Teaching: a Statement of Philosophy

It’s not unusual for a voice teacher to come to that occupation after decades of work as a soloist. Nevertheless, it’s been a revelatory experience for me to transition to this role, and encounter a dimension of entirely new perspectives and challenges. Being a mentor and guide to young vocal artists warrants revisiting all the formative experiences I myself had, now with the benefit of a mature vantage point. What type of interactions had “traction?” How did thirty years of musical encounters coalesce into a paradigm that integrates both technical and artistic skill sets, to forge vivid connections with listeners in a concert venue, as well as with listeners in the studio and classroom? Can I reverse-engineer decades of eclectic performance curation, in order to recognize the mindset and mastery needed to set forth on a fulfilling path in the 21st century?

A robust engagement with voice science has become a foundation for today’s singers-in-training. It has transformed our pedagogy in a fundamental way, illuminating “beautiful singing” as idiomatic and achievable by many, many more aspiring vocalists than we’d expected in previous generations. A voice teacher today has encountered a genre-specific Clash of the Titans, as singers pivot between the allure of fascinating but exclusive insider information versus a more quantifiable shared understanding of anatomy, acoustics and cognition. Is evidence-based pedagogy removing obstacles… or is it grievously flattening the terrain? The bright line that illuminates the value of an artist can now be drawn much more inclusively, elevating “what will I choose to convey?” to our primary mission. I believe good teaching and good technique clear away many impediments that can be mistakenly ascribed to meager talent, or limited vision. A longing for connection via expressivity motivates singing—but improving technical efficiency will reveal an unsuspected range of eloquence.

I work to create a sense of supportive community among my students. I am impressed by online tools, and the ways they amplify the energy in that community. I want my students to be able to rely on their understanding of the vocal mechanism to the point of actively assessing and diagnosing any elements that are not yet aligned with their own best imagining of a vocal gesture. I want them to say “Yes” to every opportunity to sing, without doubt or hesitation, and to be continually on the lookout for fresh reasons to collaborate. I’d like them to draw inspiration and delight (as I do every day) from discovering the resonance between their literal and metaphoric voice, and the symbiosis between listening and singing.

Eddie, full lyric tenor

00:00
/gede.../; working for consistency and chiaro quality for the close /e/
04:45
/bidi.../; working on the choreo of divergent-back consonants above Db4
13:10"You are my love" descending arpeggios; adjusting appoggio above Eb4 for "You";
maintaining airflow for /a-e/ diphthong in "my"
20:38
offset scale + arpeggio; working on ample airflow while descending via arpeggio
22:35first run-through of "La fleur..."
25:55working on intonation of descending Neopolitan arpeggio via accurate cognition
34:45airspeed and dramatic build for final stretto sequence
41:22How to sing the word "Carmen!"

Brandan, lyric baritone

00:00
Broken thirds; working /m/ to vowels, and a brighter /a/
06:49
Descending triplet /u/ ; working for release of breath throughout
12:54'Trumpets;' challenging vowel timbre with fast air, and choosing an onset that prepares full, ringing timbre; more stable vibrato rate
18:54'Long exercise;' fast, range-y coloratura; recruiting undervowel shape to enable agility
24:07Macbeth scene; maintaining airspeed at onset; negotiating rolled r to a plosive consonant; parlando choices
34:19"Ma... che avisa..." high style for low accompagnata; correcting divergent shape in spite of covered timbre
38:46"Oh, lieto augurio..." contrasting breath gesture, long phrase v. short phrase; efficient resonant choreography around voiced consonants; timbre evolution within tied/dotted note values
46:30"Qual concento..." locating plosive consonants within best resonance; and a farewell pep talk

Anne, light lyric soprano

02:22
/zi/ resonance profile; the sensation of stability; trusting simplicity; antagonistic muscle groups create proprioception
19:35"For a while but then in time I'll go" stabilizing /a/
32:00"Giunse alfin..." run-through
33:24Stance; engaged quads; heel height. Adjacent diction choices.
47:30"Deh vieni..." more stable /a/ work; /o/; hemiola offsets; undervowel prefigures arpeggiated melody. Resistant consonants.