Book T&C of Dr Guc­cia­r­do: Pref­ace by Dr Gha­da Chbeir.

“Touch­ing and con­tact­ing in the (med­ical and ped­a­gog­i­cal) set­tings of the voice”

«I had the chance to meet Pro­fes­sor Alfon­so Gian­lu­ca Guc­cia­r­do one year ago, dur­ing his spe­cial vis­it to Lebanon and to the Holy Spir­it Uni­ver­si­ty in Kaslik specif­i­cal­ly, where I com­plet­ed my stud­ies and where I cur­rent­ly teach. I was impressed by Profes­sor Alfonso’s edu­ca­tion, lessons and valu­able remarks for the stu­dents major­ing in ori­ental singing at the uni­ver­si­ty. I was also much fas­cinated by the pro­fes­sion­al­ism he showed in both the indi­vid­ual work and the team­work, that was promi­nent­ly clear. Not to for­get that he has infi­nite poten­tials in intro­duc­ing and dis­cussing sig­nif­i­cant top­ics relat­ed to the voice. More­over, his advices for stu­dents con­cern­ing resolv­ing voice is­sues were inno­v­a­tive and inter­est­ing. It felt so moti­vat­ing that I came back on the sec­ond and third day dur­ing which I was delight­ed to lis­ten to his detailed and accu­rate explana­tions about the well-being of the voice, throat, body pos­ture, etc.».

