Singing feels like a very personal form of expression – and our confidence in using our singing voice can often waver; particularly if we've encountered criticism or rarely use it in front of others. But vocal confidence isn't about swanning around the school singing like José Carreras – although don't let me stop you if that's your bag – it's about using your singing voice as naturally as your speaking voice, in whatever way feels comfortable. Chances are your colleagues will see you as the custodian of singing in your school, so it's your job to share that role with them – and develop their vocal confidence along with your own.
KEEP IT REGULAR
Singing is good for you. So do it often. And get used to singing out loud. Sing in the shower, or the car, and give voice to that earworm. Let children and colleagues hear you singing or humming, and tell them how good it is for the voice to exercise it. Sing regular tasks such as the register and enjoy hearing the children singing back – this also helps with healthy voice projection.
THE POWER OF GOOD PREP
If you're not confident in what you're leading, you probably won't sing confidently either. Carefully prepare your delivery and your repertoire – remembering that music you feel confident singing may not be the same as that for the children.
ENCOURAGE SINGING ACROSS THE SCHOOL
If you are a confident singer but your colleagues need a singing boost, here are some tactics to consider:
- If staff lack the confidence to sing in front of the children, they may well be terrified about singing in front of colleagues. So consider whether a formal staff INSET is the best tactic. Perhaps you can initially do something less formal for smaller groups.
- Offer to help get singing started in a colleague's own classroom. Lead some singing games together initially. Try Boom chicka boom and John Kanaka from the Song Bank.
- If you have a school choir or singing group, invite staff to come and help - or even establish a rota. Try to include senior managers.
- Remember there's safety in numbers! Two people who are confident leading singing will achieve far more in a school – not only by planning together and supporting each other, but also by influencing senior managers and peers. Entice a colleague to get more involved, and build your confidence together.
- By using The Singing School Handbook, schools can find a useful way in to becoming singing schools throughout everything they do.
DEVELOP YOUR OWN VOICE
I had my first singing lessons at 40. They were transformational – and unlocked a decent instrument and a much greater understanding and confidence in using it. Having singing coaching is a brilliant thing to do at any time in your life.
Join a choir! There's no better way to develop your vocal confidence – and there's so much diversity out there: from rock choirs to community choirs to choral societies to symphony choruses.
Ula Weber, Musical Director of the National Teachers' Choir, says she sings with Ex Cathedra choir not only to develop her voice, but because it's her opportunity to make music and not be in charge. Ula and I founded NTC in 2015, and structured it to suit teachers' busy schedules by meeting on three weekends per year. Our members say they enjoy the social aspects of the choir, plus the opportunity to make huge progress in a weekend.
If you're keen to join a more regular singing group, take a look at Big Big Sing's choir map - which includes choirs of all styles and all sizes - to find your local groups.
So the key message is: keep singing! The more you sing, the more natural it will become. And it's okay to let children and colleagues see you're learning, too. Your love of singing will be infectious. So don't hold back!
Baz is a freelance music education consultant, designer and project manager. Previously Sing Up's Programme Director, Baz is a trustee of the Aarya Foundation which advocates for singing globally; and a member of the Music Education Council's singing working group.