JENNIFER LARMORE - EDUCATION PLAN Philosophy
I have been teaching privately and giving master classes and workshops for over twenty five years all over the world, and I have developed a holistic approach which I feel helps the singer to progress in the most natural and advantageous way. To stand and sing musical notes from a score without in depth understanding of the music itself, the culture of the libretto and composer, the back story, the world of the time in which it was composed and the actual text itself is not enough, especially in this day and age when Hollywood has infiltrated our opera world. A singer must learn how to study, how to connect mind, body and voice and therefore feel confident and ready before they step one foot onto the stage and that is where a philosophy of treating the whole singer comes into play. The technique must be solid and strong, but that is not all I focus on, especially with a young singer just starting out. To progress in a good way requires the singer to understand who they are as people and as an artist. I talk to them about their identities, every day life, their ability to learn and study, and I encourage them to make good decisions based on instinct, careful deliberation and what is best for the music itself as it pertains to them as individual artists. They will never progress if they are trying to be someone they are not naturally. Many times, they have no idea that this is precisely the thing keeping them back. It is my job to help them to the realizations they need to progress into the artists they want to be.
When a singer walks into my studio, I strive to create an atmosphere where they feel safe, relaxed and eager to work hard. The result is a consistent time spent giving their best work. Sometimes they walk in with many questions, expecting me to give them all the answers, but I have found that in turning there questions back at them and giving them a chance to work out the answers themselves, then they leave empowered and stronger than when they arrived. That is my goal. To be an International performing singer, one must develop a healthy ego, a strength of character and confidence for the stage. It is my job to teach them how to naturally get to this place in the most healthy and positive way possible.
Each singer is unique and beautiful in their own way, so this means that they will be at varying degrees of progress. It is my job to access what stage they are at in their development and then teach them accordingly. For a real beginner, I will work hard at perfecting their technique, their comprehension of text, language and their ability to perform. I will teach them how to move, how to use their eyes, body and gestures, how to connect the voice, mind and music. The fastest way to get from Point A to Point B for a young singer is to warm up in character. This also has the tendency to be fun, calm the nerves and distract the mind from thinking to be perfect vocally. For a young singer it is all about the Voice and sometimes nothing else. This is a big roadblock to their progress, so warming them up in character brings everything together immediately and in a fun way. I have found that more intermediate and advanced singers have adopted this technique as well because it is so helpful. For the intermediate and advanced singers, it is often necessary to find new ways to say the same thing. They can get bored, lose interest or become frustrated if a certain song or aria is too hard for them. Then it is my job to spark their interest again. I do this through the use of movement, high energy and positive reinforcement. I strive to help the singer find the tools within themselves to be motivated and eager even when the task is difficult. That is the real world of which they so want to be a part. There will be no teacher standing on the stage with them. They will be alone and will need to know how to be confident in any situation and to create the motivation they need to learn
music, memorize text and be effective performing artists. Sometimes I must insist that whatever is happening in their personal lives emotionally be left outside the door when they enter to sing. If it cannot be left outside, then we learn how to use this emotion to the benefit of the singer’s performance that day. It is also a valuable lesson. Singers are not machines, but they do need to be stronger emotionally, in control and mindful of the job they need to do. I help each singer find their strengths and their own natural abilities to cope individually which makes for a consistently better performer every time.
The Master Class situation affords the singer a chance to see and be a part of an ongoing process for many different singers at many different levels. Again, I believe in creating an atmosphere where the singer onstage in the class feels that everyone in that room is also onstage with them. They are not alone and are supported, therefore it is confidence building and they end up giving their best work. Singers are some of the most vulnerable people on this planet, so they cannot stand up, lay their heart and soul out for us and not feel nervous on some level. I bring other singers up onstage during a class to be near the singer, who initially might feel even more vulnerable with so many people in their personal space, but by the end absolutely loves the feeling that an audience they previously felt was hostile, is, in fact the opposite. In some instances I talk to the master class singers about what it means to have an international career, about projecting the voice over the footlights, across the orchestra and into the audience, and we then go forward with this in mind. Depending on the amount of time I have, I like to sometimes “turn the tables” and have the singers critique each other or conduct mock auditions, mock recordings and concerts. It is very helpful to the singer performing but also to the singers listening and making the critiques. I talk a lot about active “Listening” which means paying attention with the mind and not only the body present.
This is a week long intensive class which can focus in on a specific subject such as: 1. The Da Ponte Trilogy
2. Singing Recitatives to tell a story.
3. Preparing for an International Career
4. The Psychology of Performing
5. Lieder and Melodies: Understanding the Texture and Layers of Language
There are many subjects to be explored for the singer in depth and in an intensive way that benefits the singer in years to come. My workshops have been very well attended and received because they are conducted with an enormous amount of energy, involvement and comprehensive study. No singer is left out or not given the same amount of attention.
When giving private lessons, master classes or workshops, I feel that attention to the individual is paramount, I am incapable of teaching each student exactly the same. I believe that each one is unique with their own set of problems, concerns, and assets. Regardless of who I see walk into my class, I am passionate, eager and ready to do whatever I can to help.