USA trip

Arriving in Winchester!

After a wonderful holiday with my husband John I am settled in to my little apartment in Winchester, Virginia. I will be here for around 10 months while I do my PhD research. I’ll be based at Shenandoah Conservatory, and I am very excited to be here. For the last few days of our holiday together (our first without children in four years!) John and I enjoyed New York, seeing musicals and catching up with friends, as well as watching his colleague Crispin swim around Manhattan to raise money for secondary breast cancer! Over 10 hours of swimming! he has only a bit to go to reach his target of 4000 pounds – if you’d like to donate go here. It was amazing to watch him battle the Hudson River, and to be there at the end (I was cheering like a maniac! There were 15 swimmers, and I think I managed to see about 12 of them finish!)

I hope all my students are going well with their teachers and keeping up the practice! I miss teaching – it’s been six weeks since I closed the studio and it feels VERY strange not to be teaching and living by my timetable. However, I did my practice this morning, and realised that I can take this time to sing, and I loved my practice. Now to find me a piano! I feel a little weird without one! And being without my sound system feels strange too!

I had lunch with the wonderful Brenda Earle Stokes on Friday and with the incredible Jeanie LoVetri and her husband Jerry Kaplan on Saturday. Brenda will be travelling with Jeanie to Toowoomba to present Somatic Voicework: The LoVetri Method at the University of Southern Queensland in January. I know lots of people have already registered, and I encourage those of you who want to learn more about the voice, or voice teaching and pedagogy to go along. You can get more information here.

I was so inspired to get backing practicing after seeing a couple of musicals (Anastasia and SpongeBob SquarePantsyes my second time for SpongeBob, but I truly love this show and I wanted to see it with John – thanks TDF!). Jeanie has been teaching the two leads of Anastasia, and Christy Altamore is a graduate of College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati where my colleagues and friends Pat Linhart and Wendy LeBorgne teach. The cast were wonderful.  I really enjoyed the show, even though I know it is not based on the real story, but it was gorgeous and I was right down the front and appreciated the amazing acting and singing, and the incredible skill of the whole cast. Zach Adkins was wonderful as Dimitry (Yummy voice! Fabulous acting!) and Max von Essen as Gleb was just excellent. I LOVED John Bolton as Vlad. Mary Beth Peil as the Dowager Empress was astounding – it was like watching a masterclass. And even tough I am mentioning just a few, all the cast deserve bouquets!

SpongeBob is really such an incredible, energetic, fun filled show, so bright and cheerful, and the cast are simply spectacular. It is so much fun. Ethan Slater bowled me over again, and I am again reminded of the high skill level of these music theatre athletes – they make it look so easy! Like all true athletes! Christina Sjous as Sandy Cheeks and Gavin Lee as Squidward are brilliant – but really, so are all the cast! And seeing and hearing  Jai’len Christine Li Josey sing the role Pearl is a moment. That voice. She is gorgeous onstage, and when she opens her mouth and sings, well, you know she was made to sing. Shivers down my spine. But again, the whole cast was just amazing.

Right now it is time for me to get ready for the data collection part of my PhD! Hope everyone is well, and remember to practice your singing! Vocal athletes are trained and prepared, just like olympic athletes! And remember, sing a song that makes you love singing EVERYDAY!



Observing and being a lifelong learner as a singing teacher

LOVE Sheri Sanders! Her Rock the Performance classes are a must for anyone seriously into CCM Music Theatre styles!

I’ve been back to teaching and researching after my trip to  the US in January. This morning I observed an online class with New York music theatre coach, Sheri Sanders. I believe observation is an incredibly valuable learning tool, which is just as well since it is a major part of my doctoral research!

I have been so lucky to be able to observe wonderful teaching and singers in lessons in the US over the last few years. It is such an act of generosity, allowing another teacher to watch you teach. I have watched teachers work with a student in a way that is maybe the opposite way of how I might teach but get the same end result – there are MANY ways to teach singing, and it is not about right or wrong.  I find the sharing of information challenges and strengthens my teaching.

In the past you might have become a singing teacher through the master-apprentice method. You studied with one teacher for many years, watched them teach and were taught by that teacher yourself, and then went on to teach yourself. This method of training no longer really exists, we are trained in conservatoires, or through private pedagogical courses, or both. Teaching singing is of course completely unregulated, and many teachers come to the professional without any formal qualifications but with years of performance background and teach what they know through experience. Although I had an undergraduate degree, I certainly started out that way, and quickly realised I didn’t know enough to meet the needs of my students. My Masters degree in vocal pedagogy gave me a wonderful training in lots of areas relative to singing teaching, especially voice physiology and acoustics, and was a launch pad (NOT an ending) to my ongoing quest to learn about the singing voice and voice teaching. There were gaps in the degree (you don’t learn EVERYTHING in academia, right!), which meant I needed to continue seeking out the knowledge and skills to teach to the best of my abilities. The observation of other teachers has been invaluable in filling some of these gaps. I especially like it when we can have long discussions about the lessons too!

Just some of the teachers who have generously allowed me to observe their teaching over the last three years include Jeanette LoVetri, Mary Saunders-Barton, Raymond Sage, Pat Linhart, Wendy DeLeo LeBorgne, Sheri Sanders, Elizabeth Benson and Timm Adams. Sometimes I have things pop up in my brain from lessons I observed, or when I’m researching, I might recognise how a teacher applied a certain principle. Sometimes I have watched, or participated, and been a little confused, but after a period of time, an understanding of what the teacher was doing drops into my brain. It’s like things stew around up there for a bit, and then an understanding appears. Sometimes I observe and just soak in the wonderful teaching and singing. What a privilege! Knowing not just the theory of voice pedagogy, but the application of it when seeing others teach is truly valuable.

The Diva herself – the wonderful Pat Linhart!

I learn new skills, and return to my teaching humbled by the incredible number of highly skilled voice teachers out there in the big wide world. I messaged the wonderful Pat Linhart after watching her teach and being back in my studio, pinching some of her ideas. She responded “isn’t stealing the only way!” I LOVE this attitude! We all have something to learn (steal) from one another, especially if we decide to be lifelong learners. I do think it is important to recognise and acknowledge those who have so generously sown into your skills! I am excited to be presenting on mature voices this Sunday at the ANATS Building Blocks training day. I will get to observe my Queensland colleagues teaching and presenting on the different ages of the voice. Very cool!

Observing is great, but then it’s time to go apply what you observe, so I’m off to warm up and sing! Thank you to all the singing teachers I’ve been able to watch over the years. You have all contributed to who I am as a teacher!