TYPES OF VOICE TEACHERS
THE PHILOSOPHER – Tends to teach/speak in metaphors and images, talks about
chakras, etc.. Does a great deal of talking in the studio.
THE DRILL SERGEANT - “Just do it!” is a common refrain in this studio. “Don’t be
so complicated, do what I told you to do!”. “Get that jaw down!” and “You’re not
supporting!” are commonly heard. Little or no tolerance for questions and any
resistance or confusion is met with stonewalling or outright hostility.
THE THERAPIST - tends to address issues commonly not within the realm of voice
study: the student’s personal life and psyche. Extreme cases involve transgressing
boundaries. Wants to “befriend” the singer and his, her or their family. Does a great deal of talking
in the studio.
THE SCIENTIST - Can name all anatomic structures related to the vocal apparatus,
especially the complex mechanisms and intrinsic parts (vocal folds, various
cartilages - cricoid, arytenoid, etc.) and the role they play in pitch formation. Is
versed in the overtone series, vowel formants, etc. Can talk at length about the
Bernoulli Effect. May offer complex solutions to vocal issues and problems and
ignore simple, practical solutions. Does a great deal of talking in the studio.
THE NON-SINGER - Very often a conductor, a coach or a pianist who has played for
voice lessons. Has picked up a variety of phrases (“Lift the palate”, “Relax your
throat”, “Support your voice”) and uses them indiscriminately.
THE RETIRED PROFESSIONAL SINGER, ESPECIALLY A FORMER "STAR" – Has little
pedagogical training and tends to ask the student to emulate and imitate. Does a
great deal of demonstration in the studio. The greatest of former stars very often
have little knowledge of how they did what they did as singers. Can be good
teachers if they have done enough study and self-analysis and have enough
introspection regarding their own singing
THE DENIGRATOR - Casts aspersions on or “bad-mouths” other voice teachers.
Gossips in a negative fashion about colleagues in an attempt to elevate
himself/herself to the “top of the heap” of voice teachers. Tends to blame
departing students as not having grasped the Denigrator’s concepts. Claims to
have the “only” true method of singing, usually inherited from a long line of “bel
cantists going back to Porpora” (G. B. Shaw).
THE CHEERLEADER - Well-meaning attempts at positive reinforcement (“Great”
“Wonderful” “Fabulous” “That’s it! You’ve got it!”) can take the place of
necessary critical problem-solving. While a positive atmosphere is essential in the
studio – it cannot take the place of constructive criticism and the often painstaking
process of problem-solving and vocal development.
THE BALANCED, PROFESSIONAL VOICE TEACHER - Has a great deal of experience
teaching (5+ years minimum). Regardless of age, continues to study with a teacher
himself or herself and seeks new input and new solutions from colleagues. Does
not apply a “cookie-cutter” to students (i.e., the same exercises and concepts to
every student). Has been a professional vocalist on some level. It is my opinion
that anyone who has not been in the “hot seat” as a performer cannot truly
understand what goes on in the mind and body of the singer. Has a good
knowledge of repertoire and, ideally, can play the piano to a reasonable degree. Is
comfortable saying “I don’t know.” It is my opinion that the strict division of
“technicians” from “coaches” is artificial and the truly qualified voice teacher
embodies elements of both technician and coach. Does not teach repertory he or
she does not like or understand. Has professional memberships and associations
and maintains professional relationships with conductors and agents.