major who was expecting to learn to sing the music of the stage. But my first college voice teacher insisted I only sing classical music. I should have known upon spotting the ancient Lilli Lehmann voice placement chart amidst the mounds of Schubert and Donizetti scores that I wouldn’t be singing Sondheim anytime soon. I switched studios after my first semester and might as well have committed murder in the building. That voice teacher never spoke to me again.

My new voice instructor, Julie Fortney, was modern, motherly, and she had studied with Berton Coffin and “knew stuff” the others didn’t. Words that were mostly whispered in the night, words like “belting” and “growl,” were suddenly legitimized in her studio. She retired after teaching more than forty years; still modern, still motherly. When I think about what made her modern, even in her final years of teaching, it was her incredible passion for life-long learning. She was and is a breath of fresh air, and she remains one of the most important figures from my life.

Being a modern voice teacher is less about knowing every genre of singing and more about understanding how to deconstruct the latest timbres and styles in order to reconstruct them into a meaningful teaching methodology. The deconstruction process requires knowledge of how the body works, perception and acoustics. The restructuring process includes integration of teaching methodologies spanning neuroscience, psychology, and body mapping. In this course I hope to cultivate curiosity within the voice community by sharpening eyes and ears and words—all in the service of helping others, While this course does deliver the most up-to-date information available, it is my greater hope that you leave with a better sense of how to analyze new information and changing processes so that when changes come (whether they be in the form of new styles of singing or new scientific information)—and they will come, that you will remain relevant in changing world. Your students need you and I want you to succeed.

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Week 1

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
6th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-
Ch.1 & 2
Science of sound

  • Compression/rarefaction
  • Science of sound
  • Period, frequency (sine tone)
  • Amplitude, wavelength (pitch & loudness, dB SPL)

The ear

  • Ear anatomy and physiology (outer, middle, inner ear, eustachian tube)
  • Auditory nerve and auditory cortex
  • The auditory connection to dementia
  • The role of the audiologist and hearing tests
  • Hearing loss prevention and types of hearing loss (conductive, sensorineural, ear infections)
  • Ear protection for the musician
Acoustic Session
• Basic navigation
• Storing and retrieving data
• Locate waveform and frequency
8th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch.3 & 4
(Howell, 2017)
Phonation

  • Complex waves
  • Non-linear myoelastic-aerodynamic theory of voice production
  • Vocal fold onset/mass
  • Transient theory of voice production
  • Standing waves
  • Harmonics
  • Steady-state theory of voice production
  • Formants (Peterson and Barney, Singer’s Formant)
  • Fourier Transform/fast Fourier transform

Psychoacoustics

  • Perception by frequency range (vowel quality, over and under vowel, auditory roughness)
Acoustic Session
• Locate formants
• Identify vowels
• Identify areas with greatest acoustic energy
• Identify the word

Week 2

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
13th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 5

(Moss Erickson, 2022)

The respiratory system

  • Respiratory anatomy and physiology (nasal passage, larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, lungs, diaphragm, ribs, related muscles of respiration)
  • Physics of breathing & relationship to the laryngeal valve
  • Pulmonary tests (flow volume loop, O2 monitor, spirometry) and related terms
  • Breathing abnormalities (asthma, c.o.p.d, emphysema, paradoxical vocal fold dysfunction, dysfunctional breathing/hyperventilation
  • Respiratory medications and their effect on the voice
  • Find your estimated vital capacity
  • Find your estimated inspiratory capacity
  • Discover the relationship of respiration to the laryngeal valve
  • Identify your maximum sustained phonations in breathy and non-breathy tones
  • Identify the longest tone you’ve ever sung and compare it to your vital capacity
15th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 6
(Mccoy and Ragan, n.d.)
Breathing methodologies
• Research on breathing for singing
• Appoggio/Low abdominal (tracheal pull)
• Clavicular/High
• Relationship to larynx height
• S.P.L.A.T.
• Accent Method
Evidence-based medicine/Evidence-based vocal pedagogy
• History
• EBVP steps
• Steps to improve critical thinking
Evidence-based practice
• Review 2 articles
• Work through the EBVP process
• Making a plan

Week 3

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
20th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 7,8, & 9

(Koch et al., 2020)

Laryngeal/pharyngeal anatomy and physiology

  • Endoscopy
  • Laryngeal cartilages, hyoid bone
  • Laryngeal joints and differences in joints
  • Laryngeal/pharyngeal muscles
  • Vocal fold layers & body cover theory
  • Length, mass, tension (pitch, loudness, open/closed quotient, laryngeal height and pharyngeal constrictors as they relate to pitch)
  • Theories of vibrato and normative values

Vocal fold mass

  • Open/closed quotient
  • Laryngeal registers
  • Acoustic representation of mass

Vocal health

  • Body-cover theory
  • Hydration (humidity/environment, drying medications, steam/nebulizer)
  •  Caffeine
  • Throat clearing/coughing
  • Vocal load
  • Vocal hyperfunction
  • Acoustics and vocal health
  • Determine absolute vocal range
  • Determine rate of vibrato
  • Sing in M1 (breathy and non-breathy) M2 (breathy and non-breathy) and in M0 and identify via spectral features
22nd March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 10,11, & 12 Vocal Tract Shaping

