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Carol Eikum Attends Singing Conference in Las Vegas

By Melissa Brookman on Thursday, August 30, 2018


This summer, Professor of Music Carol Eikum traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the National Association of Teachers of Singing 55th National Conference. The event took place from June 22-26, 2018.

Eikum said she is a member of the association and has attended the conference in various cities including Boston, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and even Minneapolis. She also mentioned that she has attended numerous smaller workshops in different cities.

“Since the conference is held every other year, it is able to offer the depth and breadth of content I find so incredibly valuable,” said Eikum.

Her favorite highlight of her trip was the featured guest artist recital by two internationally famous opera singers, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and soprano Christine Brewer.

“These ladies have huge, dramatic voices, but used them in such a variety of ways for the literature they sang. They sang with wide range vocal colors and volumes from extremely loud to really soft, yet filling the hall with every sound. They talked so personally with the audience and sang with such beauty, power and emotional intensity that it literally made us laugh and cry, transfixing all of us like no other recital I have ever attended,” said Eikum.

She thought the recital was helpful because it keeps her motivated to help her own students back at Northwestern.

“When I hear the impressive, skillful, versatile singing demonstrated by Blythe and Brewer, it is an encouragement to keep aspiring to high standards with my students,” said Eikum.

Another unexpected highlight for Eikum was a session given by Mandy Harvey, a famous singer and inspirational speaker who lost her hearing due to a connective tissue disorder at age 18 when she was a young music major in college. Although completely deaf, she learned to sing on pitch in perfect rhythm, wowing audiences all over the country.

“She sings with bare feet to help catch vibratory cues to sound and rhythm—quite astounding to me,” said Eikum.

Harvey became famous on “America’s Got Talent” when Simon Cowell praised her for her performance.

“It was highly inspirational to hear her sing live, tell her story and reveal her beautiful can-do attitude toward life as she empowers and inspires others to do the same with their life challenges. Actually, it was quite humbling,” said Eikum.

She thought the conference was especially impactful because she could learn from so many top national and international experts on such diverse topics as singing performance, pedagogy, science, vocal health, literature, vocal styles and teaching practice.

“I love updating what I know to keep growing and learning in a field that is changing rapidly every year. I think the life-long learning motivation I have is felt by the students. After all these years of teaching, it also confirms and solidifies many things I already know,” said Eikum.

One session Eikum found especially insightful and inspiring was a break-out session by Lynn Helding, a professor at University of Southern California. Helding presented new discoveries and insights about the unique challenges that singers face because they perceive their sound differently and through different means than those listening. This creates what she calls ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ in the learning process between the teacher and student.

“The presentation was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. I believe it may be valuable for my students to watch the video of this session. The new information explains ‘why we are all nuts in singing,’ to quote her. Ha! So true,” said Eikum.

Even though the conference was not geared toward Christians, Eikum said that it is important to have faithful Christians in the music and performing world, whether it is in classical or popular venues, just as it is important to have Christian plumbers, electricians, accountants and bus drivers.

“This is how God spreads the Gospel through his people, wherever they are called and planted. Faithful, excellent work done with integrity and passion is our responsibility and gift to the world in God’s name. In addition, this can have a positive effect on the artistic results in the field in general, even influencing it toward values that are more compatible with a Christian worldview,” said Eikum.

She thought that even though the emphasis in Las Vegas professional singing is more commercial due to the casino entertainment industry, it was confirming to her to hear the same advice told to singers in other parts of the professional world that she also teaches her university singers.

“If you want to be hired and stay hired, be on time, learn your music and craft, take care of your body and voice, and be pleasant to work with,” said Eikum.