As a singer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the act of making a tuneful and /or crowd-pleasing noise had been reduced in recent years to nothing more than a series of sciencey-sounding manoeuvres. Teachers appear to be obsessed with the muscles of the vocal tract and – even more exciting! – formant tuning, compression, twang, inertive reactance, sub-glottal pressure and on and on and on….
Much arguing – and a megaton of research – is done about the ‘correct’ application of each and every item on that list and many more, and each teacher, method or school of thought seems hell bent on outdoing the next with how much they know. Is that a bad thing? No, not completely! (Well, not apart from the last bit, which we think is daft). Of course it’s great that there’s all this knowledge – assuming that the teacher knows how to apply it, and that’s not always a given! – but aren’t we missing something here?
Our position at The Voice College is:
a) All research has something interesting to offer, but one size cannot fit all and no single method, school of thought or researcher can possibly have all of the answers, and
b) singing is an art form underpinned and informed by science, not a hard science that’s wandered into the world of the creative arts.
What would you rather have? A technically perfect voice that ticks all of the sciencey boxes, or a voice that moves an audience? And is it possible to have both? Maybe. But until science tells us objectively what constitutes the perfect voice, we’ll be left wondering what that might sound like… We think it’s as unlikely as being able to define the perfect novel, the perfect painting, or the perfect sculpture. So much of what makes art wonderful is subjective, and a listener’s response to the singing voice is very definitely a subjective thing.
Just to be clear: we love, love, love technique! We believe that all good teachers should be able to listen, interpret, and develop when it comes to working with the voice, using their knowledge of the pulleys and levers of our blog’s title alongside all of the other sciencey-sounding stuff. It’s not efficient, acceptable, or even good return on investment (!) for teachers to trot out exercises in class because that’s what their singing teacher made them do, with no understanding of why the exercise is helpful (or even if it is)! We should know what, how, and why, when it comes to teaching voice. But isn’t singing more than this? Form is great, but what about art? What about performance?
For singers, it’s about connecting with their audience. It’s making people feel something. We’d hazard a guess if you named your favourite three vocal performances of all time, they wouldn’t all be technically perfect from a singing teacher’s perspective, but they will certainly move you in some way. Voices carry emotion. It’s pretty much what they’re for!
There’s a slowly-growing trend that we think is massively important: that of getting our students to connect with the emotional imperative as a means of creating, by default, a more technically-correct sound. To try to explain something very complicated in one sentence: our voices reflect our ‘inner landscape’; whatever we are thinking and feeling at the moment of intention (the intention to make sound) is carried in the sound that we then make. So, if what we are thinking and feeling is “I hope I hit this note” or “I am going to place this note here and support using these muscles and use this amount of compression” then the sound that we make carries those thoughts. The best that it can sound under such circumstances is ‘correct’. Is ‘correct’ really what a singer is going for? Yes of course, in terms of ‘the right pitch at the right time’, but that cannot be all that there is when we are discussing artistry, because it’s not even all there is when training the voice to function in a healthy way. If we want to sing in a truly healthy way, we must address the primal drivers of the voice and of communication, not just the pulleys and levers of the vocal tract.
We believe that the training of a singer must involve harnessing the deeply-rooted instincts that exist in all humans – to communicate effectively and honestly via sound, facial expression and body language – in equal measure to teaching them how to control the voice via our physical pulleys and levers.
When teaching singing or watching others sing, it is a curious thing to note that very often, people who are animated and expressive when speaking become very still when they start to sing. I have seen this equally and often among performing arts students, nervous beginners, choir members and even experienced professionals. Sometimes it happens with performing arts students because they are so often instructed to hit neutral, or assume ‘the position of readiness’ before they sing, and it becomes entrained into their bodies to be still before singing; for members of more traditional choirs, the conductor often requests stillness so as not to detract from the piece being sung; professional musical theatre performers have often been told not to have ‘fidgety feet’ when they sing. None of these instructions is incorrect or damaging in and of itself but equally, they can lead to an unnatural stillness in performance – because people forget that they can be ‘in motion’ whilst standing still, and instead become locked down and stifled.
