Author: Joel Snyder

An Update to the Website

Hello Everyone,

It has always been my goal with this blog to offer helpful information and resources for those involved in singing, performing, and teaching, as well as keep you updated on my life and musical work. I think that has been accomplished over the past several years. However, you all deserve even more!

In the next few weeks you may see some changes to this website.  I will be adding some recordings and hopefully some other cool things too. Stay tuned!

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Voice Recital 2017 Program

Hello All,

My recital is one week out! On Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 pm (First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo, I’ll be singing my heart out to some pretty awesome music! Accordingly, here is the program. Since it reflects my musical tastes, you’ll be feasting on a smorgasbord of musical genres, including baroque and romantic music, Irish and American folk music, choral (and Christmas!) music, and vocal jazz. You’ll be missing out on some amazing music if you don’t come!

I

Thus saith the Lord/But who may abide from Messiah (George Frederick Handel)

Et in spiritum sanctum from B minor Mass (Johann Sebastian Bach)

II

The Vagabond from Songs of Travel (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

Whither Must I Wander from Songs of Travel (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

La lune blanche luis dans le bois from La bonne chanson (Gabriel Fauré)

Jared Montgomery, Piano

Intermission

III

Danny Boy (arr. Joel Snyder)

When I’m in the Storm (Joel Snyder)

Josh Moran, Guitar

IV

A Basque Lullaby (Dan Forrest)

Salvation Has Come to Us (Joel Snyder)

Concentus: Cara Gross, Bri Rigozzi, Sarabeth Brown, Savannah Gonsoulin, Ryan Block, Andrew Miller, Mathieu Hastings; Jared Montgomery, Piano

V

The Way You Look Tonight (Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern)

Let’s Fall in Love (Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler)

Ryan Block, Piano

My Upcoming YA Urban Fantasy Novel!

Okay, so this blog is primarily concerned with music-related things, but I’m just so excited about this! Several years ago, I began writing a novel about a monster hunting family. School got in the way, but I finally finished it and am sooooooo close to publishing it. Here’s the plot summary!

When a vampire shoulders John into the boy’s restroom at his new school and tries to snack on him, his first instinct is to fight back. But with the undead, punching and kicking just won’t cut it. Thankfully, his new friend Donovan’s Gift is killing monsters! Discovering that John is Gifted too, Donovan invites him to join his family of Hunters. John hopes he’s found the family he’s always longed for…

Though born into Hunting royalty, Donovan’s younger sister Corinne is constantly overlooked. Small, thin, and lacking the Gift, she learns instead to weaponize her mind…Dark tensions fester beneath the surface of her family. Her parents play favorites, Donovan sneaks around with a girl from school, and her uncle antagonizes the Hunter’s Council.

In Hunter lore vampires thirst for blood first and think second. So why are these vampires always one step ahead? And who’s hunting whom? A tale of magic, mystery, mayhem, monsters, and martial arts!

How to Choose a Voice Teacher Part 3: Beware the One-Sound-Fits-All Teacher

Those who look for a voice teacher often love to sing specific genres. Many enjoy musical theater, for example. But they also love other genres as well. I have taught students who sing rock, country, jazz, folk, celtic, choral, and opera.

This is not a problem for me, as finding the student’s best natural voice is my ultimate goal. Once the singer masters the fundamentals of healthy technique, they can apply it to any style of singing. I encourage students to bring in repertoire that they want to learn, with the caveat that I reserve the right to say that the particular piece might not be the best fit for them vocally.

Many voice teachers, however, do not share this philosophy. There have been times when I can guess who a singer studied under, not because of the student’s mastery of technique, but because that teacher’s students all sound the same. Often, they sound exactly like that specific teacher.

This is especially true when the teacher is a classically trained voice teacher. Don’t get me wrong; classically trained voice teachers are great. I am one. Due to the nature of classical singing (something I should go into in another post), these teachers possess a deep understanding of the vocal mechanism. That is good. However, this knowledge can lead to a rigidity of thought or an arrogance that says that no other style can be “good” singing. Unless you want to always sound like a classical singer (which is not necessarily a bad thing), avoid this type of teacher.

The uniqueness of the voice necessitates that each voice sound unique. That’s profound, I know :). What it means is that I believe in bringing out the unique beauty of every voice. Some voices are light and flexible, so I try to bring that out. Others are big and powerful or warm and rich. Each voice has its own particular strengths to be developed and weaknesses to be fixed. A one-sound-fits-all approach simply will not do. In fact, it can hurt the student’s voice, or just make them sound unnatural.

A couple more observations and then I will finish. Sometimes the mental rigidity is on the side of the student. Many singers have difficulty singing well in more than one genre or they are mimickers, so they turn into carbon copies of their teacher. A good voice teacher will discourage the student from mimicking his or her exact sound. Students can either be a mediocre copy of their teacher or a great masterpiece of themselves.

It’s okay to master one style, but I want my students to be able to experiment in more than one style. The more styles one can sing, the more marketable one is. It opens up opportunities. It’s like adding more apps to your tablet. The more it can do, the more powerful it is. I practice singing in multiple styles: jazz, folk, choral (jazz, pop, and classical), and classical (baroque, classical, romantic, and modern periods). If you come to my recital on Nov. 18 (shameless plug:)), you will hear the fruit of this.

I hope this somewhat rambling post is helpful to you as you look for a voice teacher.

(Image is in public domain)

I’m singing a Solo Concert at First Presbyterian in Kzoo!

