SINGAPORE - On the surface, this primary school choir sounds like any other, a harmonious ensemble of voices. But a closer look at the devices worn around their ears reveals something truly special – every member of this choir has hearing loss.
Canossian School offers choir and percussion band as co-curricular activities (CCAs). These CCAs are geared towards teaching and engaging children diagnosed with hearing loss.
Ms Christina Michael, principal of Canossian School, said music-related activities benefit children with hearing loss in many ways. “For children with hearing loss who are learning how to listen and speak, music stimulates the brain and enhances their communication skills. Exposure to music can help them to understand sound concepts like timbre, tone quality and rhythmic timing and develop their speech patterns.”
In 2023, 59 out of the 63 pupils at Canossian School either sing in the choir or play an instrument in the percussion band.
Ms Irene Jansen, 55, has been the choir instructor for Canossian School since 2016. With nearly two decades of experience as a vocal coach, she has also put together other choir performances sung by differently-abled individuals.
She said: “There are two kinds of applause. The audience can say ‘okay, they did a good job, well done’. Or they applaud from the heart and see how much these children can achieve. It’s my responsibility as a teacher to let my students experience that applause.”
Even with the assistance of hearing aids, pupils with hearing loss may struggle to match pitch and sing in tune. While she may take two to three sessions to teach a normal choir, Ms Jansen said that it takes around five to six sessions for Canossian School’s choir to learn a song from scratch.
She added: “When we start, we take it slow. Every single note they sing has to be repeated until they’ve got it. Sometimes, I’ll slow down the song’s speed so that every note is heard clearly.
“It may take a longer time to teach, but the result is beautiful.”