However, the more usual reason for a singer being locked down, frozen, too still, too physically ‘quiet’, is fear or anxiety of one kind or another. whether it be fear of failing an audition, fear of letting down the choir leader or singing teacher, or (often) an unknown fear that might stem from an unremembered criticism as a child. “I’m not good enough”, “I’m going to make a mistake” and “I feel horribly exposed” are all common experiences of the ‘still singer’. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with apparent stillness – it can be extremely powerful when we sing! There is little more compelling than singers who confidently hold their space, shoulders back, head up, eyes blazing – but the singers who are capable of performing in that way actually aren’t ‘still’ at all, but are in reality rocking with an energy freely given and uninhibited in nature. These singers know on a subliminal level is that sound is movement, and singing is sound – and thus singing must be an act of motion, not one of stillness.
Music is hardwired into the human brain to make us move – this is why music therapy works so well with people with Parkinson’s Disease, whose bodies have seemingly ‘forgotten’ how to move, often making walking difficult. Skilled therapists have found ways to bypass the primary motor cortex in the front lobe of the brain, enabling to dance those who struggle to walk! At base, this is done by playing them music with which they have a strong emotional connection, or which looms large in their memory. It appears that movement is task related rather than muscle-led, by which I mean that instead of the brain sending signals to specific muscles to move a finger, a leg and so forth, it comes from various areas of the brain dealing with accomplishing a task rather than making a specific movement.
“The brain organises movement by task, not by muscles. It uses a synergistic approach. So muscle-led singing instructions don’t work – task-led ones do”. (Alex Ashworth)
It’s a fascinating subject and one that is too complex to go into in this article, but what it means for singers is that we must work with the intention to accomplish a task (for example, singing a specific note with a particular emotion or tone colour) rather than trying to control the muscle groups related to making sound. This is why telling a singer “open your mouth in this specific way, make sure your tongue is forward, engage these support muscles” and so on, is really far less effective than saying something that engages the imagination in task and movement (for example, “walk across the room whilst singing the word ‘hey’ as if calling to an old friend”). This is a very basic example of course – there are many layers of musicality to address! – but when dealing with someone who freezes when they sing, it’s an easy way to show them how easily and freely a sung sound can be achieved. In other words, imagination is far more important in singing than is intellect, because imagination is the precursor of intention, and both movement and music-making are products of intention.
If we take everything back to the simple fact that there can be no sound without movement, it becomes clear that we must be in motion when we sing. Most people know about the body’s fight or flight mechanism, whereby a lot of adrenalin is released into the body in response to a perceived threat. In more primitive times, this helped people to either fight the threat, or to run away from it. Now, if we transfer this into the context of a singing lesson, audition or performance, the perceived threat is often that of failure, or of being judged and found wanting. The problem is that the threat is not external – there is nothing outside of ourselves with which to fight, and usually we can’t run away either! Thus, a third F arises – freeze!
‘Freeze’ is extremely detrimental to the singer: remember, sound is movement, and singing is sound, so singing must be an act of motion. If the singer goes into ‘freeze’ state then he or she will literally shut down every part of the brain that feels the inclination to sing. The areas of the brain responsible for movement light up when we listen to music, and the brain actually pulsesrhythmically in time with the music to which we are listening, so if we shut down our movement centres we are switching off our musicality, and certainly switching off the instinct to make music in a vocal way.
“If we think about the conditions that had to have existed when music evolved… [ ] if you wanted to make music, you had to make it yourself, and there was no way to make music without moving.” (Prof. Jessica Grahn)
What this all comes back to is that the human brain and body struggle to engage in music-making if there is no movement involved, so it is vital both for singers and singing teachers that we allow the body to move when we are singing. A singer in freeze state is very easy to spot: the eyes stare or glaze over rather than watch or engage (the archetypal ‘bunny in headlights’), the jaw tightens and the body becomes overly still. It is commonplace for singers who are thinking too hard – or who are nervous or anxious about the task of singing – to freeze, but we can break out of that state by adding a very simple degree of movement, whether that is clapping, tapping a foot, walking around the room, swaying from side to side or any number of other things. The movement doesn’t have to be big, or choreographed, but it does have to be present! I have often been directed to plant my feet and deliver a song from that apparently still position, but standing in freeze state is very different to standing confidently still. If you find that your body edges towards freeze state because you are standing still, there are ways around it: the best possible way is to imagine that you are moving, because your body doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Try this simple exercise: plant your feet and sing a song from a position of physical stillness. The first time through, deliberately hold your body still, as if in fear or even as if you have been frozen in a block of ice and can’t move your limbs. The second time, stand just as still but imagine that you are moving – whether that be walking, dancing, or spinning around on mountain tops in the manner of Julie Andrews… hear and feel the difference in the sound, and measure the difference in effort between the two.
