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Karmalu Productions  

Private Instruction and Workshops

Verlene gives weekly private and group instruction in voice, harp, guitar, piano, music theory, fiddle and nyckelharpa, to over 30 students. She also gives workshops in harp, voice, and performance, and has taught voice, performance, and guitar at the California Coast Music Camp. 

Her philosophy as a teacher is that everyone can learn, and everyone has his or her own unique formula for learning. This formula she endeavors to discover with each individual student. Verlene says, "I don't teach how to play or sing, as much as I help a student learn how to play or sing. When a student tells me, 'This is easy!' I know that together we've found the student's best learning style."  For more information about either private or group instruction, or if you are interested in having Verlene give a workshop in your area, here's how to contact Verlene.

Voice and Performance

Verlene's own formal voice training began in High School, with a classical teacher who understood Verlene's interest in popular singing styles. Along with the arias and art songs of classical repertoire, Verlene sang her own original songs, and songs by such popular artists of the time as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash, and James Taylor. Because she was under the care of a voice instructor, she was able to apply good healthy singing techniques to all styles of singing. 

As a voice instructor herself, Verlene has her students choose the repertoire that they will actually sing, rather than assign obscure songs that will more likely be sightread from lesson to lesson. Her students learn the use of a  microphone (image is 103K - Photo by Jim Hatlo), and record their vocal progress on audio tape. Every summer, Verlene holds a student concert in her backyard. This is a casual, safe environment for any of her vocal students who are ready for such an experience. The concert usually lasts about an hour, with each student limited to one song, and then after the concert, the potluck dinner and open mike begins. During this time, students can sing more of their repertoire, and even non-students are encouraged to sing along with the karaoke tapes Verlene has on hand. 

From time to time, Verlene offers a performance workshop to her vocal students who are ready to gain experience with a "tougher crowd." These workshops are held in a local club venue and are open to the public, but the students are encouraged to "bring their own crowd" as well. The performance is videotaped and viewed the following week for critique.

Verlene has just published a book on the basics of singing called Vocal Mechanics: A Look Under the Hood. The book includes how the voice works, visualizations and exercises to help incorporate the concepts, and a CD of vocal warmups.

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Verlene teaches both single row diatonic lever harp and cross strung chromatic harp. The "single row diatonic lever harp" is just a detailed definition of what is commonly known as a folk harp or a Celtic harp. The harp in this  picture (image is 133K - photo by Cait Hutnik) is a Triplett Celtic model, with 34 strings (in a single row) and levers on each string. Verlene tunes her harp to the key of F major, meaning all natural notes except for the B which she tunes to Bb. The levers allow her to change the pitch of each string up by one half step. This allows playing in different keys without retuning the harp. 

The cross-strung chromatic harp has all of the notes -- both the white keys and the black keys of the piano. The strings cross in the middle so that either hand can play both the natural notes and the sharps and flats. The harp in this picture, is the 61 string cross-strung chromatic harp made by Blessley Instruments.  Standing with Verlene in the photo is harpmaker Mark Blessley. 

Her students bring a variety of harps ranging from small nylon harps with as few as 19 strings, and no levers, to larger harps like her Triplett, and from wire strung harps to cross strung harps. Each student's lessons are centered around what kind of harp the student has, what kind of music the student wants to play, and what kind of musical background the student has. 

As an active member of Harper's Hall & culinary society, Verlene encourages her students of all levels and styles of playing to participate in the groups casual, friendly gatherings. At these events, there can be as many as 30 harpers all "harping" together. This is an opportunity for new players to experience playing in ensemble, or at least along with other harpers. 

Verlene has published several books on harp from jazzy lever harp arrangements of traditional tunes to how to arrange for lever harp or how to play accompaniments. She also has books on cross-strung harp, and has published books by harpists Kim Robertson and Aryeh Frankfurter. Check out the books page for more info.

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Guitar, Piano/Keyboards, Music Theory, Fiddle, and Nyckelharpa

Verlene teaches classical, folk, and jazz guitar, both privately and in small groups. Those taking small group lessons learn folk songs in three different keys and then use capos to reconcile the three keys. There is a natural "harmonization" that occurs because of the different place each student plays on the neck of the guitar. 

Verlene also teaches piano and keyboards, and specializes in teaching those who want to learn chord theory and improvisation. Several of her students are studying both an instrument and voice with Verlene, and quite a few also receive input on their original songs and compositions during their lessons.

In addition, Verlene teaches violin and fiddle, as well as Swedish nyckelharpa to a handful of students. These are taken by audition only.

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Workshops and Classes

Veere, The Netherlands

Verlene is available for workshops and classes in harp, voice, and performance. To find out how to bring her to your area for a workshop/concert engagement, contact Verlene
Her single day harp workshop topics include: 

    workshopPhoto by Vernon Read.
  • Beginning Harp - A Hands-on Experience
  • Cool Chords and Groovy Rhythms
  • Singing With the Harp
  • Jazz on a Cross-Strung Harp
  • Improvisation
  • Ear, Eye, Hand Coordination
  • Arranging for Harp Ensemble
  • Sing-Along Harper
  • Playing to Heal
  • Understanding Learning Styles
  • Fun with Rhythms
  • Playing "D" Blues
  • Ear Training -- Part 1 Template for Melody
  • Ear Training -- Part 2 Context for Chords
Verlene's single day voice workshops include:
  • Beginning to Sing Voice Mechanics - a Look Under the Hood
  • Voice Stylization - Elements of Modern and Traditional Styles
  • Performance Master Class
  • Songwriting
Verlene's 5 week (once a week for an hour and a half) classes include:
  • Harmony Singing I and II
  • Sightsinging made Simple
  • Songwriting I, II, and III
  • Performance and Stagemanship
  • The "Sing-along" Harper -- playing from song books that have only words and chords 
  • Cool Chords and Groovy Rhythms for Arranging and Improvisation (Harp)
  • Vocal Stylization

There are currently no 5 week classes scheduled.                 

To sign up for classes, and get directions to class location (in San Jose, CA), contact Verlene

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