How to Choose a Voice Teacher
You've decided to make the commitment to improving your singing abilities. But how do you find the right instructor to help you on your way?
To quote a familiar African proverb: If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.
I am lucky enough to live in Washington, DC, where singing opportunities abound. As a professional singer, I am also fortunate enough to have musical colleagues and friends whose passion and artistry lent inspiration to the creation of Singer Source, a website that links classically trained vocalists with related services located in the DC area.
Presumably you are reading this article because you sing and wish to improve. Bravo! Healthy singing coexists with a healthy mind and body so given the best instruction, you may find more than your voice improving!
How Do You Choose a Voice Teacher?
First, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I want to study voice?
- What do I want to sing well?
- How much time will I devote to practice?
Next, collect names. Trained voice teachers exist in reputable music programs within your local schools, colleges, and universities. Large choirs often maintain a recommended list of teachers. Talk to friends who study voice and local musicians whose work you admire. I suggest the following resources:
- Classical Singer
- Google searching
- Vocal Area Network (for NYC-area singers)
- Boston Singers' Resource (for Boston-area singers)
- Singer Source (for DC-area singers)
Once you've gone through these preliminary steps, it's time to start contacting teachers. E-mail inquiry is fine. However, I recommend a brief phone call or, if possible, a personal meeting before committing to a lesson. Personal contact affords you the opportunity to test your comfort level with the teacher. Effective vocal study is both intense and productive, so, like working with a personal trainer or therapist, a good dose of trust and positive chemistry is essential. While the teacher need not match your gender or vocal part, your teacher should be receptive to your goals. I also recommend making an audio recording of the lesson to enable another perspective of the instruction and experience.
Questions to Ask Yourself After the Trial Period:
- Do I feel at ease with this teacher?
- Does he or she take my goals into account?
- Was he or she able to help me identify and effectively produce my natural singing voice?
- Did I feel motivated to practice after the lesson?
- Were both the mechanics and artistry of singing addressed?
- Did any suggested repertoire match my skill and interest?
- Does the teacher place value in choral singing?
- Does the teacher understand the importance of vocal leadership in singing both solo and choral phrases?
- Does the teacher have experience in Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais? (This is important because your best singing cannot occur without breaking bad habits in breath and posture.)
Ensure that your teacher has performance experience in a variety of musical styles and groups. You will want him or her to understand your performance medium enough to effectively help you.
Don't overlook a teacher holding a music education degree (with vocal concentration) in lieu of a degree in vocal pedagogy. Music educators have studied vocal production, music history, advanced music theory, conducting, and educational philosophies within a curriculum designed to create effective vocal educators.
Singing is for life! Congratulations on taking the first step to protect your voice—a lifelong investment.