On the other hand, movement that you have to learn (choreographed steps, for example) distracts the singer’s ‘thinking brain’, which can get in the way when singers are trying to sing something new:
“Movement is essentially governed by the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. When these parts of the brain aren’t working freely (for example, when performing unfamiliar movement) then the “thinking brain” gets distracted, and we end up being good at neither movement nor “thinking level” things. This is a problem for singers trying to remember movement and words at the same time.” (Maria Simeone).
However: natural, unforced movement will release the voice, because movement and music making – in very basic terms – come from the same impulse (intention). Simeone tells us that when we move to music, we release serotonin (the ‘feelgood chemical’) into the body, and that this in turn this stimulates the limbic system (the ‘emotional brain’) and in turn again, this has an impact on every other part of the brain. Music is pretty unique in that it’s an activity embedded in almost every part of the brain – we must not shut down our instinct to move. It’s very important that singers don’t confuse movement with dancing though! It doesn’t matter if you are not a natural or gifted dancer, it only matters that you allow your body to move when you sing – even if it is only in very small ways or indeed only in your imagination at first. Next time you’re struggling with a note, a particular tone, dynamic range, power, or any number of other components of singing, remember that simply walking across the room can make a huge difference to the results! Sound is movement; singers, get a wiggle on!
This week, my interest was piqued and eyebrows raised by an online petition calling for the UK government to consider making singing available on prescription. Now, it could be argued that the UK government has bigger fish to fry at the moment, what with Brexit and all… but let’s not go down that rabbit hole or we’ll be here all day.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that singing is a cure for all ills – it clearly isn’t – but there is an overwhelming amount of research to suggest that it’s an extremely useful tool when used as part of a total care package. For example, we know that singing has a positive effect on people with Parkinson’s, dementia, lung disease, anxiety, depression, and even social issues such as loneliness. What’s not to love?
Of course, the easiest way for people to people singing is to join a choir. (Did you know nearly 3 million Brits now sing in choirs? That was unheard of outside of choral societies as little as ten years ago)! They work on so many levels, including getting people out of the house, exercising the old grey matter, exercising the body itself, improving breathing, lowering stress levels and raising your happy hormones among many other benefits. If you’re a singing teacher, running your own choir is a no-brainer – and even better if you write your own arrangements and tailor the music to the needs of your particular members! I run a huge choir, and am constantly amazed at how much it means to the members. At first, I thought that it was just ‘having a bit of a sing once a week’ but it turns out that it’s so much more than that – it literally transforms lives (not just my choir of course, I’m sure they all do)!
It’s also been shown that people singing in groups form bonds more quickly than the norm, so if you’re organising corporate ‘team building’ events and you’ve been sending your employees white water rafting you might want to try sending them to a singing workshop…
But what about people who would find it difficult to function in a ‘normal’ choir? If you’ve got a debilitating illness it might be way too much to try to function as part of a large group of able-bodied people, so what do you do then? Singing on your own, whilst enjoyable, doesn’t bring with it any of the benefits of singing with others, and you might not know how to approach it in such a way as to alleviate your symptoms. That’s where a properly-led singing-for-health group might come in very useful. They exist in all kinds of formats all over the country, with some specialising in particular illnesses or conditions. Given the huge range of health benefits on physical, mental and emotional levels, might it not be a good idea for GPs to be able at least to refer their patients to groups like this? With that in mind: dear reader, I signed the petition – not because I think that ‘singing on prescription’ is going to be brought into law any time soon, but because perhaps we could at least start discussing it as a form of treatment that has genuine benefits for those with chronic health problems.
