Music Issue: Getting you – and your voice – in shape

Editor’s note: As the Juno Awards 2013 prepare to celebrate the best of Canadian music this weekend, Western Journalism students help us celebrate the best in Western Music. Read the full Music Issue.

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Want to be a singing superstar? Grab your running shoes, and get to a gym. Quick. That’s the advice of Victoria Meredith in Sing Better As You Age, a resource manual designed to help adult choral singers sing as well as possible for as long as possible.

Confused about why a choral singer needs to pump iron and do jumping jacks?

People’s voices are in better shape if they are in good physical condition, Meredith said. “Each of the areas of a physical work out actually has an impact on their singing.”

Though Sing Better As You Age received a national award for best choral publication, it’s not just Meredith’s research that’s award-winning. A professor in the Don Wright Faculty of Music, she was named a Faculty Scholar in 2009, a Western award that recognizes individuals for both their research and teaching contributions. As well, she is the coordinator of choral activities, and the associate dean (academic) for the Don Wright Faculty of Music.

Meredith said it’s the balance between teaching and research that qualified her for the award – a balance she achieves by putting her theories into practice when she helps singers.

“How can I help people to keep singing as well as possible for as long as possible?” Meredith said. “That is the bottom line of the goal of what I do.”

On top of teaching, research and administration, Meredith also conducts The Western University Singers, who won the Most Popular Classical Vocal Group award at the London Music Awards this year.

One of Meredith’s former graduate students, who now teaches part-time at Western, said what stands out most about her former teacher is that she always has time for her students and colleagues.

“If she can fit it in, she’ll do it,” Sonja Dennis said. “She is a very gifted teacher.”

But Meredith doesn’t take credit for her choir’s achievements.

She sees herself as a catalyst. “There’s a synergy between you and the group that raises each of your levels of ability,” she said. “Because I work with a really good choir, it makes me better, and I hope that I make them better.”

But it’s not just The Western University Singers she hopes to help sing better. Meredith’s resource manual is geared toward people who are not formally trained but who enjoy singing and want to be able to do it better. But singing can be more than just a hobby. There are things about singing that can improve general health, Meredith said.

Deep breathing – taking six to 10 breaths per minute, as used in singing – helps to lower blood pressure, she said. This is in addition to the social and psychological benefits of singing like creating something beautiful as part of a group, Meredith said.

”They’re doing something with other people that they share a common interest with,” Meredith said. “They’re doing something bigger than they could do individually.”

It’s being able to help people experience the benefits of singing that Meredith enjoys, she explained.

Her desire to help all singers – professional and church amateurs alike – fuels her love of teaching and her love of music.

“I knew I was going to teach music and make music since I was 10 years old,” Meredith said. “I never wavered.”