2019 BDG/NATS/EVTA Mini Conference - Berlin, Germany



A Kaleidoscope of Vocal Pedagogy - June 8, 2019 Berlin

This one-day Mini-conference was the start-off of the NATS Transatlantic Pedagogy Trip to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.  It’s a great opportunity to share thoughts on the way forward for singing education on both sides of the Atlantic. A cooperation between BDG and NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing).



Dr. med. PD Philipp Caffier - Current Research Projects at the Charité University Hospital
Prof. Esther Kaiser - Teaching Improvisation
Dr. Susan Yarnall-Monks - Talking Shop (world cafe style small group discussions)
Prof. Marilyn Schmiege - Qigong: What’s in it for me and my students?
Dr. Barbara Hoos de Jokisch - A Kaleidoscope of Vocal Pedagogy
Prof. Eleanor Forbes (Mod.) - Panel discussion
Plus 3x15 min. papers from BDG members and 3x15 min. papers from NATS members


Report by Susan Yarnall-Monks

Well we weren’t sure it was going to happen, but it did, and it was great! A prime example of what can be done by a group of dedicated volunteering singing teachers with busy professional lives, who believe in sharing knowledge and expertise with their colleagues.

A Kaleidoscope of Voice Pedagogy was just that, a sparkling collection of vocal gems being shaken up in a multi-mirrored space giving fresh perspectives just like that marvellous toy.


Dr. Phillipp Caffier began with a clear and erudite explanation of the birth of voice science from the early days in Berlin, when one brave man underwent polyp removal surgery without anaesthetic to the new 3D modelling equipment created by the team at Charité using modern laryngoscopy.


In 45 minutes he covered so much but we barely caught our breath before we had 3 mini 15 minute Pedagogy Moments from BDG members. Prof. Marilyn Schmiege, President of BDG, spoke about the continuing education and professionalisation being undertaken by the BDG. Roberta Cunningham emphasised the importance of clear diction in singing in German and offered some excellent suggestions. Then Prof. Eleanor Forbes gave the most informative introduction to the Estill Method I have ever seen.


A very short break was followed by “Sound meets rhythm- a close-up of Jazz and Pop-based singing" from Prof. Esther Kaiser, an inspiring session, listening, doing and learning about jazz/pop singing, keeping our articulation appropriate to the rhythmic feel of the different genres.


The Talking Shop led by EVTA President Dr. Susan Yarnall-Monks gave everyone a chance to contribute ideas around four topics which arose from questions offered ahead of the meeting, so Jean-Yves Bosse-Vidal moderated the “Language” group, Prof. Eleanor Forbes the “Research” group, Ellen Pietersee the “Music Genres” and Christa Bornhijm the “Technical Matters”. A full report on that facilitation process will follow but the NATS/BDG/EVTA teachers mixed very well, a benefit of having only 38 people present. We hope to follow this type of focussed discussion with more opportunities at meetings in the future, because it was positively international and colourful.



A delicious lunch allowed for more fruitful conversations and was followed by an inspirational Qigong session led by Prof. Marilyn Schmiege and we were soon all moving our bodies in synchronisation, linking life’s energies with the work of breathing. This offered so many potential links with singing and body balance it really made us think.


Then followed the NATS Pedagogy Moments and Dr. Ollie Watts-Davis thrilled us with her singing of “This Little Light of Mine”, followed by a musical tour through Black American Sacred Music with its distinct genres and its current evolution. Prof. Karen Brunssen, managed to squeeze much wisdom from her own recent research in her book on the evolving voice in 15 minutes. Then Deirdre Francis, who has trained some internationally recognised Worship Singers spoke powerfully of her work training Christian singers and musicians in worship music with her Vocal Cross training using ideas from other disciplines like athletes and other sports disciples do.

It all reflected the richness of the day with wonderful speakers being so generous with their talents and keeping to time!!!


Coffee, tea and homemade cakes courtesy of Roberta Cunningham kept us going for the final part of the day


Dr. Barbara Hoos de Jokisch, who had been so inspirational when I heard her back last April at the BDG Congress was equally munificent in giving us an over view of the Kaleidoscope of Voice Pedagogy, this time in perfect English, so clever, so clear and so creative. Then the discussion panel, which could have gone on longer, but we were all wilting, allowed more expressions of teachers regarding professional standards, safe and healthy singing and teaching, how to support each other through ‘inter-vision’ processes as the Dutch had experienced and we in EVTA, certification of teachers, how to encourage more involvement in Continuous Professional Development CPD.


Everyone seemed to appreciate all the efforts that had gone into the day particularly by Eleanor Forbes and her team. An informal buffet supper meant the talking and singing! went on well into the evening.