Today’s singing teachers love to learn, grow and talk shop

Dr Ingo Titze at ViP's Voice Teacher Education Forum

Training for singing teachers has evolved significantly over the past 30 years. When I began my singing journey the only singing lesson option I had was of the classical variety. I loved my singing teacher, but the reality was I wasn’t getting the voice I needed to pursue the contemporary vocal genres that turned me on.

Fast forward three decades and I now know hundreds of singing teachers who would have been able to help me develop a stronger, more contemporary transition and upper register, with the vocal qualities that I envied in so many contemporary singers. Today the educated contemporary voice teacher is just as respected and valid as the classical teacher.

I feel fortunate that I was able to eventually find a teaching methodology that helped me become a proficient singing teacher for contemporary singers. Since that initial training, I have moved on somewhat, engaging with a more functional and scientific approach to my teaching methodology. This would not have been possible without all the amazing workshops, conferences, symposiums, courses and experts that are now available to help singing teachers with their continuing professional development.

One organisation that is delivering high quality and scientifically robust education and training is Vocology in Practice (ViP). This organisation’s primary remit is a commitment to helping voice professionals with their continuing professional development whilst providing a supportive network to its members. Last weekend ViP held its annual four-day Voice Teacher Education Forum at the Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, London. Myself and around 50 other singing teachers attended this event, which was chock-a-block full of educational presentations and workshops.

Guest presenters included voice scientists Drs Ingo Titze and Donald Miller, ENTs Drs Nicholas Gibbins (London) and Reena Gupta (Los Angeles), researcher and vocal health specialist Dr Jenevora Williams and Dr Emerald Lessley, who presented her work on teaching transgender voices. We had classes from singing teachers such as Chris Johnson, Gemma Milburn and Robin De Haas covering topics such as the articulators in singing, training behaviour and breathing for singing. Many singers from the contemporary and musical theatre worlds were also on hand to share their knowledge including Natalie Weiss whose talk, Breaking Down The Riffs, was interactive and entertaining. I was very pleased to be able to open the presentations with my talk, Performing Arts Medicine and the Singer. 

Natalie Weiss "Breaking Down The Riff"
Natalie Weiss “Breaking Down The Riff”

It was so inspiring to see contemporary teachers “geeking” out over the science, anatomy and acoustical physics behind singing, as much as they were over breaking down a riff.

I spoke to a couple of the attendees to find out what they gained over this weekend.

Kimberley Cartilage, UK. 

What key message did you take away from the forum? 

A sense of community! To be with other like-minded teachers is truly invaluable. On the final day, presenter Ian Davidson mentioned that teaching can feel quite lonely at times and it’s so true. It was fantastic to connect with a group of people who understand the demands of a singing career.

The best part was there was absolutely no judgement. Everyone in the room was there to learn and develop their skills. We all have gaps in our knowledge and I now have a huge pool of people who I can turn to if I get stumped. 

Also, I didn’t realise how much my own experiences could help other teachers. We’ve all got our own unique style and specialities. We all learnt so much from each other as well as the speakers. 

How will it change your teaching? 

I feel like every aspect of my teaching will evolve, from the language I use to inspire my students to being able to identify specific habits or tendencies a singer has that are inhibiting their vocal freedom.

Which talks/presenters stood out for you and why? 

All of the content was relevant. I took something away from every talk. I loved how the talks naturally linked into each other which I think demonstrates how relevant they all were.

Why is it important for singing teachers to attend these kinds of events? 

It’s incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by teachers who are looking to advance their skills. I can confidently say every singing teacher will have learned something that will help them in the studio. My clients can know they’re getting the best from me and that I’m a proactive teacher who wants to do the job to the best of my ability.

What three tips did you gain that other teachers could benefit from?

  1. It’s OK to not know. You can’t be expert at everything. Sometimes you won’t know the answer but someone else will and you can ask them.
  2. Be yourself. Every singing teacher has their own speciality and that’s awesome. Own your speciality.
  3. Join the community. It’s great to learn from reading but connecting and learning from others is so valuable. Remember: some of the best mentors haven’t written their books yet.
Teaching Clinic at ViP's Voice Teachers Educational Forum
Teaching Clinic at ViP’s Voice Teachers Educational Forum

Anita Malzone, Ireland

What key message did you take away from the forum? 

The power of repetition in learning and how the brain and body create neurological pathways for these processes.

How will it change your teaching?

There was a myriad of information that will filter through my teaching and enhance my skills as a singing teacher.

Which talks/presenters stood out for you and why? 

Laryngologist Dr Reena Gupta’s session on the diagnosis of different voice pathologies was so interesting. I liked the final twist where she got the group to diagnose her voice issues and view this via stroboscopy. The teaching clinic was extremely helpful and I related well to Robin De Haas’s logic around breathing co-ordination.

Why is it important for singing teachers to attend these kinds of events? 

It’s a fantastic opportunity for teachers to connect and learn a lot of information surrounding about the voice. This can enhance their understanding of the craft and help them be inspired and well-rounded as singing teachers and educators.

What three tips did you gain that other teachers could benefit from

  1. Include a mental warm-up exercise to relax the student and to bring them to the present.
  2. Actively listen for any vocal pathology issues if a student is having continuous trouble achieving notes, sounds laboured or feels fatigued vocally.
  3. Be aware of the body alignment of the student and use gentle methods to improve this. Also look out for hypermobility and supporting the student around this. 

ViP’s Chair, Whitney Nichole Cytryn said of the weekend, “I was thrilled to see such an engaged and passionate group of voice professionals gathered together. There is such a thirst for knowledge and demand for advanced education here, which is inspiring. ”

As for me, well I’m getting my brain ready for the next event, The Voice Geek Conference with Voice Workshop this Sunday!

iSing founder Line, is passionate about creating a place where singers can gain knowledge, skills, advice and support. Something she wishes she had when she first started. In her private practice she helps pro and semipro singers, artists and voice teachers with their voice, performance, mindset and teacher training. Her speciality areas include Performing Arts Medicine, anatomy, health, technique and mindset. She pulls on a wide range of qualifications, experiences and interests to assist her clients to build and develop the knowledge and skills they require for their craft. She is a member of the BVA, PAVA, PAMA, is an MU she.grows.X mentor and Education Section committee member and Advisor to Vocology In Practice, and a BAST singing teacher trainer.