Last Monday, we had the wonderful opportunity of welcoming Kristin Zaryski to Ithaca College for our first ACDA workshop this year – “Bel Canto Solfege.” Ms. Zaryski is not only the high school choir director of Ithaca High School, but also an IC alumna. Her workshop taught us how to go through a step-by-step process of teaching solfege to students while singing beautifully, as they acquire different techniques and series of pitch and rhythm patterns that help perfect their solfege skills.
The first techniques that Zaryski taught us was her “In the Air” method, which goes through all the hand signs for each solfege syllable. One key factor for your students to be successful is to show the height of each hand sign in order to have students sing more accurately in tune. Practice melodic patterns of familiar tunes without telling them, because in Zaryski’s words, students will have that “Aha!” moment after they recognize the song and will feel a sense of joy and pride for achieving the correct solfege. Another fun idea that Zaryski introduced was an “In the air” rhythm game, where the students will start off by counting 1, 2, 3, 4 out loud, and once they have that in their heads, they will whisper it with their arms out to the sides. In the measure after, the teacher would clap a rhythm, and after one measure in between, the students would imitate that pattern. This encourages decoding and recall because the claps are not immediately succeeding the pattern.
The next technique she showed us was the “On the Board” pitch and rhythm charts. On the staff, she had two separate triads – one of Do-Mi-Sol in the spaces and right next to it was Re-Fa-La on the lines. Zaryski pointed to each one in different orders each time and when we became comfortable with that, she would keep the circles, but erase the letters. By doing that exercise, it helped to improve our pitch memory and sense of melodic direction. She then added the staff lines and tada! Music notes! When it came to rhythms, she drew four lines of notes with each line being one measure in simple time. Zaryski made this really fun and interesting by saying each note on a random syllable such as beep, bop, boop, or bap. Eventually as we went through each line, she would keep the stems and erase the note heads to indicate rests and had us snap on each rest. Zaryski combined these pitch and rhythm exercises by putting the scale pattern on the staff and adding ties in different keys as well as different clefs.
The last step of the process she showed us is called “From the page”, which of course means reading printed sheet music that incorporates pitches moving up half or whole steps and rhythms that contain ties. Zaryski broke it down by having us speaking the rhythm on “chi”, speaking solfege with hand signs, and then singing with hand sign solfege. She also had us do it in rounds according to our voice part, which really helped us to stay focused on the beat, and wherever there were rests. It’s also a great to be able to maintain the accuracy of the pitches while other parts are singing on a different solfege syllable.
After participating from this workshop, I know I have a better grasp on mastering solfege and teaching it to my future students. Especially for someone who struggled with solfege, this has really helped to break down the process in a very efficient way. It was such a pleasure having Kristin Zarisky here at Ithaca College. Her packet and notes she provided at the workshop (which include visuals) are downloadable on this blog!
-Laura Stedge, E-Board Member ‘18
If you are in Ithaca and want to observe Ms. Zarisky working with her Ithaca High School groups, her rehearsals are: 2:47-3:32 every day (non-auditioned Concert Choir), group lessons throughout the day (times vary, email her at email@example.com), 3:40-4:40 Mondays (Men’s Choir), 3:40-4:40 Tuesdays (Women’s Choir)
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