Thoughts on Teaching

For 42 years I have taught the basic technique used by voice teachers worldwide to all my students, regardless of age.  The method involves identifying, coordinating and building the muscles of the breathing apparatus and those of the larynx involved in the singing process. 

When it comes to repertoire, students can decide which musical genres they want to focus on – classical, musical theater, pop, country, etc. — and these decisions can change as the voice develops.  The same basic technique is used for all of the vocal genres.  I encourage students to explore as wide a range of music as they choose, and I can suggest works in new genres that fit a student’s increasing abilities.

Students must realize that developing a reliable, strong and controlled voice takes time and a disciplined work ethic.  We’re talking about strengthening through exercises the pertinent musculature the way dancers slowly build their capabilities and much the way athletes slowly perfect skills for their sports.   So therefore it is critical that the student develop patience.  Without patience, becoming a first-rate singer will be difficult to achieve.  We all want to be excellent quickly, but this almost never happens, even for stars of the vocal world.

And here we get to the topic of making all this happen.  Again, as with sports and dance, developing singing capabilities doesn’t happen without disciplined practice.  A regular workout is essential, but what is appropriate varies in length and intensity from student to student, and will change over time as the stamina increases.    Of great importance is to not overdo the practicing.  The musculature of the breathing apparatus will get fatigued from a demanding workout, and if there is too much of a workout the area of the larynx and throat can become strained and uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

Through regular practicing a student will gradually notice that a heretofore difficult passage in a song has become easier.   But as the student progresses there are also predictable ups and downs.  The student will become familiar with being wonderful in one session and not so wonderful in the next.  As I constantly remind my students, “The most consistent thing about being a developing singer is your inconsistency.”

Finally, when students master these truths about development and observe their continuing improvement, that’s a teacher’s reward.  Our task is to impart to our students the paths to vocal excellence, and we also share the excitement of their achievements.