I prepare each lesson to focus on the development of a singer’s strengths. The end goal is to help the singer learn to connect his or her voice, breath, and body together in a cohesive way that produces a consistently beautiful, healthy sound over the long term.
What happens in a voice lesson? A voice lesson with me typically consists of two main parts: a vocal warm-up and repertoire work.
Warm-up: Just as an athlete would warm up his or her muscles before strenuous exercise, it is necessary for a singer to warm up her voice. During the warm-up, the singer focuses on developing breath control and capacity as well as agility and stamina by means of various vocal exercises.
Repertoire work: Following the warm-up, we work on songs from the singer’s repertoire together. I may assign pieces for the singer to learn and add to their repertoire, or the student may bring repertoire of his/her own choosing (e.g. for an upcoming performance, preparation for an audition, etc.).
How long is a lesson, and how often do I attend? All of my students are on a weekly lesson schedule, though I may be able to accomodate requests for longer intervals between lessons. There are three different time intervals available for students, depending on age and experience: • 60 Minute Lesson • 45 Minute Lesson • 30 Minute Lesson
My primary aim as a teacher is to instill healthy singing habits in my students by focusing on breath development and management, while helping students to sing music that interests them and suits their individual voices and personalities.
Making the most of the lesson There is so much that occurs in a lesson and only so much a student can retain in real time. I strongly encourage my students to record their lessons so they can go back and learn from it after our time together. An important part of the lesson is going back afterwards, listening to the lesson, and making the connection between what occurred in the lesson and how to practice effectively. Students typically use the voice recorder on their cell phone to record their lessons; videography is also encouraged.
About my teaching method I’ve found that the most common pitfall encountered by aspiring singers is to listen to one’s own sound. If you’ve ever heard a recording of your own voice, you know that listening to yourself while you speak or sing can be misleading: your voice never quite sounds the same in the recording as you heard it in your own head.
In my studio, I use a range of tools, methods, and teaching aids to help my students learn instead to feel their voices, physically. As opposed to the subjective practice of listening, feeling your voice – that is, getting in touch with the muscles that control your breath and the shape of your sound – is a consistently repeatable act that yields reliable, actionable feedback. It brings the singer’s focus to where it truly belongs: within.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. I draw from a plethora of techniques that I’ve developed over the course of my career to help my students learn to feel their voices. For example:
I use practices from yoga and Gyrotonic/Gyrokinesis body work to help my students coordinate and engage the correct muscles while releasing the tension that typically impedes good singing.
If I feel it will help the student, I may use mental imagery and archival recordings of great performers to help my students see and hear what “good singing” looks and sounds like.
My anatomical training from my Master’s studies enables me to describe what is physically happening within each of the muscle groups involved in the production of sound; many of my students have preferred and benefited from these anatomically-geared explanations of what is happening inside their bodies.
Does age matter? I enjoy teaching students of all ages and backgrounds. No matter the age, the crucial factors in successful voice training are the student’s focus and energy for learning.
For younger students – those of elementary school ages – I typically recommend shorter lessons where we focus on the nuts and bolts of proper breathing technique. Though they may not have the attention span or stamina to work for an entire 60-minute lesson, learning these techniques early on can only help the student’s voice in the long run. Besides, the deep breathing techniques I teach have many benefits beyond singing, from athletics to stress management. It is helpful for younger students to have some basic music knowledge or piano/instrumental skills.
With older students – those of high school and college ages, and beyond – lessons tend to be more focused on a given singer’s expressed specific goals or repertoire.
Can I help with public speaking or other voice-related issues? I enjoy working with adult non-singers who simply want to work on vocal technique to improve their speaking voices when presenting information in the workplace. I have a number of students who have found that learning good vocal technique and breath support has helped to improve their speaking voices. I have taught both native English speakers and those who have learned English as a second language in this regard.
Where do my students sing? I have had the pleasure of teaching students who have performed with the following organizations – in addition to their respective school music programs: • New Jersey All-State Choir • North Jersey Regional Choir • Paper Mill Playhouse Conservatory • New Jersey Honors Jazz Choir • Morris County Honors Choir • The Bamboozle Festival • New Blue (Yale Univerisity a cappella group)