Part 1-Velum

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Velum positions (low, mid, high, super high)
  • Considerations for singing styles
  • Vocal health considerations
  • Mask resonance/forward resonance
  • Nasalance versus perceived nasality
  • Acoustic representations of velum
  • Cleft palate, adenoids, eustachian tube dysfunction, and neuromuscular diseases

Part 2-Larynx height

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Larynx height positions (low, mid, high)
  • Considerations for singing styles
  • Historical perspectives
  • Height and medical perspective
  • Acoustic representation of larynx height

 

Part 3-Pharyngeal constrictors and pyriforms

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharyngeal constrictor positions (medialized, neutral, lateral to medial narrowing-LMN)
  • Singer’s formant theories (Sundberg/Bartholomew, Obert)
  • Considerations for singing styles
  • Historical perspectives
  • Pharyngeal constrictor and medical perspectives
  • Acoustic representation of pharyngeal position

Week 4

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
23rd March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 13
(Bartholomew, 1934; Sundberg, 1974)
Vocal Tract Shaping Continued

Part 4-Tongue

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Front of the tongue positions (high, mid, low)
  • Back of the tongue positions (high anterior to posterior narrowing, low anterior to posterior narrowing, no anterior to posterior narrowing-APN)
  • Considerations for singing styles
  • Historical perspectives
  • Tongue and medical perspectives (lingual frenulum, lingual tonsils)
  • Acoustic representation of tongue positions
  • Singer’s formant revisited
27th March 2023 (Obert, 2023)-

Ch. 14 & 15

Laryngeal Shaping

Part 1-False vocal folds

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • False vocal fold positions (compressed and released)
  • Longitudinal pharyngeal constrictors and their relationship to the
  • FVFs/pyriforms/low pharynx
  • Impact on loudness
  • Style considerations
  • Acoustic representation of false vocal fold positions
  • Glottal onsets
  • Hyperfunction and medical perspectives (muscle tension dysphonia)

Part 2-Thyroid cartilage (tilt)

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Thyroid cartilage positions (tilted, vertical)
  • Controversy
  • Style considerations
  • Acoustic representation of thyroid position
  •  Thyroid gland and thyroid disease

Week 5

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
3rd April 2023 (Dang and Honda, 1997; Detweiler, 1994; Feng and Howard, 2021) Extended discussion of articles

  • Critical analysis and application of EBVP steps

Review and practice (in group setting)

  • Onset
  • Mass
  •  Breath
  • Velum
  • Larynx height
  • Pharyngeal constrictors
  • Tongue
  • False vocal folds
  • Thyroid cartilage

Providing feedback using the Critical Response Process
Direct and Indirect teaching methodologies
The role of student autonomy

5th April 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 16, 17 & 18 Fascia

  • Muscle and joint function
  • What is stretching?

Vocal warmups

  • Traditional
  • Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVTs)
  • Load, dosage, and specificity

Vocal fold health

  • Vocal fold zones
  • General appearance (color, edges, width)
  • Stroboscopic assessment (mucosal wave, amplitude, vertical height, closed phase)
  • Organic pathologies (edema, nodules, cysts, polyps, polypoid corditis, sulcus, papilloma, cancer, reflux)
  • Ethical considerations for the voice teacher
Stroboscopic assessment

  • Identify “most-likely” lesion (location, color, size, depth, firmness, regularity)
  • Rate stroboscopic parameters (closure pattern, amplitude, mucosal wave, vertical height)
  • Rate posterior region of the larynx for reflux indications

Week 6

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
10th April 2023 (Obert, 2023) -Ch. 19 & 20 Posture/alignment

  • Anatomy and physiology of cervical spine/neck, torso, hips/pelvis, lower extremities
  • Medical/physio perspective regarding “good posture”
  • Pedagogical perspectives on good posture
  • Identification of postural positions (normal, kyphosis, flat back, swayback, forward head)
  • Discussion of neck/jaw positions
  • Scoliosis, osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis/osteoarthritis, disc disease

Body-based methodologies for posture/alignment

  • Alexander
  • Feldenkrais
  • Somatic voice work (J. Lovetri)
12th April 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 21 & 22 Manual therapy/laryngeal massage

  • Defining the modalities
  •  Methodologies and ethical considerations

Emotional regulation

  • Science of emotion
  • Central nervous system (vagus nerve controversy)
  • Depression/anxiety among performers
  • Music performance anxiety
  • Alba (neutral breath, effector patterns)
  • Michael Chekhov
  • Mindfulness
Alba Effector Patterns

  • Identification of effector patterns in video clips
  • Group presentation

Week 7

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
17th April 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 23, 24, & 25 Acoustic registers

  • Defining acoustic registers
  • Differentiating them from laryngeal registers
  • Acoustic registrations
  • Methodologies (Bozeman, Howell, Titze)

