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Music programs expand at IU Kokomo, include voice lessons

January 27, 2015
KOKOMO, Ind. — Faith Renken prepares for her dream job, teaching voice lessons, in Indiana University Kokomo’s newly expanded music program.

Renken, a sophomore humanities major, was one of five students participating in individual voice lessons, offered for the first time fall semester. They completed the session with a recital, each performing three pieces learned from Wendy Grice, lecturer in music.

A veteran of the Western High School choral music program, Renken had never experienced one-on-one voice lessons.

“I gained techniques to improve my voice that I had never learned before,” she said. “It’s different when it’s just you and the instructor, and there aren’t 50 other people in the class.”

Grice, a professional opera performer who recently joined the IU Kokomo faculty, said the voice lessons provide more opportunities to work on each student’s individual needs than a choir class.

“The exercises in a choir have to suit a large group of students,” she said. “In a private lesson, we can work specifically for their individual voice. We work on techniques, like breath management, vowel placement, and expanding their range. We try to find what repertoire suits their voice, and show their voice at its best.”

In addition to voice lessons, IU Kokomo has a choir, jazz band, community band, and instruction in guitar and piano. Scott Jones, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, is pleased to expand the music minor, noting that music studies keep students engaged in campus life and their classes.

“Money spent on music programs boosts student achievement,” he said. “Music is not a passive thing. You learn it by doing it.”

Moriah Zentz, a general studies major, previously had worked on her voice with her pastor’s wife, and was happy for the professional lessons. In addition to the recital with the other four voice students, she performed a short concert of Christmas music for her senior capstone project.

“I appreciate being able to work with someone with so much professional experience,” said Zentz, from Kokomo. “I feel like I grew as a musician this semester.”

Aubri Copp, Kokomo, expects more people to take voice lessons as they participate in choir with those who have taken them, and see the difference the individual instruction makes.

“It changes the way we sing,” she said. “You can’t master singing unless you take lessons. It’s something you always want to improve. These opportunities connect us to the campus in a way that isn’t related to our studies.”

Grice said the recital served as the final exam, and that performing is important even for students who don’t plan to be performers.

“My goal is to instill a love of music,” she said. “Nothing would make me happier than if they sang for the rest of their lives.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 01/28/2015