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Lehigh Valley | Easton, Pennsylvania

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"One needs a voice teacher to learn singing technique, to solidify his singing foundation, and to add more delicate techniques as he continues his progress. Strengthening, training, and stamina-building are taught and drilled in the voice lessons. A voice teacher suggests and assigns repertoire; first, as a learning tool, later as a showcase to be added to the student's own portfolio."

Sing your own voice!

Ever since You Tube has become the go-to choice for self-promotion, many, many videos of the most talented and gifted child prodigies have shown up across social media platforms. Likes, dislikes, and praise- along with critical comments- have made such videos viral, and some have even crossed over to the television network headline news.

Video: Sample number 1 of a child who sings her voice

Having avoided- way back when- becoming a child star myself, and now as a musician of more than 25 years- as an opera artist and a voice teacher- I feel legitimate enough to share my professional opinion.

In watching these You Tube clips of young children- often singing something they are far from being ready to sing- I noticed they all have something in common: they are all trying to sound like someone else. None of them sounded like children at their actual, physical ages.

While an audience is wowed by a young "talent," and the parents are in tears of joy, these people have no clue that through their cheers and support-their well-meant intentions- they inflict even more injury on a delicate young body already hurt through self-inflicted pain.

Whether she sings Christina Aguilera songs or Giacomo Puccini's aria O mio babbino caro from Il Trittico -Gianni Schicchi, if she is 9- 10- 11- or 12- 13-years old, this is indeed a bad thing.

At this young age her body is still growing, and not everything is fully developed. Singing a piece that was written for experienced professionals simply can do harm to a young body.

Christina Aguilera in her 20s did not sing the way she sings today at the age of 32 (that's what she said). Career opera singers do not approach arias that do not suit their voices until they have "grown" into them, have already secured their singing techniques, and have gained a lot of experience under their belts.

Little League players do not play in the Pro Baseball World Series; instead, they play within their own category.

If a little girl sings O mio babbino caro or other opera arias, she will not have a long "career" as a child "opera" star.

Some great composers wrote operas with singing parts for children, but if one is a musician he will see that these parts are written with the intention of having children sing as they are- with their own voices, to sing as themselves. The role of Miles- the young boy- the leading part in Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, is a good example. This is the part of a child, not that of an adult singer role that could be performed by a child.

Gian Carlo Menotti wrote a wonderful Christmas favorite, Amahl and the Night Visitors, in which the title role Amahl is to be sung by a boy. The audience is so touched by the little boy Amahl, and by his mother, that they often leave with their eyes moist with tears. I have been in a production where the boy role was replaced by a soprano. She sang with a straight tone like that of a child, but the sound wasn't right. This kind of casting is just as inappropriate as children singing adult songs.

Recently, there was an incident where an 11- or 12-year-old child star performed The National Anthem- very poorly- at a professional sports event, causing quite a controversy. Reactions came from everywhere.

Why did they think that she was singing badly? I watched the clip, and right away I detected the problem.

She could have easily sung the Anthem as a girl aged 11 or 12 could sing it- with her pretty voice. Instead, she chose to sing it like her idol. It was obvious that she adores Aguilera. What she may not have known is that to sing and sound the way Aguilera does today, the pop star's voice has been around for a long period of time. She has the maturity, the skill, and the experience.

I felt that the young girl was a victim: Not because people got upset with her, but more because she lacks proper direction and guidelines. I understand how exciting it can be when parents discover their child is some sort of a prodigy- enough to let them dote on her and her talent, giving her a tremendous amount of support for days on end. Yet parents are responsible. This is your child whom you need to protect and not harm, and you need to do your research, especially when you not aware.

I was curious enough to look this girl up and found that she's been doing the singing thing for a few years and has her own digital store where she sells her songs. She plays the keyboard and, if I'm not mistaken, she wants to compose. Good for her: I really admire that a girl at this age already knows what she wants to do, and with such determination. I listened to the only clip left on the one store Web site. (I suspect the rest were taken down after the criticism.) It wasn't bad at all! She still sounded like a 9-year-old with a lovely voice, which is the way it should be; although, there was already some evidence of Aguilera imitation. It is clear that she needs proper guidance and proper voice lessons (please note, not "singing lessons") to build a solid singing foundation upon which she will be able to rely for as long as she wants. There are many truly good responsible voice teachers out there who can teach, protect, and prevent; her parents need to know enough to guide her to one.

As for the controversial National Anthem, the girl gave an interview at a local radio station, where she said she was a "bullied singer." Injured by the hurtful words of unkind adults, she was blinded by her lack of knowledge and was too proud to find out what she did that really caused such strong reactions from the public. I don't like it that she felt she was being "bullied," but at the same time I wish that her parents could protect her better by educating themselves in the field of music education and passing that knowledge on to her. Then, not only would this incident not have happened, but she would be able to keep her naturally pretty voice which would continue to develop as she grows more mature.

Video: Sample number 2 of a little girl at the age of eight. - She sang her voice.

If she hadn't stayed true to herself, but chose instead to imitate her idol, we would not have been blessed with her voice much later when she became a fully grown adult singing at The Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera, among many famous opera houses. In case you don't recognize her, this is "Beverly Sills", one of the greatest of all American sopranos.

Parents and other well-meaning people: please understand that when your child owns one of the most gifted of voices, you don't want to wreck them. Instead, give them the most wonderful gift a parent can give: preserve their precious voices by guiding them though the proper channels.

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