Education: An Introspection

03 Aug

My singing voice teacher died on July 24, 2012. Her name was Florence Kopleff 1924-2012. Considered by Time magazine once as “the greatest living alto.” Florence was a contralto and proud of it.

Miss Kopleff said, “Music is my religion,” she said with characteristic directness. “I don’t have a family or a business to leave to the world, so my music, which is my life’s work, will be my testament.”

It was. She was one of the best oratorio singers in her time. Miss Kopleff’s work speaks for itself. Below is an excerpt from the Georgia State University School of Music newsletter:

Florence Kopleff, whom Time magazine once called the “greatest living alto,” died July 24, 2012 at Hospice Atlanta. Her voice was one that defined for many music lovers the ideal sound for a contralto: deep and rich in tone, rock-solid in technique and intonation, understated but eloquent in nuance. A splendid presence on the oratorio stage, she was in demand for masterworks from Bach and Handel through Hindemith and Britten, as well as concert performances with the American Opera Society. A mainstay of the Robert Shaw Chorale, she sang on every recording the group made – even, as a tenor, on the male-chorus recordings. In later life she shared her experience and insight with future vocal artists as a professor at Georgia State University’s School of Music.

She forever changed my life.

However, the student-teacher relationship was not a good one. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t her best student. We never had a good student-teacher relationship. Other students may have had similar experiences with her. After graduation, I found another voice studio that I could work in that was less tense and more supportive. It is a wonder that my love for music didn’t crush permanently under her leadership.

As an educator now, I can reflect back as a student on my mistakes as well. I was a young student, undisciplined and naïve. It’s not always the grown-ups fault for a student’s mistakes. However, I reflect on those years to the present: Miss Kopleff’s was an outstanding artist. Her legacy remains intact.


The memories of our work relationship will remain private. I grew under another voice teacher’s studio, and remain thankful that I was able to grow in my vocal music studies. My studies into drama was a result of my positive dramatic experiences discovered in my music college classes. I later went on to NYU in Educational Theatre and studied privately in voice acting. I wisely took my time to learn the craft. I also continue to constantly study and practice in all three artistic areas: music, drama, and voice-overs. It’s important to me that I grow, while I continue to improve the growth of my own students.

As an educator, every student may not be the best one for your studio: whether it’s personality, style, or period stage of growth. If they are the best, they may not be the best for you. Study from the person that you can learn from and review the results of growth from that studio. Educators and students should review constant evaluation of growth. If the benchmarks don’t show improvement, change should occur.

The educational time period of a student remains the most important growth period for that student. I dare say that educators and students MUST take their work very seriously. If you can’t or don’t want to teach: DON’T. If a student doesn’t take their education seriously: REPORT the results and CHANGE direction.

During my field studies in music education, I studied under Miss Elizabeth Sullivan who taught at Terry Mill ES for 30 years which was permanently closed soon afterwards. As a student, Miss Sullivan attended the school herself as a child. Miss Sullivan retired after 32 years of teaching music education. Recommended by another outstanding educator, Dr. Sally Monsour (retired) from GSU, my studies under Miss Sullivan were exemplary. Under her direction, my growth as a music educator was extraordinary and enjoyable. I was thankful to have a master teacher and study under her tutelage.

Reflection with a critical eye throughout the years causes me to analyse my past and present. Other coaches that trained me including Stuart Culpepper, actor and VO actor (retired); Paul Armbruster, VO actor; Deborah Richards, VO coach and demo producer; Sharon Blackwood, classical singer, educator, and actor; and Pat Hurley, actor were excellent choices for me to study and learn from in Atlanta, GA. At the time of this writing, they continue to educate and perform unless otherwise noted. There are several teachers and/or artists that may be right for you. Take your time, do your best work, and choose wisely.

For educators, our job remains to teach. Money and location, although important, doesn’t teach students. We do. Likewise, educational reform should not punish teachers but improve the quality of education with adequate resources. Support (large or small) in every classroom proves more helpful than flippant reform year after year without understanding the local differentiation of our American communities in every county.

BTW, students and parents are individually and collectively responsible for their education as well. If a child doesn’t show respect to authority at home, they will not show respect to authority in the classroom. Likewise, a teacher cannot force a student to learn, the inner desire should be present before entering the door.

Before finding fault in perceived failure, point a finger at yourself first. There lies the answer.

Education deserves the highest respect. Its product continues on affecting future generations.


1 Comment

Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Arts Education


One response to “Education: An Introspection

  1. Kim

    September 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Went to the Memorial service at the Florence Kopleff Recital Hall today, Sunday, September 16, 2012. I was glad to hear about the humorous stories about her and know that people also felt like I did about her at times. It was good that I went to the service on the urging of Dr. Vernick Gordon, GSU jazz professor that I saw on Friday for a school jazz performance. There are no accidents. Things aren’t by “Chance” my mentor told me today. I was glad to hear and see a personal side of Ms. Kopleff that others saw more of than me. It was a nice service.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: