“I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing” are the beginning lyrics of the soulful African-American spiritual students belted out at the June 30 Song, Lyrics & You class held at Central Park Library. This class meets again on July 23 from 6:30-8 p.m at the Central Park Library. New students are welcome. Karl Schmidt, music instructor from Foothill College, teaches the class.
“I took a class with [instructor] Karl [Schmidt] at Foothill and it changed my life,” says Morgan Rose Pershing, a reference librarian.
“As an artist, you have a person who enjoys different feelings, different songs, different expressions, you learn how to give in to it and share it along with the people you’re singing with, the people you’re singing for and sometimes it’s just for yourself,” says Schmidt.
During the library program, some students were selected to perform guided and impromptu solos in front of the class. When the class sang the upbeat “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” the men practiced echoing the women.
Schmidt also walked students through proper breathing techniques, the correct way to sit and posture the body, and how to hold a microphone. He acknowledged that singing can come with physical symptoms of nervousness, and that vocalists should stay calm and connected to themselves.
“[Regarding] songs and lyrics, how many of you love to read?” Schmidt asks the class. “I don’t read a lot but I do like to read and I do love words. When I have to study a song or sing a song, I pay attention to a lot of the words. One of the exercises the students have to do when they prepare a song is to write a lyric sheet. On the lyric sheet are lines. Each line is connected to a phrase that’s sung in one breath.”
Sometimes Schmidt encouraged students to model the shape of his mouth when he enunciated certain syllables during a song such as “Shenandoah,” an American folksong with a wistful melody. He notes that children learn speech and words by first observing how their parents’ mouths move when they speak.
“[Language] comes up from inside and starts to take the shape of vowels and consonants and then those words start to come together into sentences and paragraphs that allow you to communicate more precisely, more carefully,” Schmidt says.
The theme of this summer’s reading program is Read to the Rhythm. Other recent music themed library programs have included a performance by Santa Clara Chorale and movie singalongs to tunes from The Sound of Music and Grease.