Back in February, twelve students and myself participated in Manhattan Concert Productions Parade! Performance at Lincoln Center. In one of the final rehearsals, Tom Murray asked the basses to say one at a time the word “guilty” in a voice that was dramatic, perhaps loud, but strong and resonant. One by one we went down the line and the rest of the 200+ person choir imitated it. A slight surprise to me, when I said it in my typical basso prof undo voice, many of the choir reacted with positively, and Mr. Murray referred to my speaking voice several other times throuout the weekend.
When I was first formulating my teaching philosophy, one of my main goals in teaching was to always demonstrate. Unlike instruments, it is hard to describe to a vocalist how you should feel physically while singing – it isn’t as simple as the basic use the three fingers on your left hand to play a G on the saxophone. When I start teaching a new group of students some of the first topics I address are posture, breath support, tall vowels, and resonance.
I’ve learned that while I have several analogies that I share with them about what resonance is, I’ve now developed the alias of the Berry Factor. I ask students to sing fuller and “add more BF” and it seems to click. It’s always been odd to me how you can phrase things different ways, but it takes one particular wording to sometimes understand it. I’m glad I’ve found that tool, and will continue to demonstrate for the choirs this concept through singing using “lots of Berry Factor.”