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Boy's voice changing a week before Solo & Ensemble

It is my first time to take Junior High kids to Solo & Ensemble in 8 days. A couple days ago a boy's voice started cracking and is unreliable. He has been able to sing high soprano and has now lost a few high notes. His speaking voice is in the tenor range but I can't get him to sing below a middle C! I changed his song to Long, Long Ago because it has a more limited range but it still doesn't sound great. I can't tell him to stay home but I do not know how to help him. Any ideas or advice?
on January 22, 2016 6:30am
Welcome to the wonderful world of Middle School!! He has to sing throught the change to make it easier.  Any Adjucator worth their salt wll understand the adolescent voice and grade accordingly. I don't knohat State you are in but NYSSMA has a "Festival" rating that could be just the ticket for this situation.  If given the chance, talk to the Adjucator and give them permission to use a Festival Rating, if available.
 
Dane Moore
Cattaraugus Little Valley Central School
Jamestown Community College
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 22, 2016 5:21pm
I sometimes think we freak out about this sort of thing way more than the boys do. Has he ever been to solo/ensemble before? If not, it could be that his score won't lower even if he doesn't perform as well as usual. You may know he's not performing as well as usual, but he might not.
 
My advice would be to do what you would do for any student: loudly profess your belief in him. Focus on how he should be proud of his hard work preparing for solo/ensemble. If his score isn't what he'd like it to be, ask him what kind of feedback he got from the adjudicator. If everyone stays positive, he will probably leave the experience proud of himself.
 
You cannot control what his voice does. He cannot control what his voice does. Focus on what you can control: yourself. I once heard it said that a good teacher can make a C on a test feel like a failure or a triumph-dependening on what that student needs to hear. Be the teacher who makes him proud of his work.
 
Applauded by an audience of 4
on January 22, 2016 9:53pm
Thanks guys! That makes me feel a lot better.
on January 23, 2016 4:51am
Whatever you do, please don't make the mistake of thinking he is now immediately a bass.  He is a boy, they are sensitive and fragle, even if they don't come off like that.  Forget the speaking voice.  He's been trained as a soprano so make him sing as a soprano.  Explain to him that his voice will do things now it didn't use to, but with consistant practice he'll be able to navigate the changes - as long as he trusts you, and you make it fun for him he'll keep singing.   There is quite a difference between limited range  and lower range.  Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 24, 2016 9:07am
This is the nature of boy's changing voices. I agree with those who have said that you need to be super supportive and make sure he is completely aware that this is a normal process and that his voice will be going through some predictable changes, but the rate at which these changes occur is unpredictable.
 
If his voice is in the most active stage of change, which is sounds like he is, he won't have low notes yet, because they have not yet developed. This is new territory for him, and it will take him time to adjust. The lower notes will come...eventually. Try using siren sounds, and get him to sing in the upper register with well supported breath and as free a sound as you can help him find. Tension is the enemy. If you can keep him singing comfortably in the upper register and work downward over the shift, keeping the air speed fast, but taking the "weight" out of the voice, that can be helpful for them to learn to negotiate this. Descending 5 note "oo" works well, starting firmly placed in the upper register, and working downwards with the starting pitch by half steps.
 
In the meanwhile, if you are not familiar with John Cooksey's "Working With Adolescent Voices", Henry Leck's "Take the High Road" video, Ken Phillips "Teaching Kids How to Sing" or Patrick Freer's articles in Choral Journal, please seek out these resources, as they are a wealth of information!
 
Good luck to your singer!
 
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