I will be performing a solo concert at First Presbyterian in Kalamazoo on Nov. 18! I’m very excited about this. It gives me the opportunity to perform rep that I’ve always wanted to perform and to show different sides of my musical personality. There will be a bit of something for everyone. I’ll be singing some solo music by Handel, Bach, Fauré, and Vaughan Williams, some choral music by Dan Forrest and me (an original piece!), and even some vocal jazz.

Most excitingly, I’ll be performing with some wonderful musician friends that I got to know at WMU. Western is a truly amazing place where you meet talented, dedicated, hard-working musicians who aren’t trying to compete with each other all the time. It’s a place that believes you can succeed by lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. Western isn’t even paying me to say that!

It will be a benefit concert, but I’m still working out some of the details on that. I’ll let you know once things are finalized. If you’re free on Saturday evening, Nov. 18, please stop on by First Presbyterian!

Life Update October 2017

Well, it’s that time again: time to let the world know what is going on in my life. I’m excited about finishing several projects, some of which have taken years to come to completion!

Non-fiction Book on How to Sing

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to write and teach about singing. Helping students sing more healthily is a passion of mine. It is something I’ve worked long and hard at for several years. Through that time, I distilled the main elements of healthy singing into four easily understood categories. Most vocal problems can be reduced to one or more of these singing fundamentals.

Well, I finally put these awesome materials down in writing! I’m polishing some things in it and making helpful how-to videos that will make this book even more useful to the beginning singer. This book will enable the beginning singer to gain a clear understanding of the voice as an instrument. It will also help voice teachers who want to know how to teach beginning singers. My goal is to publish this by the end of the year.

Young Adult Fiction Novel

Yes, you read that right. I’ve been slowly writing my first fiction novel. I would have finished it sooner, but school and other priorities tend to take precedence. Thankfully, the book is nearing completion as well.

The book has it all: an evil conspiracy, monsters, hunters, lots of action, and martial arts! Ultimately, though, the book is about family, and how the choices they make impact their lives. I also plan to publish this soon!

Solo Singer Benefit Recital in November

I’ve wanted to sing a recital in Kalamazoo for a while. Now, I’ve made time to do it! I will be raising money for charity at the concert by singing a lot of different repertoire. There should be a little something for everybody. I will be performing jazz, choral, baroque, classical, and other styles of music. A lot of great musicians will be joining me for this event, so the music will be stellar. I will announce dates and what we’re raising money for soon. Stay posted!

Choral Extravaganza Next April

I have been working with several choirs in the south-central MI to host a benefit concert in April 2018. I’m really excited about this, as it accomplishes several things I’m passionate about. I love helping people, and I love collaborating with talented, motivated individuals. More to come on this as we get closer.

Regular Work

I’m also continuing to teach voice lessons and martial arts, conduct the West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts Kalamazoo Choir, lead worship at Calvary Baptist Church in Quincy, and direct the Branch United Youth Choir in Coldwater. Life is busy, but good!

 

How to Choose a Voice Teacher Part 2: What Do You Want out of It?

In a previous post, I wrote about pitfalls to avoid when looking for a voice teacher. Knowing what to look for is very important, because there are a plethora of bad ones out there. Many teachers don’t know what they are doing due to either lack of education or experience. Some are lazy. Some find that it is easier to have low standards than than to push someone to excel.

It is incumbent upon a student to find the right teacher. This can be difficult, because the right teacher for someone else might not be the right one for the student. One of the first things to do is to decide what you want out of the lessons. Accordingly, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before you start looking:

Question 1: What Specifically Do I Want to Get out of These Lessons?

Many students go into voice lessons without a clue as to what they want to accomplish. This is a problem. How will you know the teacher can give you what you want if you don’t even know? Determine what you want to get out of the lessons.

Here are few beneficial goals: 1) You want to sing higher or lower than you currently do. Some teachers are very good at range extension. Ask them how they would teach this. 2) You want to sing with better breath control. Using breath properly is fundamental to healthy singing. 3) You want to sing that one song that you just can’t quite work up by yourself. A good teacher will tell you what skills you need to sharpen in order to perform it.

Question 2: Will I Get Along with This Teacher?

Due to the one-on-one nature of voice lessons, the student’s personality must click with the voice teacher’s. If the student or the teacher is not comfortable, the lesson will suffer. The voice is a temperamental instrument, and it will close up if there are personality clashes.

Question 3:  Do I Want a Teacher Who Will Push Me or One Who Will Make Me Feel Good?

Some teachers are better a pushing their students to new heights of skill. They know what the student needs to learn in order to be a better singer. Some are very talented at affirming. You feel good after a lesson. Figuring out what you want in this regard is crucial.

The pushy teacher might not be warm and fuzzy, but she will not be lazy. You will grow in skill in a short amount of time. On the other hand, the warm, affirming teacher might be able bring out more emotion in your singing. You will grow as a singer, but it will take longer to master skills. On the other hand, you will possibly feel more confident.

It should be said that this is more of a spectrum than a firm set of categories. Still, most teachers will fall more on one side or the other. Deciding which you want is crucial to choosing the right voice teacher for you.

Conclusion:

I would like to end with a personal anecdote. I find that I learn best from teachers that are not as affirming, but are good at increasing my skills. I like to know that I learned something in my lesson. I once took from a teacher that was emotionally warm, and yet this teacher failed to teach me specific, attainable skills. Because this teacher was more emotional, this teacher was sometimes emotionally unstable. This was highly destructive to me as a singer. I found that I was dreading my voice lesson, which is a horrible place to be. A little while later, I took from a teacher who was emotionally stable and focused on building my abilities. Through her wonderful training, I mastered singing in my high range and low range. She helped me seamlessly transition from my high range to my low range, as well as a bunch of other skills that I needed.