Q: How do you structure the voice lesson?

A: At your first voice lesson, we will plan some extra time into to the lesson to get to know each other. To be the most effective teacher, it’s useful for me to know your previous musical experience, goals, and expectations. After the initial introduction, we will most likely spend at least 50% of the lesson working on technique through warm ups. This is the best way for me to hear your voice and how it’s currently functioning. I’ll observe your singing and then conclude what you are physically doing to create that sound. I create exercises specifically for your needs based upon what I hear. Some concepts we will focus on are breath support/control, tension release, posture, legato, and vowels. The goal is to extend your range, build flexibility, and gain control for an overall easier sound. After your voice is sufficiently warmed up and the technical focus is clear, we will incorporate what we just worked on into a song. At the end of the lesson, we will recap what you can work on at home before our next lesson. I suggest recording your lessons to review throughout the week.

Q: At what age can you start taking lessons?

A: This depends on the student. I suggest studying whenever there is interest. Since there is not a set formula for teaching voice, I structure lessons according to the individual student. For example, a younger student’s main focus would be on becoming a strong musician and less on vocal technique since their bodies and vocal cords are still maturing. This will give the younger student the proper tools and confidence to excel when they are ready for serious training. Students generally begin the New York State School Music Association in 4th grade.

Q: I’m interested in musical theater. Do you help with acting?

A: Yes! Singing, no matter the style, is all about telling a story. To be a successful artist, you must be able to communicate clearly and honestly. As a professional singer, I've had jobs in musical theater and opera. Both require a high level of acting in song and dialogue. Feel free to bring in what you’re working on.

Q: Why should I study with a classically trained teacher?

A: Don’t have dreams of being an opera singer? That’s ok! Most students don’t, but in my experience all good voice teachers are classically trained. Being classically trained just means you've extensively studied the "extremes" of how the voice works. I would never push my student to become an opera singer. My goal is to achieve a high level of vocal technique that allows my students to sing effortlessly and beautifully.

Although you may not want to be an opera singer, it’s important to study with one. When untrained students hear the words “opera” and “classical” it sometimes evokes stereotypical images of the larger woman with horns. This is simply not true! Opera singers have the most control over their instruments and therefore, have the most knowledge of how it works. I have trained seriously for over a decade and have professional experience on the stage. This translates very well into teaching. If the teacher knows how to use their voice, they can better diagnose and solve the student's vocal issues. Having knowledge about vocal pedagogy (the study of the art and science of voice instruction) is critical when training a voice.

Q: When will I be good?

A: I get this question a lot. "Good" is subjective and therefore impossible to answer. Results vary based on the student. I cannot predict how fast a student will pick up a concept, or how well they can maintain and reproduce it in a performance. Since vocal technique is learned through sensations, the more you practice properly, the sooner you'll develop muscle memory.

There is no end goal when studying music, just constant development. When someone is considered “good” at singing, it’s because they possess certain traits such as being in tune, clear diction, and consistency of sound over a large range.

Through practicing the exercises I assign you, listening back to our lesson (which you record), and listening to singers (both live and online), you can improve your sound. If you practice regularly, improvements should be heard in the first couple of lessons. Consistency will be developed over time through muscle memory.

Q: What is the difference between singing lessons and voice lessons?

A: It’s just semantics. People who look to begin singing usually ask for “singing lessons” but people who teach singing most often call themselves “voice teachers” or advertise “voice lessons” because they teach you how to master the use of your instrument, which is your voice- just like in piano lessons, where you master the instrument, the piano.

You may also see ads for “vocal coaches”. Vocal coaches are more often conductors or pianists who have studied languages and musical style. They concentrate on improving your song performance, where a “voice teacher” concentrates on your vocal health and technique. However, the title “vocal coach” is sometimes used by teachers of the speaking voice for public speaking and acting. When learning how to sing, you should study with a voice teacher who will work on technique. When preparing repertoire for a performance or competition, vocal coaches can be used as a supplement.

Q: I want to sound better but not lose my style. How can singing lessons help?

A: This is something we can discuss when we first meet. What is truly great is that your voice is unique to you, and my goal is to have as much “you” in the sound as possible. I can diagnose your basic problems in how you produce sound, but not pass judgment on the style. Ideally you want a lesson plan that loosens you up, makes your voice more flexible, extends your range, and perhaps adds new “colors” to your sound. For example, if you can only sing loud or slow, you’ll want to add lighter contrasting tones to make your song emotions more varied. Singing lessons should stretch your range and build breath control and body strength, without interfering with your vocal personality. In fact, lessons should give you more tools to try unique things! Probably the best thing about lessons is learning how to have power without straining. Poor pitch and a thinning or small range are symptoms of a more fundamental problem with straining or lack of support. I believe a teacher should help you become independent in your practicing so that you understand what you are doing right, and how to do it consistently.

Q: Isn't being a good singer something you are born with?

A: Although everyone's voice is unique, some do possess a natural, untrained beauty or musical ability. You can be born with a naturally beautiful voice but what makes the voice appealing is good technique. This is certainly easier for some, but I strongly believe most everyone can be taught to sing well. When you hear a "bad" voice it is either caused by legitimate vocal damage or more likely, a lack of technique. With the correct training and practicing, I believe almost everyone can have a pleasant voice. Even “good” singers can benefit from voice lessons. Your voice is always changing and having a teacher to guide you in the right direction will help your longevity and challenge you.

