The familiar phrase, "Make a joyful noise," is one I have been prone to using in my teaching style over the last 20 years. As I consider various aspects of my career, the quote has been rather apropos for me. In my experience, I have worked with children, teenagers, young adults, colleagues and retirees. The bottom line in every lesson I give comes down to the question, "Has this been a joyful experience of self-discovery?"
When singers come to me, it is my job to ensure they feel safe to explore their artistic and technical potential. I become acquainted with their individual goals, I use various language styles to convey the concepts in vocal technique that suits each individual's comprehension of those concepts, and I develop a rapport with each student based on professional trust and proper guidance. My manner is one that is nurturing, yet my expectations are high, and I have found that my students consistently meet those expectations. I regularly anticipate my students’ sincere desire for improvement and solid commitment in repertoire preparation, while I, in turn, provide them with consistent voice-building technical tools, artistic and interpretive guidance, and positive and constructive feedback.
In this kind of educational environment, my students are challenged with thought-provoking questions, to which over time, they respond with clear and articulate answers demonstrating their understanding of good, healthy vocal technique in the context of its application in their performance repertoire. I believe that if students are able not only to apply the techniques they have learned, but also tell me how they did it, they can begin to cultivate self-confidence and the teaching tools they need for self-monitoring later in their singing careers, in whatever form. The balance between the high standards I set in my studio and my students' singing growth is manifested in an abundance of laughter and joyful epiphanies along their individual paths of self-discovery. Educational occurrences such as these are why I continue my love of teaching.
In my work in the university music school areas of study including Music Therapy, Music Education, Vocal Performance, Music Theatre and Music Management, the general goals I set for all my students are: marked and continuous improvements in breath management, control and support; clarity in tone and color, unification between registers, consistent forward resonance, mastery of diction support and articulation, command of vocal range, agility, and musical expression; mastery of text interpretation and communication, and confidence and ease in the form of stage presence.
I find that when my students are motivated by the repertoire chosen for study, the progress they make in these technical and artistic areas can be astounding. When I am familiar with a singer’s vocal abilities, I will work with that singer to find appropriate music that speaks to him/her, so long as it fits appropriately within the structure of his/her vocal progress and area of study, such as in the styles of musical theatre, classical, or jazz. Much can be learned about good, healthy vocal technique in a variety of vocal musical styles. And at this present time, with the continuous fluctuation in the nature of our industry, we are helping our singers become more competitive and versatile in the professional areas of education, therapy, performance and management by exposing them to all styles of singing with good technique.
I believe that when a singer has attained a command of his/her classical technique, he/she will then possess the ability to easily traverse from one style of singing to the next, for that singer will have achieved a greater understanding of his/her own instrument’s musical capabilities through just such a course of study. My job is to guide my students in developing their voices with strength, agility and musical and theatrical expression. It is not always an easy journey, learning how to sing in a healthy manner, but I believe I have skills to share, which will help transform those occasional moments of struggle into enlightening and joyful ones.