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Applying Alexander Technique in the high school choral rehearsal Parent, Karen Augusta

Abstract

Developing healthy and coordinated vocal technique in adolescent singers is central to choral pedagogy. A singer's instrument is her body, and researchers of vocal pedagogy have increasingly explored the whole system's coordinated use in singing through bodymind awareness approaches such as Alexander Technique (AT). The purpose of my research was to examine the application of Alexander Technique in a high school choral setting to understand how a process of AT lessons in choral rehearsal may benefit students' vocal skills. Specifically, I investigated students' experiences of posture, breathing, and tone production through this process. I also explored, how students' understanding of Alexander Technique principles evolved over the study period. I employed an instrumental case study method to explore the vocal experiences of students in my senior concert choir for eight rehearsals over a period of six weeks. All 58 students participated in approximately twenty minutes of Alexander Technique instruction at the beginning of each rehearsal during the study period. Eight student respondents wrote weekly journals and four of these respondents participated in semistructured individual interviews at beginning, mid, and end points of the study. I wrote observational notes on each rehearsal and on videotaped rehearsals at the beginning and end of the study. Categorical and descriptive analysis of the data formed the basis of a chronological narrative of the findings for the choir and for two students. Through the process of Alexander Technique lessons in choral rehearsals students reported increased kinesthetic awareness and direction in their head-neck-back relationship, which allowed for a release of straining tensions in their jaw, neck, back, and abdominal areas, increased their breath capacity, and facilitated greater ease in sound production, also increasing their sensations of tonal resonance. Students' experience of benefits seemed to correspond with their level of application and understanding of Alexander principles over the six-week study. Benefits to the choir's posture and sound were most consistently evident in vocal warm-ups. Implications for choral teaching include increasing the recall of kinesthetic awareness during rehearsals and applying Alexander principles throughout the year. Cultivation of student attention to their singing habits through reflective journaling and a choral teacher's development of her own kinesthetic awareness of self-use are also suggested.

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