My teaching philosophy is structured around the belief that I can make any student, no matter what age, see and hear a glimpse of their true potential in singing and performing. I know that I have a gift of hearing potential in singers and I always aim to find ways of digging it up very slowly, shovel by shovel, until the singer notices a considerable difference after an extended period of time.
My personal strengths, as an artist, are communication, consistency of tone, flexibility of voice, and energy. If I have command over these things, then I can to explain them in very different ways to each of my students. I enjoy new opportunities to explain something in a way that I haven’t done before. In these circumstances, I am also learning. When I learn with the student, I feed off of their satisfaction and my enthusiasm motivates them to keep working towards their potential.
As a singer and performer, my job is demonstrate depth of knowledge of languages, diction, presentation, tone quality, musical accuracy, musicality, emotional range, dramatic interpretation, character development, a listening ear, a collaborative attitude, and an enthusiastic hunger to keep working towards improvement. These qualities alone, I hope to pass along to my students over the course of my career. I hope to improve upon these qualities and with that, learn from my students who actually show progress in these areas.
My background, as a musician, is listening to classical music from a very early age, perhaps six or seven years old. I would play the LPs of Beethoven symphonies and I would notice how they would make me feel. An excitement and passion that I cannot describe was aroused in me at that age and it taught me to approach all music from then on with that same excitement. My passion was not only for music alone, but also performing. I watched all the classic films that started out as plays and I observed the wonderful dramatic timing the actors possessed. I took that tool with me into grade school. I suppose you could say I was born with this passion. Both of my parents are amateur musicians, meaning they make music for the sheer enjoyment of it. They brought that into my life while they raised me. I sang in youth choirs, church choirs, acted in plays, musicals, and speech and debate competitions, while at the same time never letting other healthy activities such as sports disappear from my life. I became an avid concert-goer in high school and that made me who I am today. I think it is important for anyone to be a “well-rounded” person. For example, it is good to get a 4.0 all four years of high school and college and even to become valedictorian, however, it is also good, maybe even more important to always participate in many activities outside of the classroom which can put your life into perspective. For this reason, I think I was able to go to college. I took my love of many aspects of life and I put it into my craft of performing. Without this, my presentation would have been dull, lifeless, and less real.
I believe my most important job as a teacher is to give my students confidence. I want them to go away with the knowledge that no, they may not be the best singer in the world, but the way they sound right now, at this very moment, is the way they are supposed to sound and it is good enough; additionally, they will always get better. There will always be other singers that they think are “better” than them, but what they have to figure out is that those other singers do not possess the same unique qualities that they do . Everyone is different and that is the truth! My students’ jobs and my job to figure out: what is that unique quality(s) that you have? And when they discover it, they must run with it! Too many singers become discouraged (including myself) from going after opportunities that would benefit them because they always think there will be someone better at the audition. While that may be true, there is always something new you can show the panelists that they may have never seen before. There is no one else in the world like you. This statement by itself summarizes my teaching philosophy and the single, most important thing I want my students to always remember.
My job as a teacher and performer is also to listen. I can’t emphasize enough just how important this is if I want my students to learn and to succeed. I check myself constantly to make sure I am not going off on a tangent without first making sure they comprehend the most basic point of what I am trying to say. That being said, descriptions and explanations are empty without demonstration; so much of voice lessons are about putting theory into practice. The teacher and the student are, in a sense, participating in the activity of collaborative-learning. They are teaching each other. Only until the student can talk about what I just taught them and show it, will I know if I’ve clearly communicated to them.
Specific examples of my teaching include lessons with one of my fellow church choir members. She is a retired Latin and Classics professor. Her understanding and vocabulary could very well intimidate me, but I do not let my own personal weaknesses, which are negative expectations, get in the way of my teaching her. I know my strengths, and I hit them home! She is very well versed in many areas, but she came to me because she would like to be well-versed in more, different areas. I know that I have command over these areas (music, performing, acting, tone, musicality, ease, freedom) and my job is to share my knowledge of these with her. At the same time, I can also benefit from her breadth of knowledge as well. Just because you’re teaching a lesson, doesn’t mean you’re the only enlightened one in the room. I have to continually remember that. Teaching and learning is a COLLABORATIVE effort.
I have taught at a college and I definitely think I improved my students’ tone quality and confidence on stage; however, I did not get to address my entire “package” of things to work on towards their potential since I only got to work with them for a short while. I also teach kids. They can be the most fun. I find myself translating the language I use all the time into an easier- to -comprehend language that they can talk in as well. I do most of my learning as a teacher with these kids. They have different expectations than I do. For example, one wants to be able to sing in front of people without getting nervous. If she’s nervous, she can’t sing. She blushes and stops singing. My job for her is to be a support system while she sings and to give her certain activities to practice which will get her used to singing in front of people. So in many ways, the voice teacher has to be more than a teacher of music. Sometimes he or she plays the role of guidance counselor.
What I hope to inspire in my students now and in the students to come is a hunger or passion to simply live all of life! This may not sound musical, but it is very important when it comes to performing and singing. Without it, there is no life to your performance. Without it, there is no confidence or comfort on the stage. I can teach tricks to seem comfortable on stage, but without the student having personal experiences they can relate to, they cannot do justice to the art that we call singing.