Manuel Garcia Sr On Teaching Through Spontaneous Action

One of the tools that I have been inspired by in working with students is the unplanned, spontaneous vocal utterance. I’ve written on spontaneity before, so imagine my excitement when I found a quote on how Manuel Garcia, Sr., used JUST such a pedagogy in working with his singers.

By working in this way, Garcia allowed the student complete freedom of musical expression through the act of vocalization. It also suggests a lack of rigidity or methodology of approach. Once again, the idea of following Nature. He apparently did not bend the voice to his pre-formulated will, but allowed it to be CULTIVATED over time.

What interesting results might this approach yield for us now in the teaching studio? Let’s try it and see what happens! Feel free to leave your observations in the comments section below.

In proportion as the voice of the pupil improved, it was Garcia’s custom to prescribe exercises more and more difficult until every obstacle was surmounted; but he rarely noted down a set of passages for his pupils. His method was to strike a chord on the piano, and to say to them, “Now sing any passage you please”; and he would make them execute a passage in this way ten or twenty times in succession.

The result was, that the pupil sang precisely that which was suited to his voice, and suggested by his taste. Solfeggi exercises, performed in this way, presented a character of individuality, being suggested by the feeling of the moment. Another advantage to this mode of practice was, that the pupil gained a perfect mastery over his voice by dint of exercising his own inspirations, and that he was at liberty to follow the dictates of his own taste without fear or hesitation.

Merlin, Countess de. Memoirs of Madame Malibran. London: Henry Colburn, 1840.