Am I The Right Teacher For You?
If you are looking to become a world class opera singer, I am not the teacher for you. Although I do teach bel canto (classical) vocal technique and will work with students on classical vocal music if desired - I have a few students who sing and perform opera professionally (but who also work with voice coaches who focus on building their repertoire) - I do not have the extensive performance background - I have not publicly performed operatic literature, but have performed mainly in contemporary genres, including rock and musical theatre - or the piano accompaniment skills - I play the bass and the acoustic guitars far more proficiently than the piano or keyboard - to teach operatic repertoire, interpretation, language and style. A singer seeking to learn operatic technique and literature, with the goal of becoming an elite singer would be better served by an opera teacher with an extensive background in classical performance, years of experience in offering vocal instruction, excellent piano skills (or a paid accompanist), familiarity with the various sung languages within opera music, and greater knowledge of classical vocal music than I possess. With that 'said', I do work concurrently with some opera teachers, offering students a more technique-focused approach while the other teachers focus more on repertoire.
If you wish to develop a solid foundation for healthy and skillful singing using classical technique as a basis in order to apply it to the contemporary or theatrical genre of your choice, or if you wish to explore your potential for singing classical repertoire or solidify your classical technique before (or concurrently) pursuing studies with an opera teacher, then I may be the right teacher for you. (Amongst my current students are a few opera singers, two of whom are professionals who work with repertoire teachers, as well.) I take my students through all the same intense and solid technical training as any other classical vocal pedagogue, and we will focus on developing technical proficiency above all else. (When we choose to apply the technique to the student-selected repertoire, the focus is always on using correct, healthy technique.)
I work best with motivated thinkers - students who come to their lessons with questions and who spend time thinking about and analyzing their voices in order to understand them better. My favourite students are those who are willing to put in the time between lessons, doing assigned reading and practising, and who work hard during their lesson times with me. I always welcome questions or comments, whether in person during a lesson or via e-mail between lessons. I am highly committed to my students, and I expect them to be highly committed to their own singing success, too.
Although there may be moments of relaxation and fun during lessons, I tend to be fairly serious in my style and approach most of the time, rolling up my sleeves and getting straight to the job of diagnosing and prescribing solutions. (The time that I have with my students is so limited as it is, and I don't like to waste it. I also wish to be professionally responsible, as I understand that the student is paying for the lesson and trusts me to use that time well.) At times, I may seem to be focusing only on the negative aspects of a singer's current technical abilities, and this may be a little intimidating to more sensitive or self-conscious students who might take it personally. (My listening ear is very fine-tuned, so I tend to hear many 'tiny' things that a student may not.) I do try to balance that constructive criticism with genuinely positive observations and encouragement, too. However, my goal is always to help singers improve and reach their singing goals - this is what they pay me to do, and I take my job very seriously.
Most of my students realize that, although I'm fairly 'hard core' when it comes to training the voice, and I will certainly nitpick and settle for nothing shy of technical perfection as an ultimate goal, I am also very patient during the learning process, and understanding and empathetic toward the plights of the student of voice. I know that learning to sing can be challenging and frustrating at times - oftentimes much more so than it is fun and rewarding - and I encourage students to express their feelings and concerns, and to openly dialogue with me throughout the lesson and the week in between lessons. If a student needs a lot of encouragement and 'hand holding', I am prepared to do that, but my natural style is a little more intense and focused.
I do not teach questionable, unhealthy or unsafe vocal techniques. I will not, for example, teach belting, overdrive singing, a high-larynxed approach, a low or depressed larynxed approach, 'growling' or 'screaming'.