At The Voice College we have a unique course that trains people to be Sing 4 Health Practitioners – that is, to lead their own local groups, working with people with a range of physical, mental health or emotional problems via a form of what amounts to therapy through singing. You don’t need to be a singing teacher to train to be a Sing 4 Health Practitioner, but you do need to love singing, and want to help people through music. The course lasts for three months and runs three times a year. At the time of writing, the next one starts on March 5th so if this is something that you’re interested in, you still have time to apply! You’ll find all of the details here on our website.
You might also be interested to watch the Penny Lecture given at Morley College in January by Professor Grenville Hancox, in which he puts the case for singing on prescription, and launches the petition.
In a week that saw the 100th anniversary of ‘ordinary’ women (or at least, some of them!) winning the right to vote in the UK, we’ve been playing a particular album all week in the office, going by the title of Ordinary Woman.
Ordinary Woman is the latest offering from the Nelly White Band and is a gorgeous listen – made all the more so for us at Voice College HQ because the lead singer, arranger and lyricist on the album is one of our alumni. We love to celebrate the great work that our students and ex-students are doing and this right here is some really lovely work!
Check out this track from the album:
Nelly worked extremely hard to achieve her teaching qualifications via the college but we can’t take any credit for her artistry – that’s all her!
You’ll find The Nelly White Band on Facebook and also on Twitter @nellywhiteband
The album can be downloaded from iTunes and all the usual places… If you like your music cool, smooth and jazzy, go fetch!
Many congratulations to Nelly, who is definitely not what we’d call an ‘ordinary’ woman!
If you’re a Voice College student or ex-student and you’re doing something amazing, let us know! We’d love to share it with the world. 😃 Contact us on email@example.com to let us know your news.
In a world where many things are regulated to within an inch of their lives, and where hoop-jumping and form-filling masquerade as ‘standards’, it would seem to be a blessing that singing teachers are an unregulated bunch. And it is, sort of, because regulating creativity is a tricky old thing and always has been. Now, that might seem like a strange sentence, coming from someone who runs a college whose mission in life it is to train singing teachers, but bear with me!
You see, I’m not a person who believes that the more pieces of paper you have, the more brilliant you are. Qualifications are marvellous things (well, some qualifications are!) but they don’t define the person or the practitioner as a whole, and neither do they always reflect where the practitioner’s real skills lie. But where does that leave the poor, hapless singer who’s looking for a singing teacher? How do they separate the great teachers from those who are merely regurgitating information that they learned from their singing teacher, or that they read in a book, or on the internet?
So, qualifications aside, what are the main attributes that should – in my opinion – be held by anyone calling themselves a singing teacher? That’s easy:
A solid understanding of how the voice works on a physiological level
A high degree of musicality and
The ability to teach
Surely all singing teachers can teach, can’t they? I mean, isn’t the clue in the job description? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Except that very often, this is the one area in which coaches lack training and understanding. Let’s have a look at those three qualities in some more depth:
A solid understanding of how the voice works on a physiological level
Quite clearly, if you don’t understand how the voice works, you have no business even starting to teach singing. (That is clear, right)? The basic requirements are knowledge (“the knowings”, as call it) of the respiratory system; physical alignment; support musculature; the way the brain processes singing versus speech; the impetus to sing and its corresponding physical responses; the effects of the TMJ on sound; laryngeal anatomy; resonance and harmonics; registers. Registers! I have lost count of how many times I’ve taught singers who have been through three years at drama schoolbut still can’t access middle register, or taken desperate calls from casting directors and producers who can’t understand why the singers they’re working with can’t get out of chest voice. Or head voice. Or whichever register they go to out of habit. Teaching singers to access their full quotient of available registers is easy if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t? Well then it becomes a matter of sorcery, trial, error, and hope! But I digress…
For me, the list above is non negotiable. If you don’t have ‘the knowings’ you are not and cannot be an effective singing teacher – and yet there are thousands upon thousands ofcoaches who lack even basic knowledge in more than one of those areas. Would you trust a mechanic who says he can change the tyres but doesn’t know where the spark plugs are? A doctor who can prescribe antibiotics but has never heard of anaemia? No, neither would I.
