Whatever song-teaching technique you use, it is vital to teach with energy. One of the biggest problems I repeatedly observe when I teach classes and workshops in song leading is people who teach with insufficient energy. Song teachers can follow every guideline and have the most brilliant strategy for teaching a new song, but if their energy is low and they are singing in a lackluster fashion, the students will not learn the song well; they will merely mirror the low-energy teacher. A high-energy teacher, on the other hand, will generate significant energy. In fact, I have seen high-energy teachers break every rule in the book, using little or no strategy, and still have wonderful results. One song leader, a student of mine, sang three lines in Japanese with terrific energy, then asked everyone to repeat them. Normally the results would have been catastrophic. No one would have remembered the first word, let alone the entire three lines, but because of this teacher's remarkable ability to sing with energy and to instill confidence and vitality in her students, the results were amazing. The children were focused.
Just what does teaching with energy mean? It means expecting great things; singing with lots of emotion, sometimes even operatic proportions; singing clearly and exactly—not slurring the melody or stumbling over the rhythm; modeling proper posture while singing, with both feet on the floor, and having good eye contact with the students. Teaching with energy means singing with resonance, as opposed to with a dull, breathy tone; singing with a strong sense of forward motion—not allowing the word phrases to fade away, but helping them build; singing with percussive consonants, as opposed to mushy pronunciations. Most importantly, energetic teaching means understanding the message of the song and its tradition, so you can teach it with a sense of meaning. When a song inspires you, the students will be equally inspired and will learn the song with enthusiasm.
In this chapter and the next, I introduce a wide variety of song-teaching strategies. Have fun with them, and have fun with your students.