Faculty Spotlight: Natalie Pitchford

Fine Arts teacher Natalie Pitchford attended The Contemporary and Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory.

Lovett's endowed summer study and travel funds allow faculty to take advantage of professional development opportunities that might not be feasible during the school year.

Fine Arts teacher Natalie Pitchford attended The Contemporary and Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory. Upon her return, Natalie offered this reflection:

I had the privilege of attending a summer vocal pedagogy institute with a primary focus of physiological vocal function, from basic to advanced, and how it relates to a teaching environment. The sessions I attended focused on Respiration, Phonation, Resonance, and Articulation. While the courses did spend quite a bit of time on anatomy of the larynx (mostly the cricothyroid, thyroarytenoid, interarytenoids, and lateral cricoarytenoid), as much if not more of the time was spent on practical application and listening in a pedagogical environment.

The course differs from other vocal training methods because it is solely focused on vocal function — fact-based, research-based, science-based function, with the allowance, inclusion of, and respect for continuing research studies. Our learning included a trip to a cadaver lab on campus where we inspected (and handled) cadavers and their vocal tracts. We also handled pre-dissected and removed human heads and larynxes. This was impactful on many levels, but to see and understand the vocalis in such a way is something that will stick with me for my entire life.

There are several ways my learning may be beneficial to Lovett employees especially, and even more for Fine Arts instructors. I benefited from and am excited to share Marci Rosenberg’s (The Vocal Athlete) motor learning principles, which she presented from the research and perspective of her career as a Speech Language Pathologist for singers with injuries or pathologies at the University of Michigan Vocal Health Center. Her methodology focuses on cross-training certain physical and cognitive functions to achieve optimum results; it is directly applicable to musicians (or anyone learning a new physical skill or movement).

An even more direct application for Lovett employees, especially coaches and classroom teachers, is Ms. Rosenberg’s instruction of semi-occluded vocal tract exercises as they apply to vocal fatigue and injury. Many of the patients in her practice are classroom teachers who have chronic issues with overuse and hoarseness. I am excited to share these methods with my colleagues.

Finally, I had the great honor (and challenge!) of being one of four singers performing for my colleagues in the keynote masterclass presented by Mary Saunders Barton, emeritus professor at Penn State University and author of Bel Canto can Belto. I specifically worked on safe belting and use of chest voice in an upper range so that I can bring these techniques to Lovett students in a way that I have personally felt and experienced. Ms. Barton was presented with Lifetime Achievement Award from Shenandoah University at the completion of the masterclass.

While the CCM Institute is focused on contemporary and commercial singing, its teachings are applicable for all manners of voice teaching; in fact, most of the teachers at the institute were of a primarily classical background and seeking to become more relevant to the needs of their students in the present-day music industry. I am so grateful to Lovett for this opportunity to expand my practical teaching, in specific and broad manners.

The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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