When speaking of the innovations of Vocal Music Education in Miami, it is only suitable to highlight one of my most inspiring colleagues, Dr. Raina Murnak. The City of Miami gained a gem in Dr. Murnak over 15 years ago. Now she is sparkling even brighter as the new Director of Contemporary Voice and Performance Artistry of Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
A dedicated music education speaker/thought leader, and a multi-genre composer/musician, she may be best known among those she works with for her exuberant joy and enthusiasm for all she teaches and her ability to almost psychically connect and quickly make adjustments that radically improve performance, tone and technique.
“Teaching for me is art,” Dr. Murnak says. “And I look at each individual’s voice as a precious color in the palate. My job is to help you master your own technique and confidence so that you can paint your unique story in your own expression.”
Before the popularity of music talent shows and social media stars hit the mainstream, Dr. Murnak devoted herself to training her students in contemporary music.
“I realized that there was often a gap between the type of music being taught in schools and the type students were singing outside of them. Oftentimes students would be preparing arias for competitions but spending most of their time singing in a completely different genre. As a formally trained classical singer who was concurrently performing in musicals and bands, I myself had to figure out a flexible and sustainable technique that allowed me to maintain vocal health and integrity across all styles.”
From her experience, she developed her proprietary FREE technique (Finding Resonance through Empathic Energy) that she employs in her teaching today. She respects the boundaries of her students and most don’t know she is using this technique as she doesn’t typically share her findings but simply uses them as tools to find each student’s voice.
Subsequently, she has had several of her students make it in all levels of popular music competition shows including The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and La Banda. Some of her students have been signed to major and independent record labels and toured worldwide. Others are simply pursuing lifelong dreams to improve their singing for their own pleasure.
As Director of the Frost Summer Institute of Contemporary Songwriting, Dr. Murnak designed and developed a unique xperiential musicianship model that marks the intersection of the creative process of expressive songwriting and the business acumen and skills needed for success in today’s music industry.
“My philosophy of teaching aims to free the artist from his- or herself and from self-imposed limits in order to allow individuals to go beyond one’s self. I am a believer in positive psychology and the importance of personal expression and truth in art.”
Dr. Murnak holds both a BM and MA degree in Vocal Performance and Composition from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a DMA in Music Theory and Composition and Vocal Pedagogy from the University of Miami.
By: Cassandra Claude