One of the problems facing aspiring singing teachers is the sheer amount of information available both in print and online, much of which conflicts, some of which is so dense that you might be forgiven for thinking that medical training and a degree in physics are required, and some of which is just plain wrong. (Points deducted for anyone saying ‘sing from your diaphragm’ at this point). I can see why some teachers get overwhelmed by it all and end up just teaching what they do themselves, or what their teacher told them once upon a million years ago – but is that good enough? Is that really teaching?
A High Degree of Musicality
I think it goes without saying that you have to be a good singer to teach good singing, although some would disagree. I have encountered teachers who have every ounce of the knowings in a book-learned, voice-science sense, but who couldn’t make a living as a singer because their voice just wasn’t up to it.So how does that work? “Do as I say, not as I do?”“I’ll explain this to you verbatim but I can’t demonstrate what I mean?” “ You carry on belting as I’ve instructed but I can’t actually understand whether you’re doing it correctly or not because I’ve never been able to do it myself?” Of course, this is a complicated subject because you could easily argue that a lyric soprano whose wheelhouse is Disney Princess ballads will never have felt what it’s like to be a baritone who’s a heavy metal screamer. So where do we draw the line? Well surely, at the point where the teacher can’t sing much beyond Three Blind Mice, can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or has never experienced singing in front of an audience. It might be fine for someone teaching history, because what you need there is a knowledge of facts and interpretations of events, but singing isn’t like that. Singing is an art form underpinned and informed by science. How can you teach artistry if you’ve never experienced it?
Most teachers work with students who want actively to use their voice for something, whether that’s singing in a community choir, auditioning for drama school, fronting a rock band, working as a singer-songwriter orjoining the local am-dram society. They will expect to be taught how to perform as well as how to sing, how to deal with audition nerves, how to work an audience and how to develop that elusive quality, charisma (yes, it can be taught). In order to teach those things effectively, I would suggest that it might be pertinent to understand how to do it yourself. Knowing the latin names of all of the muscles and cartilages in the larynx is great, but is it helpful when it comes to your student’s upcoming gig? Perhaps not…
The opposite of this is the brilliant, seasoned performer with a wonderful voice and a performance CV as long as your arm, but who has none of the knowings. This type knows their own voice inside and out, has probably had singing lessons – maybe even extensive training – and they know exactly what they can do. Woohoo! That’s great! You can demonstrate every song every written in every available key, access all of your fully-honed registers, deliver a Tony Award-worthy performance at the drop of a hat, always find your light and never trip over the guitarist’s pedal board. All very cool. But can you show your student how to correct their head-neck alignment to free the TMJ? If that new student of yours has no clue how to get some power into that big ol’ money note, what are you going to say beyond ‘sing louder’?What if they have lovely tone but can’t find where 1 is? You get the picture. Being able to do something yourself doesn’t make you a great teacher of it, just as knowing all the science and theory doesn’t make you a good practitioner.
There’s a third type here though, and those are the musicians who aren’t actually singers at all, in the strictest sense of the word. Their first instrument might be piano or guitar though, and they’re very musically talented so they must therefore also be able to teach singing, right? I see no logic here. None at all. I’m a singer; voice is my instrument. I also play piano in a good-enough-to-get-by-in-lessons way. I have a world-class sense of rhythm, masses of top-end performance experience, can sight-read and transpose any chart on sight, and am a trained teacher. It follows therefore that I should teach piano? Of course! How about saxophone? Or the flute? Sounds ridiculous when you put it that way, doesn’t it? I have no more business teaching piano than the average guitarist does teaching ballroom dancing. I could do it. But could and should aren’t the same thing, by any stretch.
So if it’s not enough to have both the knowings of voice-geekery and insanely great musicality, performance chops and industry experience, what else does a teacher need to have, for goodness’ sake? The one that’s so obvious, it often gets overlooked:
The Ability to Teach
The thing is, it’s not enough to have the knowings. All the scientific and theoretical knowledge in the world doesn’t make you a great communicator, and being a great singer makes you… a great singer. Congratulations. How is that the same as teaching? The only common thread is that both things involve a large dollop of performance.
