The development of educational rubrics has been an important topic in the training of teachers for quite some time. Musical rubrics have been slower to develop than those in other subjects. NATS distributes judging rubrics and scoring sheets for their auditions in an effort to provide consistent evaluation of singers’ auditions. Students attending these auditions receive scores and comments which tell them “how they’re doing”. This is the traditional top-down, teacher-oriented way of evaluating singing.
What benefits might one derive from being able to better test and track one’s own singing ability? How can we give singers tools to take more responsibility for the efficacy of their study and practice?
Many voice students have heard the advice “Don’t compare yourself to everyone else, and focus on your own growth.” Yet we have few alternatives to competition rankings, audition scores, and casting results as the primary ways in which to receive evaluation. By using a repeatable self-evaluation tool over time, singers can begin to chart their own progress and work on their issues more logically and confidently, apart from the arena.
The Self-Assessment Protocol for Singers (SAPS) has been developed for recording oneself via audio and video media, using the same tests over time, with directions for documenting the quantitative and qualitative measures. It consists of three main parts.
Part One Specific, genre-agnostic vocal tasks are used to determine the current state of these primary functional domains: • agility – passagework • pitch range – compass and relative strengths • pitch change – using intervals across the range, checking for ease and intonation • dynamic change – including the messa di voce • articulation – including staccato, marcato, legato, and portamento • vowels – intelligible, clear, optimal migration for high pitches
Qualitative questions about one’s overall reactions to their recordings are answered using a Likert-type scale for the responses. Such domains include: • language/diction • expression/artistry • perceived confidence • perceived comfort • posture/alignment
Free-form comments. This could be considered a journal of the overall impressions and notes for improvement.
The benefits of the SAPS include the following: • Students can feel more sure of progress, or the lack of it, and begin to take a self-advocacy role in their vocal study. • Students and teachers can better refine the purpose and progress of voice lessons with clear goals for skill development, leading to “study with” rather than “take from”. • More experienced singers can use the protocol as a starting point to make decisions about criteria for skill development for their own situations and career tracks. • Clearer descriptions and measurements of successes and failures in vocal mastery become possible at all levels.