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  • Writer's pictureTim Pope

What Repertoire is Right for Young Voice Students: Classical or Popular Music?

One concern that I have become increasingly more interested in is that of repertoire for young singers. One student that I am currently teaching loves listening to and singing classical music, however, this is definitely not the case for most younger students. The popular music of today is quite different than that of twenty, ten, or even five years ago. Just like any business, music is heavily dependent on supply and demand. A toy store stocks the shelves with the best selling toys, based on statistics. Like-wise, a grocery store continually restocks what is in demand. In the music business, musicians perform works that sell tickets and make donors happy.

Seeing that a teacher’s “ticket buyers” are their students, should we as teachers not consider teaching the music that our students enjoy listening to and singing? As we grow continuously more separated from the younger generations, I purpose that it is our duty as teachers who are dedicated to our students’ continued musical development and love for music, that we take an interest in their interests. This can cause apprehension in many, because most classically trained voice teachers have not ventured into the genres of pop, rock, or other alternative musical genres.

The unfortunate result of educated and licensed teachers not expanding their horizons is seen in the various YouTube and online tutorials on how to sing in popular styles, which teach incorrect, even harmful, techniques in order to produce a semblance of what the student’s favorite radio artist sounds like. If students cannot learn these styles from us, then they will turn to other sources to get the results they want. Though there have been some gems out there, like Dr. Dan’s Voice Essentials on YouTube (, most videos like this do not promote growth or they leave the student worse off than they were before. Dr. Dan has several videos on singing in popular styles, including lessons on belting and singing rock, but as any voice teacher should know, not every teaching style works for every student. There are countless people who would love to learn how to sing like their favorite artist but only a few online courses and teachers worth their salt.

This creates the situation we are in now. There is a high demand for lessons on how to sing specific songs that students enjoy, but a low demand for lessons on classical music. Most teachers with grade school level students do compromise and teach students songs from different genres. I would hesitate to say that this preference for learning popular music over classical is even confined to an age range. I would, however, argue that the age range that most beginning teachers instruct, early high school, middle school, and before, are especially drawn to the idea of learning music they hear on the radio or in movies.

Why wouldn’t they be drawn to this music? Don’t we all have an affinity to the music we grew up listening to? Wasn’t it only after we learned the history behind each piece and the technique involved in practicing and performing them that we learned to love and appreciate classical music? Part of our goal as teachers is to impart this same appreciation to our students, however, I believe that we should also develop an appreciation for other genres as legitimate and worthy of study and practice, even if we ourselves do not continue in pursuit of them.

Feel free to post below with any comments. I'd love to hear your opinions on this subject.

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