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Structuring singing class curricula in the education of professional vocal artists process


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Jerković, Berislav. (2018). Structuring singing class curricula in the education of professional vocal artists process. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Pedagogy.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij pedagogije) [mentor Rojko, Pavel].

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Curricular reforms and education system improvement processes strongly affect all constituents thereof, including the area of musical art. The omnipresent curricular activities are a clear example that all participants of the curriculum recognize and accept its philosophy as a flow of constant educational changes, supplementation, system state analysis and adequate reactions. Over centuries, the processes of training professional vocal artists have been systematically developed, adapted to time, artistic and social needs, and differentiated, thereby establishing characteristic national schools and stylistic directions. The professional vocal artist should be distinguished by vocal qualities and multiple professional competences that are simultaneously the starting points of a modern vocal school. The vocal curricula of today often fail to meet the set program goals and display lacking content elements, thereby hindering the acquisition of characteristic competencies commanded by contemporary vocal art. In conclusion, the existing curricula need to correlate with the needs of the art scene. The paper seeks to identify the structural elements of the current study curricula of vocal classes, attitudes and opinions of actors participating in the vocal education process, and to propose measures, contents and methods for the improvement and modernization thereof as well as alignment with the needs of professional activity. The theoretical part analyzes theoretical approaches, the structure and methodology of curriculum development, vocal education and vocal classes. It also provides a historical overview of the development of vocal art and vocal pedagogy and analyzes relevant educational documents, syllabi, and didactic-methodical literature. The research part presents interviews of renowned singers in an attempt to find the characteristic information related to their educational experience, comparisons with education and systems of art and work in other countries. Here proposals are made for concrete measures and suggestions for improving educational and performing practices. Vocal students were also surveyed to collect standardized information on existing curricula, methods, means and forms of work, artistic activities, characteristic study relationships and influences. The conducted research provided information and conclusions that can enhance the higher vocal education and be useful to all system participants by providing guidelines and standards for structuring a quality, modern and purposeful vocal curriculum. This doctoral thesis is structured in two parts: the theoretical and the empirical. The theoretical part consists of four chapters: Theoretical Determinants of the Curriculum, Vocal Education, The Vocal Art and Vocal Classes Curriculum. The empirical part comprises the chapters Empirical Research Methodology and Discussion, as based on research results. The introduction states the reasons for examination of the selected music pedagogy topic. It identifies the research problem as a pedagogical question that is without precedent in the musical education practice in Croatia. Emphasis is put on the limited educational possibilities of the common approaches to vocal classes built upon early vocal school principles. It also underscores the need to address systematically the methodology and structure of vocal class curricula as the key issue in the advancement and modernization of professional vocal education. The curricular approach and the ideas and principles of this multi-pedagogical discipline are singled out as the optimal path of possible solutions for achieving the desired study goals and attaining professional competences and qualifications of academic artist-singers. First chapter, titled Theoretical Determinants of the Curriculum, reviews the historical and terminological determinants of the curriculum, the conceptual differences and the points of convergence between the curriculum and didactics, as well as the theoretical approaches to the studying of the curriculum. The chapter elaborates on curricular concepts and the curricular types, i.e. forms. The multiple possibilities and levels of curriculum application are analyzed considering the need to create the fabric of educational standards (curricular frameworks, national curricula) and thereafter the further curricular elaboration on lower institutional levels. The chapter establishes methodological procedures and curriculum development models with an emphasis on applying and respecting common, universal and methodologically-specific, i.e. professionally relevant requirements and needs of curriculum development. The second chapter, Vocal Education, clarifies the idea of education and provides an overview of the historical development and tendencies of educational processes. Chapter elaboration continues with the analysis of artistic education in Croatia, i.e. the analysis of the musical education system as the basis for understanding the thesis research topic. The key determinants of vocal pre-studies and studies are compared to their European Union counterparts, thereby demonstrating the advantages and disadvantages of our musical education system. The chapter analyzes in detail the levels of secondary vocal education and vocal studies, critically evaluates the current educational materials and the respective structure of syllabi and study programs for musicians-singers. The analysis also addresses vocal curricula in terms of learning objectives, tasks and outcomes, vocal competences, the contents of educational materials, curricular and extracurricular activity and obligations as well as other curricular elements and determinants. Lastly, the chapter identifies the disadvantages of the current vocal curricula and its many deficiencies. The latter concern primarily the curricula of musical theory subjects and the insufficient correlation of such subjects with the principal artistic discipline – singing. Educational materials show observably unrealistic setting of learning outcomes, as well as the insufficiently emphasized and elaborated teaching tasks oriented toward practical vocal activities and the public artistic activity. Chapter titled The Vocal Art outlines the evolution of vocal music, vocal schools, the emergence of solo singing and the analogous educational programs. To complete the historical overview, the chapter discusses the 19th and 20th century periods, i.e. the establishment of the autonomous musical and pedagogical discipline – vocal pedagogy, and its essential auxiliary discipline – vocal science. The chapter also summarizes the development and characteristics of national direction of vocal schools and describes the profiling of internationally accepted vocal standards and criteria as well as model elements in the structuring of contemporary vocal curricula. The fourth chapter, Vocal Class Curriculum, presents the analysis of the modern and the traditional determinants of vocal classes. Familiarity with vocal and technical determinants is underlined as the basis for the impostation of a professional singing voice, as are the physiological and anatomical aspects of the human voice as well as the main functions of the vocal instrument. The chapter expounds the transformation of the human voice into a vocal instrument, the adoption of technical bases and principles of artistic singing, the use of voice registers, elements of lingual and tonal articulation and familiarity with voice classification, categorization and vocal repertoire. These elements are subsequently correlated with working methods in vocal classes, following