A child who is passionate about learning to sing is a wonderful thing. However, finding the right voice instructor and learning the right voice habits to protect their growing voices is paramount in preserving their instrument for the rest of their lives. Just like the rest of their growing bodies, children's voices aren't fully formed yet and therefore are more prone to injury than adult voices. On top of that, children's lungs are not fully formed yet either, making supporting their instrument property more challenging than for an adult, yet again making it more prone to injury.
Teachers and directors must be careful with young voices as their vocal chords aren't as developed as an adult's chords; children's muscles are not fully developed and they are not as large or flexible. Their resonating cavities and lungs are also smaller. Teaching children the right kind of technique and at the right level is extremely important for the future health of the young singer. While classical technique should be learned only when the vocal chords have properly matured, young singers should begin as soon as possible to learn good, healthy habits to preserve the voice, prevent injury, and prepare for classical training in the future. It is also an good age to begin developing musicality and interpretation. Vocal maturation often begins between 13 and 15 for young girls, usually later for boys.
Dangerous Practices in a Child’s Voice:
1. Any kind of belting, especially with a forward thrusting jaw.
2. High larynx singing, or forcing a child-like sound on a maturing voice.
3. Depressed larynx singing, or forcing an adult sound on a child's voice. This often occurs while imitating pop or rock singers that are adults.
4. Loud, pushed singing.
5. Lack of open pharyngeal space, which protects the vocal folds.
Teaching intensive operatic techniques to children is very dangerous to the future of the child's voice. TV shows often present small children with "impressive" operatic voices. An operatic voice is a mature voice with mature lungs to support it and, unfortunately, a child with an operatic sound will only achieve this through forced and tense depressed laryngeal placement to mimic a more mature sound. It is extremely dangerous and can permanently damage a child's voice. Instead of operatic repertoire, art/folk songs and light musical theater pieces are very appropriate.
Our young students are very involved in performing in Washington, DC. We are proud to teach members Washington National Opera's Children's Chorus, Washington National Children's Choir, the Washington National Opera's Opera Institute, and numerous leads in school and local musicals. Students have participated successfully in ABRSM exams and been invited to the ABRSM High Scorer's Recital.