Those who look for a voice teacher often love to sing specific genres. Many enjoy musical theater, for example. But they also love other genres as well. I have taught students who sing rock, country, jazz, folk, celtic, choral, and opera.
This is not a problem for me, as finding the student’s best natural voice is my ultimate goal. Once the singer masters the fundamentals of healthy technique, they can apply it to any style of singing. I encourage students to bring in repertoire that they want to learn, with the caveat that I reserve the right to say that the particular piece might not be the best fit for them vocally.
Many voice teachers, however, do not share this philosophy. There have been times when I can guess who a singer studied under, not because of the student’s mastery of technique, but because that teacher’s students all sound the same. Often, they sound exactly like that specific teacher.
This is especially true when the teacher is a classically trained voice teacher. Don’t get me wrong; classically trained voice teachers are great. I am one. Due to the nature of classical singing (something I should go into in another post), these teachers possess a deep understanding of the vocal mechanism. That is good. However, this knowledge can lead to a rigidity of thought or an arrogance that says that no other style can be “good” singing. Unless you want to always sound like a classical singer (which is not necessarily a bad thing), avoid this type of teacher.
The uniqueness of the voice necessitates that each voice sound unique. That’s profound, I know :). What it means is that I believe in bringing out the unique beauty of every voice. Some voices are light and flexible, so I try to bring that out. Others are big and powerful or warm and rich. Each voice has its own particular strengths to be developed and weaknesses to be fixed. A one-sound-fits-all approach simply will not do. In fact, it can hurt the student’s voice, or just make them sound unnatural.
A couple more observations and then I will finish. Sometimes the mental rigidity is on the side of the student. Many singers have difficulty singing well in more than one genre or they are mimickers, so they turn into carbon copies of their teacher. A good voice teacher will discourage the student from mimicking his or her exact sound. Students can either be a mediocre copy of their teacher or a great masterpiece of themselves.
It’s okay to master one style, but I want my students to be able to experiment in more than one style. The more styles one can sing, the more marketable one is. It opens up opportunities. It’s like adding more apps to your tablet. The more it can do, the more powerful it is. I practice singing in multiple styles: jazz, folk, choral (jazz, pop, and classical), and classical (baroque, classical, romantic, and modern periods). If you come to my recital on Nov. 18 (shameless plug:)), you will hear the fruit of this.
I hope this somewhat rambling post is helpful to you as you look for a voice teacher.
(Image is in public domain)