Acoustic strategies

  • Vowel shaping/vowel modification
  • Second formant tuning
  • Passive and active vowel migration
  • Jaw/mouth shapes
  • Style considerations
  • Methodologies (B. Coffin, Doscher, McCoy, Titze)

Extended vocal techniques

  • Types
  • Methodologies (Complete Vocal Technique, C. Sadolin)
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
19th April 2023 (Obert, 2023)-Ch. 26, 27 & 28 Brain and nervous system

  • Brain (hemispheres, lobes, cortex, grey and white matter, corpus collosum, motor and sensory strips, laryngeal motor cortex, neurons, axons, dendrites, mid brain, brainstem, hippocampus, Wernicke’s and Broca’s regions, arcuate fasciculus)
  • Neurotransmitters (those that support neurogenesis)
  • Motor learning and neuroplasticity
  • Songbirds, evolution

Practice strategies and environmental factors to support neurogenesis/neuroplasticity/motor learning

Methodologies/motor learning theories

  • Katherine Verdolini Abbott
  • Heidi Moss
  • Lynn Helding

Week 8

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
24th April 2023 Neurological voice disorders (paralysis, paresis, essential tremor, spasmodic dysphonia)

Common neurological/neuromuscular disorders (Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS, CVA, TBI, Brain tumors

The voice through the life span

The role of hormones and the voice

Working with the transgendered client

26th April 2023 Establishing a safe practice
Setting boundaries
Standards of professionalismIdentifying your teaching type (Know Thyself)Delivery methods (direct/indirect/non-verbal/experiential, imagery, metaphor)Staying in your lane (legal and ethical considerations)
Pedagogy Personality and Practice Assessment

Week 9

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
1st May 2023 Structuring the lesson

Addressing issues

Deconstructing and Reconstructing – Following a systematic approach, moving yourself to use new tools – Testing it out in class with student volunteers
3rd May 2023 Lessons and feedback with actual clients (watching together in class)

Week 10

Date Readings Topics Group Activy
8th May 2023 Lessons and feedback with actual clients (watching together in class)
10th May 2023 Lessons and feedback with actual clients (watching together in class)

Wrap-up

Course Text: The Kerrie Obert Vocal Pedagogy Course Workbook (download available through VSC).

All materials are provided within the cost of the course

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Assessment:

The assessment will consist of a written portfolio and a video of your teaching. The portfolio will consist of a rationale for the exercises included in your video. You will receive feedback on your teaching with further follow-up work where needed.

Qualification:

You will receive a Voice Study Centre certificate and website badge to boost your credentials.

Can I work towards the PGCert or MA instead?

Yes, you can complete the course and then undertake the relevant assignments to gain our fully accredited, internationally recognised Masters qualification. For the PGCert you will complete two assignments and for the MA you will complete 6. For more information on the fees and assignments please view our MA page. Do not forget to check out our student stories.

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Where will the course take place?

Online

What time will the course take place?

You will be part of a cohort and you will be encouraged to work together.

Although consistent attendance is encouraged, you will be able to watch sessions on playback. You will need to confirm your attendance and absences prior to course enrolment.

Course Dates: 6th March – 12th May 2023

Class Times: Monday/Wednesday 10:30-1:00 EST/3:30-6:00 London Time

Cost: £995

Class Instructor: Kerrie Obert, MA., CCC/SLP, E: Kerrie@voicestudycentre.com

Kerrie Obert is one of the world’s leading experts in voice training and pedagogical practice. An internationally acclaimed speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist with over 25 years in clinical and private practice, her love of teaching voice and witnessing the remarkable responses from her clients/students/patients has been the driving force to her success.

Part scientist and part performer, Kerrie’s unique perspective on singing and the voice has always included a combination of research and clinical practice in conjunction with onstage experience. After completing her M.A. in speech-language pathology at The Ohio State University (OSU), Kerrie joined their clinical staff and worked alongside some of the top laryngologists in the country, performing thousands of endoscopies, and collaborating in research as a part of the voice and swallowing disorders division. She helped launch the singing health specialization at OSU and served as the director of medical arts for the program.

As Kerrie transitioned from full-time clinical work to adjunct status to expand her private studio, she began traveling extensively as an invited lecturer, helping clients achieve their singing and teaching goals. As a performer, Obert sang in bands, music directed stage productions, conducted choirs, and worked as a soloist. While maintaining a private studio, she taught contemporary commercial voice at Capital University Music Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, coaching students through the challenges that come with performing live and in recordings.

She continues to collaborate on several research projects with the OSU Department of Otolaryngology and Speech and Hearing Science and is noted for her ground-breaking discoveries on twang quality and tongue root. Her research has included collaborations in Japan, Greece, and across the United States. She is published in peer-reviewed journals such as Logopedics Phoniatrics VocologyThe Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal, and Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and has co-authored four books on voice, including The Owner’s Manual to The Voice. A frequent public speaker, she gave the keynote address for the 2019 Voice Geek Conference in Colchester, England, and was a featured guest for the National Association of Teachers of Singing’s NATS Chat.

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