which an overview of the main approaches to teaching and learning singing is presented along with the various vocal concepts, teaching strategies and procedures. The empirical part of the thesis interprets the research results obtained by surveying students and interviewing renowned artists-singers. The chapter Empirical Research Methodology describes the research problem and topic, outlines the objective and tasks, and delineates the research procedures and instruments. After presenting the research sample, it defines the structure of respondents (students and professional vocal artist). The chapter formulates research hypotheses and questions, and details the processing of research data. The area of vocal education is “uncharted territory” in the framework of professional musical education in Croatia. The research objective was thus to establish the determinants of the modern-day vocal class curricula and to correlate them with the current needs of the professional artistic calling by proposing measures, methods and content for modernizing and advancing the vocal education process. Research results in both respondent groups allowed the determining of structural elements of vocal classes, realistically attained competences, the success in achieving learning outcomes, the level of adoption of essential vocal skills and knowledge, the criteria and standards of vocal success and other positive and negative aspects of vocal education at the higher education level. The data were collected via surveys and interviews conducted in the period between September 2016 and January 2017. The research sample included the surveyed students of four music academies in Croatia and the interviewed domestic and foreign artists with successful soloist careers. The latter were selected for their excellence and high artistic achievements as evaluated by the public and their professional peers. The surveys examined the adoption of characteristic vocal skills and knowledge; the attained vocal education outcomes, the evaluation of the importance and student satisfaction with current teaching subjects as well as the attainment of the ultimate goal of education – professional vocal competence and autonomy. The views of students were examined in view of individual aspects of vocal education: vocal studies curricula, the teacher work, the future professional calling and the students’ own vocal work and engagement. Renowned artists were interviewed for their expert views and reflections on the vocal class curricula. The processing of data identified the key terminology and categorization. These then projected the main curricular determinants that are reflected as levels of the vocal education organization, structural teaching elements, contents and activities, learning objectives and outcomes, teaching processes and methods, and vocal success evaluation processes and criteria. Processed survey data were used to calculate statistical parameters for research variables: arithmetic mean, standard deviation, and the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for factors, subscales and totals of respondents. Factor analysis, Pearson correlation coefficients and variance analysis were applied as statistical methods. Interview data were processed by means of descriptive qualitative analysis. The analysis of empirical matter established and defined numerous key terms reflective of the multiple levels of interviewees’ perception (as relevant experts on vocal art) of the research topic. Final conclusions were formulated by interpreting the obtained terms and categories, and substantiated by the characteristic statements (quotes) of the interviewees. The chapter Conclusion synthetizes the theoretical examinations and the empirical research results. It proves and demonstrates the existence of the need to upgrade, advance and modify the existing vocal curricula at the higher education level in Croatia. The thesis found that the views, opinions and suggestions of students coincide with those stemming from long years of artistic experience of eminent singers. This indicates clear, factual and realistic needs, interests and tendencies in professional vocal education. Moreover, the thesis offers a number of proposals. They include the introduction of new or the modification of existing subjects, the introduction of new work methods and teaching content, a more significant presence of current and professionally relevant vocal topics in vocal classes, intensification of performing activities and a more pronounced correlation of musical education and professional art organizations as partnership units in the realization of vocal projects. Concluding remarks indicate the need to continually familiarize and refer the participants of the vocal education system to standardized processes for development of vocal curricula. This implies comprehensive familiarity with traditional and contemporary determinants and aspects of vocal education and classes, vocal art, pedagogical science as well as the actual social circumstances underlying vocal studies. The potential issues of structuring the vocal curricula arise in the prescriptive constraints of educational regulation levels that presuppose formally unified documents that are equally structured methodologywise for all artistic and scientific areas. Within the framework of education, the success of structuring singing as a musical discipline that possesses traditionally and precisely determined aesthetical values and principles depends largely on respecting its artistic essence and performative specifics. Structuring of vocal class curricula should be conditioned by the principles of functioning and understanding of vocal art and broader aspects of the vocal profession. Ultimately, curricula should be tailored to the specific objective of the study program and articulated as relevant statements of vocal achievements, i.e. parameters of success. The conclusions of the thesis underline the need for vocal curricula to contain a range of operative, elaborated constructive elements that are part of the whole of a document, yet also show characteristics of curricular subsystems, whether explicitly elaborated data, recommendations and standards or implicit contents of the document. Curricular subsystems are observed as deficient elements of vocal curricula. Therefore, deducing from research conclusions, the present curricula, the curricula of vocal activities (both curricular and extracurricular activities), the curricula of public cultural activities, the curricula of professional orientation and the curricula of professional training of teachers should be structured and incorporated into the whole of the vocal studies curricula. In closing, the thesis argues that the optimal method of structuring efficient vocal study programs is the curricular reasoning and planning of educational processes that rests on comprehensiveness of constructive determinants, the flexibility in its development, the modification of curricular elements, evaluation procedures and targeting competence. These are all characteristics of an open and modern approach to professional artistic formation. The existing issues and deficiencies of vocal education are surmountable by implementing the concept of an open, highly individualized and personalized curriculum. This is owed to the fact that a more liberal and flexible selection of content, activity and methods of teaching and the overall artistic work facilitates prediction of all needs and all (positive and negative) educational influences with the aim of students achieving vocal excellence.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: curriculum, vocal art, vocal pedagogy, vocal music, vocal science, professional singers, open curriculum, individualized curriculum
Subjects: Pedagogy
Departments: Department of Pedagogy
Supervisor: Rojko, Pavel
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij pedagogije
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2018 07:53
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2018 07:53

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