«“Touch­ing and con­tact­ing in the (med­ical and ped­a­gog­i­cal) set­tings of the voice” (Touch­er et con­tac­ter dans le cadre de l’ap­proche à la Voixis the title of Pro­fes­sor Alfonso’s new book (1) in which he elab­o­rates a unique and dar­ing top­ic, espe­cial­ly in the Mid­dle East, that is “touch­ing the stu­dent” dur­ing cours­es in order to explain for him some nec­es­sary points, par­tic­u­lar­ly those relat­ed to the breath, throat, artic­u­la­tion, pro­nun­ci­a­tion, etc. Sub­se­quent­ly, I was urged to write about my expe­ri­ence relat­ed to this top­ic specifical­ly, not­ing that I have been a spe­cial­ist in teach­ing ori­en­tal Ara­bic singing for twen­ty years now. The word “touch” in the Ara­bic dic­tio­nary has mis­cel­la­neous mean­ings such as: touch­ing, feel­ing or get­ting close to the body. This sense; the touch, is one of the five basic sens­es. It also includes the sens­ing of pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture. As for its mean­ing on the pro­fes­sion­al lev­el, it is explained as touch­ing the soul and spir­it and in­terpreting the roots of the voice; that is to say an inner part of the body, and fea­turing the voice through express­ing the per­formed phrase. Accord­ing to the French edu­ca­tion sys­tem in teach­ing the art of singing, when teach­ing a stu­dent to sing, we direct­ly touch his heart. We deal with his soul, mind, feel­ings, psy­chology, and we work in a smart, smooth and calm way to reach our tar­get. It is not only an expla­na­tion proce­dure based on touch­ing the body. It is actu­al­ly a long pro­ce­dure that starts by ap­proaching the stu­dent in a way that we may be­come friends, while main­tain­ing mutu­al respect so that we would always be able to give advices and impose our opin­ion when need­ed. Some­times, we find it nec­es­sary to resolve some of the student’s fam­i­ly, psycho­logical, or finan­cial prob­lems that are caus­ing him to suf­fer. We may do that in order to reach an accept­able solu­tion that may relieve him. Thus, he will be able to sing again and com­pre­hend the les­son. Psy­cho­log­i­cal and oth­er types of prob­lems may di­rectly af­fect the breath at the begin­ning, and the voice sub­se­quent­ly. More­over, the more the prob­lems, the more neg­a­tive effects would be revealed on the gen­eral artis­tic perfor­mance. The stu­dent may lose his abil­i­ty to sing using the full pow­er of his voice. He may also lose his voice’s sparkle, gleam and res­o­nance and become inca­pable of under­standing the explained notions. My expe­ri­ence in approach­ing stu­dents and get­ting in touch with their emo­tions rep­re­sents an indis­pens­able part in teach­ing music gen­er­al­ly and voice tech­niques specifical­ly. At the begin­ning, we shall earn the trust of the stu­dent, and then we pro­ceed with teach­ing and giv­ing essen­tial remarks, in order to earn his trust on the edu­cational lev­el as well. We may start by giv­ing detailed expla­na­tions as well as exam­ples and com­par­isons; that is to say com­par­ing the thoughts of the stu­dent and what he lis­tens to, to the advices that the pro­fes­sor gives him. At a lat­er stage, we start the appli­ca­tion phase; singing, cor­rect­ing, repeat­ing many times until we reach the utmost result. Expla­na­tions give the stu­dent the chance to reac­ti­vate his imag­i­na­tion, not­ing that the voice is the only instru­ment in the throat that we work on and improve with­out see­ing. The voice is present first in our mind, and sec­ond in our imag­i­na­tion that allows us to move for­ward towards pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pro­fes­sion. I have faced some prob­lems when explain­ing for stu­dents sev­er­al recent points in order to inter­pret the for­ma­tion of the voice tim­bre and work on the res­o­nance zones. These prob­lems are revealed in the usage of some words that may be illog­i­cal, not sci­en­tif­ic or even immoral as some peo­ple may con­sid­er. How­ev­er, we are oblig­ed to use them with the stu­dent in order to reach the wished tim­bre or the way of expres­sion that we seek that he attains. Pro­fes­sion­al Ara­bic songs are most like­ly about love, betray­al, long­ing, get­ting back to a lover, in addi­tion to var­i­ous bold sex­u­al top­ics such as Al Akhtal Al Saghir’s poems like “Isqini­ha bi abi wa oum­mi”, and old poems, mousha­hat, and oth­er singing forms that include bold top­ics, unlike nowa­days songs. I have found my­self oblig­ed to do a huge effort to explain the mean­ing of these songs to the stu­dents with­out out­rag­ing their mod­esty or caus­ing them a shock due to a bold expla­na­tion that may seem rude. Thus, I was oblig­ed most of the times to apol­o­gize from the stu­dent in advance for hav­ing to bring up a dar­ing top­ic so that he would under­stand the mean­ing and con­tent of the poem. Nev­er­the­less, I have nev­er faced any prob­lem with my stu­dents even though some of the explained points were too crit­i­cal, but stu­dents deal with the sit­u­a­tion in a com­pre­hen­si­ble man­ner and exe­cute my requests. I was able to reach this lev­el because I sep­a­rat­ed my dai­ly life from my pro­fes­sion as a singing pro­fes­sor. I cre­at­ed a sci­en­tif­ic posi­tion based on the tech­nique and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of my job.  As a result, I feel unen­closed, trans­par­ent, hon­est and dar­ing, and I focus on one tar­get that is to deliv­er an idea and imple­ment it at a lat­er stage, and that has been suc­cess­ful each time. The pro­fes­sor of Ara­bic singing should have a strong per­son­al­i­ty so that he would be able to con­scious­ly impose his own ideas on the stu­dent, rather than touch­ing him phys­i­cal­ly. Touch­ing or approach­ing the stu­dent phys­i­cal­ly is not nec­es­sary except at the first stages of bring­ing out the voice when the head must be kept adja­cent to the vi­sion. We may also touch the student’s stom­ach, shoul­ders and head to make sure that he is sus­tain­ing a cor­rect inhale and exhale process when per­form­ing a cer­tain musi­cal phrase so that the breath­ing process is being con­duct­ed cor­rect­ly. We may also need to touch the waist, legs, back and face to straight­en the student’s way of stand­ing on stage. Besides, I some­times have to allow the stu­dent to touch my throat or my stom­ach to bet­ter under­stand the tech­nique, breath and the way to bring out the voice. Some­times, I have to inter­pret more, so I would be oblig­ed to touch the stu­dent sev­er­al times to make sure that he is being able to apply the giv­en remarks. I always apol­o­gize in ad­vance and men­tion what I will be doing before touch­ing his body. Not­ing that I always work in a seri­ous man­ner with the stu­dents, they become more con­fi­dent, empow­ered and brave, and that allows them to apply the giv­en remarks with­out any com­plaints or objec­tions. The “touch” part is rel­e­vant accord­ing to the stu­dent and to the musi­cal form that is being explained. Dar­ing is also rel­e­vant as some peo­ple con­sid­er using bold terms a prob­lem much more than it is to touch a stu­dent to explain a cer­tain idea».

