SINGING WITH MIND, BODY AND SOUL, by Betty Jeanne Chipman with Joseph Hoffman and Sara Thomas, Juniper, 187 pages, $29.95 (softbound)
Betty Jeanne Chipman is a ball of fire, a charismatic, generous musical genius who has taught hundreds of men and women how to sing solos for more than 50 years.
She has spent more than 30 years as an adjunct professor of music at the University of Utah, where a plethora of her students sang in recitals.
Chipman is a singer herself who studied under various teachers, all of whom used different methods. In her epilogue she recalls two teachers who taught "by imitation"; another who taught her that posture was everything; and one who put a belt around her rib cage and insisted she push her ribs out far enough to keep the belt from falling.
One teacher even said, "Don't drop your dime," meaning that a dime held between the buttocks would make them tight enough to ensure correct singing. Chipman shyly admits to teaching that concept for a short time, causing her children to tease her to this day.
Chipman labels her own voice a "lyric coloratura," and she has always loved performing. But her deep desire to have a family of her own caused her to rethink her ambition and she decided to devote her career to teaching instead of singing professionally. During the process of teaching, she became "fascinated with the physiology and mechanics of the singing voice."
This eventually led to this rich and instructional book, designed to assist both solo singers and those who sing in groups or choruses to get the best results from their vocal instruments. In 18 lively chapters, Chipman discusses such important aspects of singing as posture, breath preparation and management, tone, resonance, diction, allowing the speaking voice to assist the singing voice, range, flexibility, vibrancy, interpretation, vocal health, the changes in voice, singing in choruses and benefiting from voice lessons.
She even advises which foods to avoid to keep the voice conducive to good singing: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, caffeine, chocolate, tea, orange juice and all junk food.
Probably the most impressive recommendation of this book comes from Craig Jessop, former director of the Tabernacle Choir, who noted that Chipman's "students are singing on the stages of the major opera houses and concert halls of the world. As a 'teacher of teachers,' she has been a champion for vocal health and beautiful singing."
He considers her book "a must for every serious student, teacher of singing and choral conductor."
Chipman includes the vocal exercises that she uses in her own teaching of singing. The sense of her philosophy of singing is best revealed by this statement early in the book: "Many students work too hard, thinking they should feel natural and easy. When singing begins to feel like it requires a lot of muscular effort, the conscious mind has gotten too involved. Then it is time to remember: 'Let it happen. Don't make it happen."'This is a well-written book filled with expertise and practical advice. Only one problem exists: The reader will not get the full benefit of actuallylistening to Chipman teach. Both her voice and personality readily fill a room.