Choosing a voice teacher is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a beginning singer. A voice teacher who is a great fit for your personality and goals can take you a long way in your vocal development and musical goals, but a teacher who is not the best fit may stall your growth unnecessarily. There are many good instructors out there; it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. Here are a few tips that will help you know what to look for.
First and foremost, it is critical that you have a good personal connection with your voice teacher, beyond their resume and credentials. Pay attention to how you feel when meeting them for the first time, do you feel comfortable? Do you feel like you can be yourself? Does conversation flow easily? Do you have fun with them? Your voice teacher will be like your therapist in that you will likely share a lot of thoughts and feelings with them, as music performance is an emotional art. Vocal study involves working with an instrument that is inside your body and is mainly controlled through abstract imagery and mind-body connection, therefore a student-teacher relationship requires a high degree of trust and the ability to be vulnerable.
Variety of musical genres
Unless you are a pre-professional vocalist pursuing a well-thought-out career in a niche music market, it is best to work with a teacher who can help you dabble in many different vocal genres, including pop, rock, classical, broadway, jazz, and others. Most beginning musicians don’t know exactly what type of venues they’ll end up performing in, and even if they do, the career lifespan of a singer is likely to change over the years. Not only will a versatile instructor help you become more marketable as a performer or teacher, they will also help you see the strengths and weaknesses of your instrument as highlighted through the many lenses that varied genres can provide.
Active performance career
A voice teacher who is still actively performing, in addition to teaching, is a plus. Active performers are out in the field learning new skills and encountering new challenges as they perform, and will bring these innovations back to share with students. Active performers are well connected to their communities and colleagues, and can usually make referrals for you to other professionals such as college music faculty, directors and producers, and other students pursuing similar musical interests. Is your voice teacher successful and well connected in the musical field that you’re interested in pursuing (performing, recording, teaching, directing)?
Extensive technical knowledge
Although credentials aren’t everything, they are still an important element in choosing a voice teacher, since you will be paying good money in hopes of tangible results. Ask to see a resume, if they don’t have one already provided on their website or LinkedIn account. A qualified music instructor will have at least a Bachelor’s Degree or beyond in music or vocal performance, as college music degree programs are rigorous and demonstrate that the instructor has a solid foundation in music theory, performing, ensembles, history, repertoire and pedagogy. In addition, look for at least 2 years of past teaching experience, membership in music associations, attendance at conferences or workshops, and performance history. If you have specific technical questions or concerns about your voice, come to your first lesson with a written list so that you can quiz a teacher and see how they respond. Does their bookshelf include sheet music collections from many different genres, and several vocal technique texts? Does their iTunes playlist include types of music that you are interested in learning?
Ask for references
If an instructor checks off all the above items, a final step is to ask for a couple of references. Call their past or current students and ask them what it’s like to work with this instructor, what they like best about the teacher’s approach, and whether or not they are helping the student reach their vocal music goals. It’s important to get the perspective of an outside party when making your final decision.
Through a combination of the elements above, you’ll be able to get a pretty clear picture of what an instructor is like and how they will contribute to your vocal education. Diving in and experiencing a few lessons will be the best way to get to know an instructor’s value. Remember, if you start working with someone and change your mind, you can always try a different instructor later; in fact, for very serious students it can be beneficial to study with two different teachers who offer a variety of skills simultaneously.
For more detailed information about vocal technique and starting your musical education, see our series of eBooks written specifically for singers.
If you have additional questions about selecting a voice teacher, don’t hesitate to contact us.