«The way Pro­fes­sor Alfon­so was touch­ing the stu­dents was rather med­ical than artis­tic. It seemed sig­nif­i­cant and dar­ing as he some­times held the studen­t’s stom­ach strong­ly, the basin, neck, head and shoul­ders in a tech­ni­cal way that is total­ly dif­fer­ent than the “touch­ing” con­cept that peo­ple are famil­iar with. Touch­ing with Pro­fes­sor Al­fonso took a new con­cep­tion in explain­ing vo­cal and singing tech­niques aim­ing to de­liver the main idea in singing in a pro­fessional and pro­fi­cient way. He uses this way to help the stu­dent bring out a cor­rect, fault­less voice before pro­ceed­ing with the singing class­es and tech­niques. In a sci­en­tif­ic pro­fes­sion­al way he demon­strates how to use the voice after hav­ing cor­rect­ed the pos­ture, move­ment and touch. At this stage, we would be work­ing on the men­tal and intel­lec­tu­al lev­el pri­mar­i­ly, and on the ex­ecutive lev­el sec­on­dar­i­ly.  All what we do is always for the ben­e­fit of the stu­dent and the music as a sci­ence and an art, espe­cial­ly when it comes to the art of singing. There­fore, if we were oblig­ed to touch the stu­dent or to tack­le bold top­ics while explain­ing, then we have to do so. We may find a suit­able way and mean to con­vince the stu­dent about what we seek to accom­plish. At the end, the voice is con­sid­ered as inte­gra­tion between the soul and the body form­ing the human entity».

Kaslik, Lebanon, 4th Octo­ber 2020                  Book T&C of Dr Guc­cia­r­do: Pref­ace by Dr Gha­da Chbeir                  Gha­da Chbeir

GHADA SHBEIR holds a PhD in Music from the Holy Spir­it Uni­ver­si­ty of Kaslik (USEK), where­in she also teach­es ori­en­tal singing in addi­tion to her posi­tion as direc­tor of USEK’s Ori­en­tal Choir. She has released sev­er­al tra­di­tion­al Ara­bic CDs (Mouasha­hat, Qawaleb, Al Qasi­da, and Andalu­sia), and oth­er CDs of Syr­i­ac chants (Syr­i­ac Chants, Pas­sion, and Chants syr­i­aques – Noël), which are a com­pi­la­tion of her research cov­er­ing more than 700 melodies of Maronite and Catholic Syr­i­ac chants. In 1997, she won the first prize at the Best Ara­bic Song Com­pe­ti­tion in Egypt. She was also award­ed the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music for the Mid­dle East and North Africa cat­e­gories for her CD enti­tled Mouacha­hat in 2007, in addi­tion to win­ning the first prize inter­na­tion­al award for her inter­pre­ta­tion of Andalu­sian chants (Mouacha­hat). Her inter­na­tion­al appear­ances include con­fer­ences, con­certs, and fes­ti­vals all over the world. (Source:

(1) Alfonso Gianluca Gucciardo, Toccare e contattare nei setting clinici e didattici per la voce. Tra ferite e feritoje, (in stampa; 2023)
NB.: the photo of Madame Ghada Chbeir belongs to her.