When I made the huge transformation to singer/songwriter from competitive classical pianist and high-pressure conservatory training, I went looking for a singing teacher. Coming from that world, it was only natural for me to seek a teacher with status who could ‘get me somewhere’. So when I saw that so-and-so celebrity singing teacher had taught so- and-so famous artists, I was impressed and hopeful. I would soon discover that just because a teacher has some famous clients doesn’t mean they are the right teacher for me.
Despite how hard I tried, I never clicked with this teacher. I learned a lot on a certain level, but I felt extremely tense and awkward in this person’s presence. I wasn’t able to be myself or be vulnerable in my music because the atmosphere in the studio wasn’t loving or encouraging. Rather it was intimidating and cold. It was presented as if it was a great place for artists but in reality, in my experience, it wasn’t safe. You know when you can just tell that you’re not being really listened to or cared about? That’s how I felt.
It would have been worth the expense and the travel time had I felt seen and heard and loved up but during my lessons my teacher would have the computer open and check email, Skype chat, take calls and even make other student appointments, text, order and even get food delivered. It all demonstrated to me that I wasn’t important enough to deserve this teachers full attention and that I wasn’t actually cared about. Other things bothered me too. I didn’t like that only some students songs or shows or CD’s were fawned over while others that were just as worthy went ignored. It reminded me of the hierarchy in the classical world where only the chosen few are given any attention and everyone else is chopped liver.
I realized that lessons weren’t enjoyable but rather stressful without genuine laughter or connection. It was just as elitist and pressure-filled and competitive as everything I had left behind.
Sadly, I saw singers and songwriters being so intimidated or humiliated or glossed over that they never returned (and some who stopped singing altogether as a result). It is a big deal to open up your voice in front of a teacher. If it’s not a positive experience, there is damage.
Did I learn stuff? Yes. A ton of stuff. And I know I’m a better teacher and singer for it. But the truth is that although I learned a lot on a technical level, it wasn’t the kind of relationship I longed for and needed. I was unsupported on an emotional level. I lost a lot of confidence. I felt bad about myself. I gigged less, doubted myself more, and each lesson triggered a mess of negative feelings that dragged my energy way down. So even though my teacher taught some very big names, it didn’t translate into me having a positive or healthy or rewarding experience. It didn’t make me shine.
Like any relationship, the one with your singing teacher either brings you up or takes you down. And like any relationship, the influence teachers have on you as a singer and as a person is huge. No matter how much or how little singing experience you have now, you deserve the best teacher. Don’t settle. I mean for heaven’s sake, it’s hard enough to sing in front of someone, isn’t it?
So here are some suggestions for how to choose a singing teacher for yourself now or in the future, because there is a huge difference between choosing A singing teacher, and the right singing teacher for you.
Make sure your singing teacher is someone who:
1. Makes you feel genuinely welcomed, respected and important and honors your unique voice and artistry.
2. Takes you and your dreams seriously regardless of your level and guides you to take steps toward your goals.
3. Has all their attention on you in class and cares about you as a whole person.
4. Listens to you. Listens to you. Listens to you. Deeply.
5. Shows you (and can demo for you) exactly how to improve your voice with exercises and tools that are tailored to your needs, not cookie cutter, and addresses your concerns with honesty and integrity.
5. Communicates clearly and kindly and is not condescending or impatient when giving instructions or explanations.
6. Is sensitive and intuitive and attuned to your needs and pace and style of learning.
7. Gives you a push when you need it and helps you get unstuck or have a breakthrough.
8. Celebrates your success and knows how to lovingly help you navigate through obstacles and challenges.
9. Helps you move through fear and cultivate confidence, courage, and empowerment as an artist on stage and off.
10. Encourages you, champions you, inspires you, believes in you and makes it safe for you to sing and be real and express yourself from your soul.
How do you know you’ve chosen the right teacher?
1. You see definite improvement in your voice and get that positive feedback from others who hear you.
2. You feel greater freedom, openness and ‘let go’ more in your songs and feel emotionally expressive.
3. You understand your music better on many levels and learn how to practice effectively and get results.
4. You are excited about singing in front of others.
5. You can tell your teacher anything and know it’s ok.
6. Lessons make you feel happy and you look forward to them as grounding, motivating, and therapeutic.
7. You feel more confident overall.
8. You have more fun on stage.
9. You try new things and become more ‘you’.
10. You KNOW you found yourself a great teacher and feel grateful. You don’t feel alone with your singing anymore.
And that’s just the beginning.
Do you have this in your life now?
That teacher wasn’t right for me but maybe for others that teacher was everything and a bag of chips. No one teacher could possibly be right for everyone. I know that I’m not. But if you think I might be right for you, do reach out to me and let’s set up a time for a phone call about what you need and want in your singing and see if I may be able to help. This call is my gift to you. Contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
May each of us love ourselves enough to give ourselves what we truly long for and deserve in our singing and in every area of our lives.