Q: I used to sing a lot, but haven’t in a long time. Should I still take lessons?

A: Yes! Sometimes due to life choices, an adult with all sorts of talent and musical training may stop singing for a while. That might be due to family, or fear, or perfectionism, or just not getting enough good luck at the right time. Because the foundation is there, one can often pick it up again and improve their sound faster than before. You’ll never know what your true potential is if you don’t try.

Q: I only want to sing for a hobby. Is it worth it for me to train my voice?

A: It depends whether you want to improve your voice. However, even if singing is not your main source of income, you can still have a lot of fun in lessons. Voice lessons can be whatever you want them to be. We can train for an upcoming performance, competition, audition, or just for you! I do not consider myself a “dancer”, but love taking ballroom classes. It’s an activity that I can enjoy and look forward to every week, but I’m not holding myself to a professional standard.

Q: I lose my voice often. Can voice lessons help?

A: Yes. I can help train you to sing in an efficient way and give you tools to keep your voice healthy. Ultimately it’s up to you to maintain healthy habits outside of lessons. One hour-long lesson per week will not undo the 3 hours of screaming you did at the concert or sports game. If you are having consistent issues, I may recommend seeing an ENT (Ear Nose Throat Specialist) who works specifically with vocalists.

Q: How can I tell if my child should take voice lessons?

A: Voice lessons are rewarding and fun for almost anyone. If your child has expressed interest in music, sings around the house or is encouraged by a music teacher, then voice lessons are the next logical step to develop their talent. Encouraging the desire to sing is an exciting process for both the student and the teacher. I suggest enrolling your child in a choral group (either at school, within a religious community, or outside group). This is where the young ear learns fundamental musicianship, harmony, counting, and staying in tune. Learning to read music is an integral part of becoming a strong musician. Community theater and school shows are also great ways to have your child become involved in performing. The more stage experience they have, the more confident they become. Having a healthy confidence when singing is essential to success. If I feel that concentration or commitment is an issue with a student, I will address it immediately with the student and parent. At that point, we can reevaluate whether the student is ready for lessons.

Q: How do you pick repertoire for your students?

A: When deciding repertoire choices for a student there are many factors that influence my choice. I choose a song that will help reinforce the technique we are currently working on, something that will be appropriately challenging and age appropriate. When considering a song, I look at things like range (how high and low the notes are), intervals (leaps between notes), tessitura (where most of the song sits in a singer's voice), length of phrases (how often the singer can breathe), language (English versus a foreign language), subject matter (relatable lyrics), and musical difficulty.

Unfortunately, there are many voice teachers who either don't have the proper training, or who are not teaching for the right reasons. They do not strive for what's best for the student's improvement and let the student pick their own repertoire to avoid possible confrontation. It is the teacher's job to lead their student toward the path of success. While a student's personal musical taste is important, it isn't always what will lead to progress. What you enjoy listening to may not be the best choice for you to sing. The wrong repertoire can even damage a student's voice. I try to keep a happy medium of developmental and “fun” songs.

Q: What do you mean when you say "free your voice"?

A: I teach a healthy technique, rather than imitating someone else. My focus is to solve your vocal issues to allow your voice to shine through, rather than striving for a certain sound. This happens with a healthy technique that becomes consistent through practice. Why try to sound like someone else when you can sound unique?

When you hear people do impressions, they are changing their natural sound by manipulating their muscles (ex: pulling back your tongue, raising their larynx) in order to sound like someone else. Although this can be fun at karaoke, my goal is to have you sound like you!

Q: Why can't I learn to sing using a CD or DVD course?

A: There is no "quick fix" with singing. One of the most recent scams that has arisen is the multitude of "singing courses" available on CD. The suggestion that it is possible to learn to sing from a CD course is preposterous, since without a teacher present to correct you when you are doing it wrong, you will most likely be practicing incorrectly for years and not even know it. Any respected, well-trained teacher would never make or recommend these courses in good conscience. They prey on customers with no musical training. The in-person correction is the most important aspect of vocal instruction, especially in the early stages of a student’s training.

Q: Why is it a bad idea to find a teacher on the first internet directory that pops up?

A: Competent voice teachers are currently being obscured by the onslaught of cyber-savvy marketing professionals flooding the internet with claims about finding a “quality teacher”. They lure prospective students by claiming that all you need to do is “show up and have fun". Although voice lessons should be fun, they are just like any other instrument. Improvement comes when the teacher informs the student of their issues and corrects them. I was horrified to watch a well produced video of a "trial lesson" on one of these company's websites. The lesson consisted of the student, who had major technical flaws, singing a vocally inappropriate song while the "voice teacher" played the piano. The only correction given was about an incorrect lyric. Voice lessons are about learning vocal technique, while this one seemed more like a karaoke session. They are not selling improvement, but a magic fix to make you famous. Their number one goal is to make money. They hire inexperienced teachers who often get paid only a fraction of what they charge the student. Like the CD/DVD courses, they prey on customers with no musical training who won't know the difference.

Q: Do you have student recitals? Why are they important?

A: Yes. I have annual recitals at The National Opera Center's Recital Hall in NYC. I think the experience of performing is essential to being a successful singer. Nerves often play into recitals. Dealing with nerves is a skill unto itself that takes practice. Although you may not perform your best at recitals due to nerves, it gets easier over time. Through these experiences, you learn what works for you to allow your mind to concentrate on what you’re doing, not how you’re doing.