An Introduction to teaching
I have been coaching singers of all ages and abilities for many years, in both 1-2-1 and workshop settings. I genuinely love teaching. All of my students, irrespective of age, ability or musical style choice are coached in the fundamentals of breathing, posture, vocal placement and tonal quality and develop solid, reliable techniques that work under pressure. Through good repertoire choices and by setting a few goals, my clients develop as artists, musicians and performers. Everything I teach is science-based or drawn from published pedagogical research. I regularly attend courses and masterclasses, I continue to study with leading practitioners and am a member of respected professional institutions. My students learn to sing in a healthy way. As a performer and creator of new music myself, I have a particular interest in exploring the purpose and dramatic impact of songs, helping singers to deliver meaningful, character-driven performances. The ultimate goal is to enable everyone I teach to fulfill their vocal potential and make singing an enjoyable, musical and healthy, experience.
Footnote - As singing teaching in the UK is unregulated, there are no compulsory teaching qualifications, which can make choosing the right teacher a challenge. There are recognised and accredited ways of teaching all other musical instruments, but not for the voice (see my blog post: Why Singing Teaching Can’t be Regulated). The obvious and most major difference between the voice and other instruments is that musical instruments have resonators (the sound making spaces) that don’t change shape (imagine a violin) unlike the human’s vocal tract that changes shape radically. Even the smallest of changes in the vocal tract makes a big difference to the sound. The voice is an incredible instrument capable of producing a vast spectrum of sounds but each voice is unique to the individual and subject to so many variants, so it is important to me as a teacher, to have a decent understanding of anatomy and vocal function to effect change. Having good ears, empathy and the ability to use or even create the right language to enable the individual to grasp concepts, is also a given!
There are lots of reasons why singers come to me for lessons: to enable them to increase their range, improve stamina, develop a ‘better’ or louder sound, build confidence, explore new styles, develop a reliable technique or simply to learn to sing and have fun! My clients include ‘hairbrush-holding’ bathroom singers, for whom singing is a pure joy to professional performers in need of a vocal MOT. Some singers come specifically to prepare for an upcoming exam, audition or performance. I recently had a session with a ‘non-singing’ actress who needed to be able to pull off a John Dowland song for an audition and a talented young man who was having performance anxiety issues and I often have sessions with choir singers who need coping mechanisms for their tired and sore voices. I really believe that everyone can sing and strive to deliver lessons that are personal, relevant and practical while still being musically enjoyable experiences. I do not expect my clients to be able to read music and am happy to recommend repertoire, particularly for younger learners. There is always a piano or keyboard available and the facility to play backing tracks. Drawing on my experience as a performer, I am particularly adept at coaching musical theatre and contemporary commercial music, carefully drawing out the character and natural sound of the singer.
Singing, songwriting and recording
Group Singing Sessions offer a great opportunity for singers to focus on harmony singing and to build musical soundscapes with other singers. One of the benefits of group versus 1-2-1 lessons, is for singers to see and hear how fellow singers respond and process information and how that can manifest itself in a change or improvement of sound. Groups will sing in rounds and canons and everyone is encouraged to experiment with improvisation. I strive to be as inclusive as possible and feel confident that the environment is always friendly and non-intimidating. These sessions are particularly useful to groups preparing for a particular production or concert.
Writing and Recording Workshops I work collaboratively with groups of young people in art centres and schools, producing original musical stories. Facilitated by me, all participants are active in the development of plot, lyric writing and the recording process. They choose a theme for their story and develop the characters and plot together. The recording process allows the group to experiment with special effects and helps develop an appreciation of the power of underscoring in directing our emotional responses to situations.
Examples of a couple of these stories can be heard in Audio Samples. In 2019 I will receive training to deliver Arts Awards, a Trinity College of Music qualification open to young people active in extra-curricula artistic learning. My musical stories and other songwriting projects count towards that qualification.
I encourage all my young students to experiment with song writing. We work together on lyrics, song structure and melody. Students can record their songs, overlaying with harmonies (I have a particular love of harmonies), in the relaxed environment of the teaching room in Greenwich. You can hear some original songs by my students on Audio Samples.
In 2009 I founded BelleStars (aka The Home Recording Company), giving all kinds of people the opportunity to learn to sing and record their favourite song. I have coached and recorded hundreds of singers through the BelleStars experience. Watch the video in Audio Samples.