Teaching is simply taking the knowledge that you have acquired and sharing it with others. Anyone can be a teacher. In fact, everyone has taught someone something before. Teaching is not some great mystery that can only be interpreted by a select few but a branch of communication available to anyone. Some forms of communication work better than others, and some people are better communicators than others, like wise with teaching. I believe that, in teaching, communication is key. For learning to be successful, it requires two components: a good teacher and a willing student. Granted, the internet can be an excellent teacher, but it lacks the key component of communication. The student also has to determine their own feed back, which should be the job of the teacher. Voice teaching is no different. It involves communicating with the student about what he or she is doing well and how he or she could improve. How can a singer improve? I believe that singing is just like any other practice. It requires dedication and patience to master. With the right technique almost anyone can become a good singer.
Registration is one of many subjects that voice teachers have differing opinions on. I teach that there are three registers for women and three registers for men. Women have a chest, middle, and head voice that are all about the same size, in regard to range. Men have a low, middle, and high voice. Their low voice usually has the largest range while the middle and high voices usually have a smaller range of notes. For my more advanced students, I mention that these ranges are also known as passaggi, and in between each, are passaggio points, or ranges within which there is a shift to the next passaggio. I approach falsetto, which only males have, as a separate register.
Many voice teachers do not address the technique of breathing. I find that most students either have misunderstandings about breathing for singing or they do not think about breathing at all. That is why I like to provide a foundation of what breathing should look and feel like so that the student can be confident in their knowledge of this technique. My approach to breathing is very naturalistic. Nothing should feel forced and the shoulders should not raise. You should not breath from your chest, but from the bottom of your lungs, which is located just below the sternum. Breath is essential to singing, and students should think about every breath they take before they start singing, otherwise, their singing will not be as good as it could be.
Resonance plays a vital role in the maturing of the student’s voice. Without the introduction of resonance, the voice does not sound as full as it could. My idea of resonance is shaping the pharynx and oral cavity to produce the optimal alignment of frequency for each sound. I also associate the term “open throat” with finding resonance. Open throat is found through the raising of the soft palate, widening of the pharynx, and lowering of the larynx.
Choosing the correct repertoire for students is crucial to their growth and continued love of music. In the first lesson with a student, I ask about interests, including what type of music the student enjoys listening to and singing. I then try to incorporate this music, or music of a similar style, into repertoire considerations. I also listen for the student’s natural voice in that first lesson, as well as ways to uncover it from hindrances. Finding repertoire in appropriate keys with a tessitura that fits the student’s skill level will encourage him or her to practice and will result in more progress.
I accept students regardless of their ethnicity, sexual identity, or economic backgrounds. Sexual identity does have a part in repertoire selection. However, the student may discuss any repertoire assignments that would cause unease. The use of proper pronouns, a student’s sexual identity, and the changing there of are concerns that are becoming increasingly more common in all areas of teaching. Seeing as communication is key in voice lessons, the student is encouraged to voice any concerns that my hinder the communication between myself and that student. Any concerns will be accommodated to the best of my ability.
As stated above, each student has a voice and sound that is unique to him or her. My job as a teacher is to help the student find that voice and develop it, but there are ideal sounds that every student should strive towards. The ideals for singing classical repertoire include a resonant sound that is on the breath and is consistent throughout the student’s vocal range. Other vocal style, though, might require an airier or edgier sound, and those can be discussed as they arise in lessons. Technical goals for all students include reading music; identifying rhythmic, vocal, and technical terms within the music and as they come up in lessons; and being able to eventually identify and address the student’s own vocal issues.
A personal goal is that my studio would be a place of emotional security where my students feel like they can take a break from what’s outside the studio and use the practice of music to de-stress. Though I take professionalism seriously, asking the student how he or she is doing vocally, mentally, and emotionally further allows me to gage how best to approach the lesson. If there is a way to promote vocal growth while being aware of issues that might arise, I want to be sensitive to how the student will learn best in that particular lesson.