It was a privilege to have Ms. Juwita Suwito to give a vocal masterclass at UCSIU! From my knowledge, it had been quite awhile since we had a contemporary singer to give a vocal masterclass on campus. She is very humble and down-to-earth which made me as the audience being able to click with her explanations throughout the masterclass. I truly enjoyed her presence during the masterclass. To be honest, it did not feel like we were in a masterclass. It was more like a session of sharing musical knowledge with each other, and in this case, it was singing. We had 4 students who are from the contemporary side that are voice majors who participated with the masterclass. We were entertained with their rendition of their selected songs. We had Joycelin Low singing the currently famous song ‘Let it Go’ from the animated movie, ‘Frozen’, Eng Vyvien singing her rendition of a jazz standard ‘This Masquerade’, Gan Hui Wan with a very soulful song, ‘What are you Doing with the Rest of your Life?’ and lastly, Nurul Aina singing Christina Aguilera’s ‘Hurt’.
The tips and advices varied from each singer who participated in the masterclass. She said that eye contact and stage presence is important when performing because this is how the singer could engage with the audience while singing. While singing songs with a very huge range, breathe support is crucial, especially in belting. The balance between the air and diaphragm support is needed while singing as this determines how the sound is produced, whether flat or sharp. A good balance would produce a sound in between. The way the lyrics are pronounced while singing brings the song up a notch for audience. She also taught us how to care for the voice especially when performing long sets of songs. Fluids are important, drinking it an hour before is important as it hydrates the vocal chords.
Even with a great technique, singing a song without the soul would not be a good performance. Singing a song as if you are telling a story will make the audience understand the song even better. I asked both Nurul Aina and Eng Vyvien about their experience on stage after the whole masterclass was over.
“I feel that Ms. Juwita brought me back to the roots of why I wanted to sing and be a voice major student. She gave good tips on techniques and how to improve on a performance and make it a better experience. But techniques aside, she also mentioned to portray what the song is and try to let the audience feel the music through my singing.” – Eng Vyvien
“I felt relieved after the masterclass! I felt that I really let myself go while singing! And that was the first time I did that! Ms. Juwita taught me to be more relaxed on stage. I like it that she didn’t really focus much on techniques. I do think that techniques are important but at the end of the day, it’s all about how you deliver the song and how you feel while singing it. You have to feel the song before you want everyone to feel it the way you want the song to be felt.” – Nurul Aina
“And also, Juwita Suwito is awesome!” Nurul Aina added.
She could not have said it better!
I used to learn pop singing in the past and am currently learning classical singing, I find the tips and advice that Ms. Juwita mentioned could be used also in both contemporary singing and classical singing. I could relate to the problems most singers would face, which is how the words are pronounced and how to balance or control the breathing of air and voice. If there is too much air used, the voice will sound very airy and rough. Pronunciation of words is important as it may interfere with how the lyrics are heard. This also applies to choral singing as words could sometimes be misheard or misinterpret if everyone is pronouncing the same word differently.
With much persuasion by the crowd, she sang her song, “Stand” with the piano accompaniment by Melvin Goh. It was such a pleasant surprise to be able to watch Juwita Suwito sing live and the perfect ending to a wonderful Friday morning masterclass!
This article was written by Mabel Soong, 1st year student of the B. Music Classical program.