National Association of Teachers of Singing Reviews "Sing Like Never Before" hero

National Association of Teachers of Singing Reviews "Sing Like Never Before"

Posted Thursday, September 16th 2021 by David McCall
The Official Journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Inc., has published their review of Justin Stoney's award-winning book Sing Like Never Before.

This review by Debra Greschner appears in "Bookshelf," Journal of Singing, Vol. 78, No. 1, September/October 2021:

At first glance, readers may categorize this voice pedagogy text by Justin Stoney as less than serious. Whistling birds and a fluffy cloud in the shape of a treble clef adorn the cover, and every second page contains colored drawings. The content, however, is far from frivolous. Detailed, accurate information about the voice and singing is presented in a methodic manner. The visually arresting book is intended as a reference tool, a practical resource, and a source of motivation for singers and voice teachers.

The topics parallel those found in standard pedagogic textbooks, from breathing to vocal health. The presentation of the information, however, is not typical. The volume is organized into ten chapters. Each contains ten sections, and each section consists of exactly two pages. In each two-page section, the recto contains an explanation of the given topic in fewer than 500 words. An illustrated banner runs across the top of the page, and a scroll containing three “quick tips” runs across the bottom of the page, somewhat analogous to the chyron on a television screen. The verso proffers relevant diagrams and illustrations. The format allows the author to present subjects in manageable, bite sized portions. Readers can choose to read the book cover to cover, or skip around.

In the opening chapter, Stoney offers succinct information about the anatomy and physiology of the diaphragm, as well as the different types of breathing employed by singers. There are pithy explanations about the roles of the solar plexus and rectus abdominis, and clarification of “breath support,” which he describes as a “vocal buzzword.” The larynx is the focus of two chapters; the first explicates its anatomy and physiology, while the second explores laryngeal position, vibrato, and glottal resistance. Topics covered in the other chapters include vocal resonance and tone, posture and alignment, registration, and the mouth, tongue and jaw. Performance anxiety, acting, and the emotional and psychological aspects of singing are explored. Stoney also provides affirmation to the reader. “Make a joyful noise,” is the title of the final section, and similar encouraging statements appear throughout the text.

Stoney explains potentially confusing topics in a clear and cogent way. He writes in a conversational style that is generously laced with humor and imagery; for instance, the tongue is described as “singing’s spelunker” for its propensity to retract into the pharynx. The format of the book draws upon several paradigms. The colorful illustrations by Mark Pate give the volume the flavor of a graphic novel, and the appearance of factoids in the drawings are reminiscent of educational series such as The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole. Overall, the layout of each two-page spread resembles a web page, an indication that the book is tailored to readers accustomed to acquiring information from a screen. Readers can access additional content, exercises, and tips on a correlated website.

Sing Like Never Before is part of the new genre of voice pedagogy books that are supplemented with online instructional videos. The volume contains concise, accurate, and well organized information that will appeal to students. Voice teachers will find it a useful addition to their studio libraries as an accessible resource.

Stoney, Justin. Sing Like Never Before: A Creative Look at Vocal Technique & Pedagogy for Singers & Voice Teachers. Traverse City, MI: Mission Point Press, 2020. Paper, xiii, 225 pp., $49.95. ISBN 978-1-950659-75-3.

David McCall

Senior Voice Teacher, Head of Vocal Development

David has become one of the leading instructors of Contemporary Voice in New York City, with clients ranging from Broadway singers (Billy Elliot, Matilda), Classical and sacred music singers, cantors in New York City Synagogues, to Professional Rock and Pop artists, some of which have toured and been signed to record contracts, appeared on shows like The Voice and American Idol, and performed at venues such as SXSW. Additionally, David has taught as a Master Teacher of Contemporary Voice for the NYSTA Comparative Vocal Pedagogy series.

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