Teacher training (or for some lucky folks, the natural ability to teach well without being taught how to) is the vital component in being a really kick-ass singing teacher. Teaching isn’t just about knowing your subject: it’s about communication skills of both the verbal and non-verbal variety; it’s about the capacity to explain really complicated things in simple ways; it’s about knowing when to shut up and let the student be active (i.e. most of the time); it’s about understanding a wide variety of learning styles, because the way in which you like to explain things might not match up with your student’s way of processing information; it’s about not pontificating or being ‘the expert’ in the room; it’s about loving to teach for the sake of loving to teach, not just because it’s a slick way to pay the bills (Hey world! I’m a singer and I can show you how to be as fabulous as me! It’ll only cost you £35 per hour, no-one checks up on my standards, ever, and I pinky-swear that I know what I’m doing.Book now!”); finally, it’s about empathy. If you have none, do the world a favour and don’t teach.
There’s one more thing, which is to recognise that being a performance / repertoire coach and being a singing teacher are two different things, although there many areas of crossover: a performance & repertoire coach essentially coaches you through songs, perhaps for audition purposes. A singing teacher understands how the voice works on a physiological level, and can explain all of those things in a way that enables you to effect long-lasting, healthy and positive change and growth in your unique vocal instrument, so that you can do whatever you want with it (including going to a repertoire coach and working on performance)!
If you are thinking about becoming a singing teacher, I would urge you to ask yourself if you have a high level of musicality, performance skills and singing ability, and then take a course that not only gives you ‘the science bit’, but also teaches you how to teach. Your future students will thank you for it.
If you are thinking of training to become a singing teacher, please check out our wide range of courses via our website: www.thevoice.college or drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org where one of our friendly team will be happy to guide you through your options!
At The Voice College we’re big believers in teachers not only being strong singers with a deep understanding of how the voice works, but also having great performance chops and professional experience in the music and / or theatre industries. Very few people want to train to sing to their bedroom walls, so we think that teachers who have a multi-faceted professional experience as well as teacher training and plenty of voice-geek smarts are of more use to their students than ivory tower academics who know everything there is to know about formants but have never actually set foot on a stage or in a recording studio.
With all that in mind we thought we’d keep you up to date with what Team VC is doing, because they’re in uber-busy mode right now!
First of all we need to welcome our newest teamster, Daniel Haslam. Dan is a singer, actor, vocal coach and musician (piano and guitar) who trained in musical theatre at the Dance School of Scotland and GSA Conservatoire in Guildford. He’s performed all over the world, including a European Tour of The Who’s Tommy, in concert for World Wide Events as one of The Twelve Tenors, and in the UK and European tours of The Twelve Irish Tenors for Spirit Productions. He’s also worked extensively as Principal Vocalist, Company Manager and Vocal Captain for Belinda King Creative Productions.
Dan’s teaching studio is in S.E. London and he revels in teaching cutting-edge vocal technique as well as performance skills. As a former Steve Balsamo Scholarship winner, Dan trained via the college to Advanced Professional Diploma level, and we’re totally gleeful to have welcomed him onto the team!
And as if that wasn’t enough… he’s just done session vocals for an album that went into the Top 5 on the iTunes Classical charts the week it was released, and in April ’17 is recording an album with four-part jazz vocal group 52nd Street. Busy busy!
Tutor Alan Richardson joined us back in January, when he was still appearing in the UK national tour of Chicago the Musical. Having subsequently been out to Singapore with the show, he’s about to hit rehearsals for the national tour of The All-Male Mikado under Sasha Regan’s award-winning direction. The tour starts on April 18th at The Theatre Royal, Bath. If you’ve not seen one of the ‘all male’ productions we recommend that you go!
Meanwhile Senior Tutor and part of the Registration Team, Cordelia Lewis (aka Givvi Flynn) continues to rock-star her way through life recording and performing with indie-pop band The Dowling Poole, who have done very-nicely-thank-you with their last two albums and are currently working on a third. Givvi has also been seen rocking out with The Wildhearts in recent times, including being very rock n roll by breaking her arm during sound check, nipping out to A & E to get it plastered up, then returning to do the gig in the evening. Dave Grohl eat your heart out.
