This week in our 7th and 8th Grade Chorus class, we discussed why we experience changes in the voice as teenagers going through puberty. Many students become increasingly self-conscious as they get older, and this is especially true when it comes to singing. On top of that, we have to deal with these physical changes and getting used to our new bodies . . . not fun!
As teachers, parents, and other adults, we can help to support our students by making sure they understand that this is a normal process. Everyone goes through these changes and struggles, and it's just a natural part of growing up. Here are some things to keep in mind and perhaps discuss with your child, if needed:
Our Voices Change Differently
Despite what we might think, both boys AND girls experience changes in their voice during puberty. This is because our vocal folds are growing as our body grows. The only difference is that, since boys' voices end up being significantly lower than where they started, they hear and experience a more noticeable change than with girls.
We also have to remember that our bodies are not all on the same schedule. Some of us start puberty around the age of 11, while others might not start until 14 or 15 years old. On top of that, some of us go through the changes at a quicker pace, while for others it might be a longer process. This is partially why teenagers become even more self-conscious of their bodies and voices, especially when they're one of the earlier or later bloomers. Because of this, it's extremely important to understand that . . .
We Have No Control Over It
For students, this can be a very frustrating reality to come to terms with. Just as we have no control over our eye color, height, or shoe size, we also have no control over our voices. We might want to be the next great Soprano or Bass, but our genetics might make us Altos or Tenors instead. Guys especially feel insecure when they are the "late bloomers," because they still sound like a "boy" when the rest of their peers sound more like "men."
With this in mind, I preach to my students the importance of kindness and understanding. The last thing I want to hear is someone making fun of another singer's voice. We should respect others at all times, and especially in regard to things out of their control.
Be Comfortable in Your Own Voice
This last piece of advice is easier to say, but much harder to do. Students should learn to be comfortable with their own voice and the way that they sound. Additionally, they need to understand that they will start to sound different than they did before, and this is perfectly okay. When singers try to fight what their voice naturally wants to do, it often leads to vocal strain and eventually damage to the vocal chords.
In chorus, we keep track of when our voices are changing so that we can learn to accept and be comfortable with the new feelings we experience. As the chorus director, I also try to keep students singing material that's within their current range. There will be struggles, of course, but through healthy habits and awareness of the changing voice, we can all get through these teenage years more comfortably and successfully.
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