Music lessons are usually taken to learn a new instrument or skill. They can additionally, provide enjoyment to the student and add value to their life through expression and connection. A good singing lesson should teach a student basic musical skills, but what makes a GREAT singing lesson?
I myself took both vocal and instrumental lessons throughout my childhood, including additional choral, musical theatre and band lessons. Being exposed to various teaching styles and methodology, I can say one thing for certain; there is no set, right way to teach a music lesson, as each student has a different voice and/or skillset. On a biological level, singers aren't all built exactly the same. However, there are various tools and tricks that singers can "try on" to unlock their full, unique, potential. Exploring all types of methodology can make the lesson more enjoyable and successful for any student.
Primarily, I stand by the idea that a music teacher's passion, positive reinforcement and encouragement are the most important elements of a music lesson. As a young student, I had exceptional music teachers, who fostered creativity without judgement, and allowed me to grow not only as a singer, but as a person. Later in life, when I first began teaching, I found that fostering this same safe space for my own students, was incredibly effective in helping them improve without judging their own journey. When students feel safe, anxiety lessens and their vocal growth is incredible. For example, vocalists tend to be more tense when they first come into their first vocal lesson. This naturally tightens their throat muscles, seizes the larynx and creates all sorts of breathing and onset issues as well. As a student confides in a teacher about who they are, and discovers unconditional praise for their singing and song choices, they learn to relax and truly enjoy the music. When the student is enjoying the music, they feel free to sing without fear, and as a consequence, their voice quality is usually clearer, stronger, more supported, and full of colour. This is why I've always believed that connection with students will in turn, be a catalyst for learning, and will build strong musical ability.
Our voice is a tool of expression, and when we believe what we are communicating, our voice will respond accordingly, with little thought needed. Voice lessons will never just be about singing, but about an individual's ability to express themselves without holding back. This can be such a gift for vocalists, as I've seen so many of my students become emotional and find true joy in the meaning of the music they are singing and sharing.
What makes a GREAT singing lesson? Making the singer feel GREAT! When we focus on expression over "performance," we can be free to sing wholeheartedly.
- Jacqui Verellen, Director, Verellen Music Academy
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