Tutor Chris Passey, as well as being in possession of a mighty voice and serious teaching chops, is a choir-master extraordinaire who has recently provided choirs for Josh Groban (UK tour) and Russell Watson (Songs of Praise). Chris has recently been out to Slovakia to study conducting under the tutelage of Simon Chalk, who is the Chief Conductor of the Slovak Sinfonietta and Artistic Director of the Southern Sinfonia. Simon has also worked extensively with internationally-renowned vocal group Il Divo.
Tutor Cathy Crompton not only works as a professional singer, but is also a choir-leader for the organisation Got to Sing. A firm believer in making singing accessible to everyone, Cathy combines her great pedagogical knowledge and infectious enthusiasm to bring the joy of singing to hundreds of amateur singers across The Midlands. A highly-trained singer and teacher, she’s one of the newest members of the team and a genuine asset.
Senior Tutor Christine Evans is a professional singer-songwriter and guitarist who gigs regularly and also leads a choir in her home town. Equally at home teaching in person or online, Christine has been with us longer than any other tutor and we’re not letting her go! Christine is also a qualified pharmacist and is a positive fount of information when it comes to what works and what is the stuff of myth and legend when it comes to treatment for poorly voices.
Finally the Boss, Ria Keen has been busy since November writing the vocal arrangements and providing session vocals for her friend Jon Moses’ new album, and is looking forward to recording an album with 52nd Street (for whom she writes the complex and jazz-tastic arrangements) in April, alongside both Dan and Chris. She’s also looking forward to going back to work with the students at The Birmingham Theatre School for their Graduation Show this year.
So as you see, our teachers are not ‘just teachers’ – whatever that means – but also industry-savvy professionals with wide-ranging skills and (apparently) days with more than 24 hours in them! Students at The Voice College cite the tutors as one of the most important elements of their courses, because the tutors give so much of themselves to the work.
So if you’re thinking about training as a singing teacher, or taking a course to supplement or formalise your existing skills, why not have a look at our website, or come and say hi on Twitter or Facebook? We really have got a course for everyone, but more importantly we’ve got the tutors who’ll help you to succeed!
We’re working like very hard-working things behind the scenes for some fab new ‘stuff’ that’s going to be launching next year, and in order to make that happen we’ve had to expand our team so here are three of the new faces coming to a study room, workshop, webinar or course near you soon!
Currently on tour with the UK production of Chicago the Musical, Alan is a graduate of Guildford School of Acting, and completed his Advanced Professional Diploma at The Voice College earlier this year.
Alan’s also well-known for taking leading roles in the award-winning “All Male” G & S productions from Regan deWynter, and has a reputation for being one of the industry’s most accomplished falsettists, as well as a consummate actor.
Here he is in one of the trailers for “All Male Pirates of Penzance” which toured in 2015:
Alan is based in London and specialises in musical theatre and the falsetto voice. His students describe him as “brilliant” and we wouldn’t disagree! He’s also funny, personable and a proper voice geek who always goes the extra mile to get great results out of his students. He will be joining us as a Personal Tutor.
Chris is our uber-knowledgeable ChoirMeister. A highly-sought after singing teacher, musical director, singer and choir director who just this year has appeared on tour with Josh Groban and on TV with Russell Watson, among many other credits.
Chris leads on a specially-created blended learning course for singing teachers who want to improve their piano skills, and will also be one of the lead tutors on our upcoming part-residential, part interactive online “MasterSinger” course which enrols from January and starts in September 2017. Not to be missed!
This always-busy man runs a private teaching practise from his studio in central Birmingham, sings with The Boss (Ria) in jazz vocal quartet 52nd Street, and runs Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts which is currently producing some outstanding opportunities for young performers.
Chris specialises in choral and musical theatre singing.
Cathy is a graduate of DeMontfort university where she got a BA (Hons) in Theatre, has a Diploma in Teaching Contemporary Singing and a Certificate in Applied Vocal Pedagogy from The Voice College, and has trained extensively with some of the country’s top singing teachers.
In common with all of our teachers, she’s a fanatical voice geek and loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with her students in her busy private teaching studio in Ross on Wye.
Cathy leads several community choirs under the banner of the West Midlands-based Got2Sing organisation, and is already doing a great job mentoring students as a Personal Tutor at The Voice College!