To Practice or Not To Practice?

Many college-level singers cannot afford to attend expensive pay-to-sing programs during the summer. They need to stay home and earn extra money for the upcoming school year. So my question is, do you practice over the summer? I know that by the end of the school year, most singers need a well-deserved break from attending classes and rehearsals, studying all hours of the night, and spending countless hours in the practice room. Add a part-time job to that equation, and you most likely experience major burn-out once you have survived final exams and juries. But does that mean you take a three or four month hiatus from singing entirely?
I have been on the voice faculties at a plethora of colleges and universities, and I am always amazed at how many of my private students elect not to keep their voices in shape over the summer. Summer is a time for picking up extra shifts at work, hanging out with friends and family, and occasionally enjoying sleeping in until noon. But really, not even practicing just a little? I am completely in favor of some well-deserved rest and relaxation time, but when you return to school in the fall having not practiced at all, you take several giant steps backwards with your technique. I often spend the first three to four weeks of the fall semester reviewing breathing and eliminating old habits that have miraculously reappeared.
How about setting a few goals? At a minimum, if you can set aside a few minutes to vocalize each week, you will be in much better shape once the fall semester resumes. If you are feeling particularly eager, make a list of your vocal strengths and weaknesses. What do you love about your voice? What technical difficulties are still eluding you? Try to set weekly goals for vocalizing to enhance your strengths and improve your weaknesses: breathing, phrasing, dynamics, agility, or sostenuto, just to name a few.
Did your private teacher give you new repertoire for the fall? Why not start learning some of that now? I am always so thrilled when a student comes to their first lesson in the fall with a new song or aria already learned. If you do not have new repertoire, email your teacher and ask for a few suggestions. You do not want to pick something on your own if you have the slightest doubt if it is the proper song or aria for you. Obviously, if you have recently mastered something like Vedrai, carino, you are probably not ready to tackle something like Senza mamma.
Did you record your lessons during the school year? If so, did you actually listen to them? If not, summer is the perfect opportunity to review your lesson recordings. Not only does it validate aurally the progress you made throughout the year, it is also a wonderful review of all the concepts and repertoire you learned. When I was a student, I even kept a journal of my lesson recordings, writing out all the vocalizes, tips for my repertoire, and technical issues that were being addressed. I still use those journals as a resource for my own singing, as well as inspiration for my teaching.
Basically, whatever you can do over the summer, whether it is vocalizing a few times a week, learning a new song or two, or taking lessons from your private teacher, you will start the new school year in a great place vocally. Absolutely take a break from singing, just preferably not a 12-week vacation.


Dr. Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is a Las Vegas-based voice teacher, repertoire consultant, and writer. She is the creator of The LATOUR voice studios, LLC, and maintains a busy studio, teaching both classical and musical theatre genres. She has been on the full-time voice faculties of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Bluffton University. Latour earned a DMA from the University of Southern California and an MM from Boston University, both in Voice performance. To find out more and get in touch, visit