What Causes Singing Problems?

Or “Oh Dear! Where Did I Go Wrong?”

Teacher of Singing

My private studio is in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I can be easily reached from all over the Triangle.  I teach private lessons in my home studio.

What is Bel Canto?

I teach Bel Canto. Bel canto translates as “beautiful song.” Actually, it is several things.

About Katherine

A proponent of a functional approach to singing, based on an understanding of the nature and physiology of the vocal mechanism. Her teaching brings about a transformative experience leading to healthy, free, and beautiful singing.

Why do I teach singing?

I teach singing because I consider singing to be a tremendously BIG DEAL. There is an ancient tradition that sound is spirit in action. If so, then making sound is an act of expressing the spirit in us. I believe this. Our voices express our very nature and creative power.

Wait! Breathe! Sing!

A short video documentary, detailing Katherine’s teaching style, vocal style, and singing technique along with 10 tracks from "Sweet Harmony" by Katherine Kaufman Posner.

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Connect with me below

Whether you’d like to schedule vocal lessons or follow-up with a question, I’d love to hear from you! Please use the form below to write me a message.

Why is it so hard for us. Why can’t we all just do it? Essentially, the reason is that whatever created us as “noisemakers”, i.e., gave us voices, gave us something else: families. Say again? Seriously, what I mean is that we have a number of factors going against us. Our heredity is a factor in singing, but I don’t think it is a major one. I am not a believer in separating the so-called talented from the un-talented. I have seen too many people start their endeavors (of all kinds) with seemingly limited “gifts” and work hard to produce amazing results. We all have. What we call “talent” is a good thing to have and a definite advantage, but no one should abandon all hope if they can’t show talent right off. If it’s not a question of “drowning in the gene pool”, then what is it? It’s everything about the way we were taught and the examples we had to follow and the sounds we heard and the movement we witnessed. I am not talking about moral behavior; I am talking about how your family talks and moves, the degree of muscular tension used in speech that you heard as a baby, the way the vocal mechanism was used, the way the tongue and lips were used to pronounce. If your parents had a Deep South way of talking, odds are overwhelming that you do too! Accents of whatever kind represent a way of positioning the vocal mechanism to make sound. And there appears to be a virtually unlimited variety of sounds of which the human vocal mechanism is capable. Accents and regionalisms are neither good nor bad qualitatively, but they can be accompanied by muscular tensions which run opposite to good vocal function for singing. Keep in mind that when we talk about accents and regionalisms, we are talking about patterns of speech as compared to what used to be called “Standard American English”. No longer do we hold up a single standard as the only one acceptable for speech, but in singing we still must approach pronunciation with a set of assigned “sound values” for the sake of clarity, best use of the mechanism during the learning process, as well as listener understanding. When you learn to sing with more freedom, you will be able to sing with many “accents”, such as in traditional American or world folk music.

Another factor from your family upbringing is that some people move with a lot of physical tension, some more relaxed. Some people tense their shoulders or breathe in a shallow way (clavicular breathing), or habitually jut their jaws forward. These ways of moving can be passed on through our imitation of our parents and other family members. There can also be emotional or psychological tensions from many sources to be dealt with in learning to sing well. Still another factor in vocal problems is insufficient or inadequate training. Although most, if not all, persons who engage in teaching singing are sincere and mean well, there are cases in which teachers do not have the experience or knowledge to deal with a student’s problems and can unintentionally do more harm than good and create more problems than they solve. And lastly, singers can get themselves into difficulty by trying to imitate another singer they admire. Each person is unique. No two people make the same sound, just as no two people – even twins – look exactly alike. Any attempt to imitate another singer WILL cause a problem with your own voice. In learning to sing, all of the above must be addressed in whatever proportion they are present. A teacher must discern the problems a student has by a combination of listening, experimentation, and interviewing, and then set about systematically to solve them.

My Inspiration

Many talented singers have inspired me over the years, probably too many to mention. There are those, however, that deserve special mention and are listed here:

Sopranos
  • Luisa Tetrazzini
  • Mary Garden
  • Amelita Galli-Curci
  • Alma Gluck
  • Frida Leider
  • Kirsten Flagstad
  • Rosa Ponselle
  • Hellen Traubel
  • Zinka Milanov
  • Dorothy Kirsten
  • Eleanor Steber
  • Birgit Nilsson
  • Eileen Farrell
  • Renata Tebaldi
  • Leonie Rysanek
  • Regine Crespin
  • Montserrat Caballe
  • Martina Arroyo
  • Teresa Stratas
Mezzo-sopranos
  • Gladys Swarthout
  • Jennie Tourel
  • Ebe Stigniani
  • Regina Resnik
  • Christa Ludwig
  • Rosalind Elias
  • Teresa Berganza
Contraltos
  • Ernestine Schumann-Heink
  • Louise Homer
  • Maureen Forrester
Tenors
  • Enrico Caruso
  • Leo Slezak
  • John McCormack
  • Tito Schipa
  • Beniamino Gigli
  • Lauritz Melchior
  • Jan Peerce
  • Josef Schmidt
  • Jussi Bjoerling
  • Nicolai Gedda
  • Jon Vickers
  • Fritz Wunderlich
  • Luciano Pavarotti
  • Placido Domingo
Baritones
  • Tita Ruffo
  • Lawrence Tibbett
  • Leonard Warren
  • Herman Prey
Basses
  • Feodor Chaliapin
  • Ezio Pinza
  • George London
  • Cesare Siepi
  • Giorgio Tozzi
  • Norman Treigle
  • Walter Berry
  • Thomas Quasthoff

A Short Side Story

When I was a young professional in New York City, I was one of four soloists for a church choir.  I, the alto and the tenor, all were from the Southwest U.S.  The baritone was not.
He used to tease us, saying, “When you sing classical music in English, your pronunciation
is perfect. But the moment you stop singing, you fall right back into your Southwestern
twang.”  It was true.

And that is okay, I guess, as long as we pronounce well while we are singing. I have to admit that I worked hard to get rid of my accent and pretty much did.  I can still do it, however!

 

 

 

Reviews

Katherine Kaufman captivated…She gave notice of a major talent.

Los Angeles Times

“The hit of the evening was Katherine Kaufman. Her voiced matched… her ability to communicate with the audience.”

OPERA, London

“…the most brilliant was Katherine Kaufman…strong-voiced, well-controlled and superbly comic…”

Oakland Tribune

A Special Thank You:

I am a disciple of the world-renowned Cornelius Reid, rediscoverer of the principles of the bel canto tradition. I was also was fortunate to study under the great Elisabeth Parham who was a professor of voice at Oklahoma University, and who guided me to a national award in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. I will always be grateful to these two teachers who changed my life and made it possible for me not only to be successful as a singer, but also to teach in a way that enables the human voice to be as nature intended, to function correctly and therefore to be beautiful and free.

Contact me today!
You CAN improve your singing!