Why Study Private Voice | by Janice Ragland

                Private voices lessons are a way for a student to work one on one with a teacher who can monitor and guide the student in correct voice production on an individual basis.  It is not an automatic guarantee of success since much of the progress is dependent upon the student’s daily practice.  In fact, voice study can be a waste of time and money if daily practice is not a part of the student’s schedule.  There is no “quick fix” in vocal study.  Think of it like wearing braces on your teeth.  Four or eight weeks would hardly be worth the expense. Training a voice is an extended process.  A dedicated voice instructor will expect a commitment of months of study not a few weeks.  Study can always improve the voice, but is not a guarantee of “diva” status or music honors.  Many high school students are still experiencing the voice change.  Research has proven that it is advantageous to sing through that experience and period of constant readjustment.

                Parents need to be a consistent part of the training.  No matter who is paying the bills, a parent should be monitoring the daily practice.  It is a waste of time and money for students who do not devote some time on a daily basis.  And when it is performance time, it is important for parents to attend.  It is a rare student who will work and progress if a parent does not show encouragement and support.

                Before beginning lessons, there are some questions which parent and student should consider:

  • What are the long-range goals and purpose of this voice study?
  • How committed are both parent and student to the demands of this study?
  • Are you willing to plan your activities around the scheduled lessons?
  • Will the student plan and follow a daily practice time?
  • Will the student commit to bringing all materials and being on time and prepared for the lesson?
  • Will parent or student accept responsibility for notifying the teacher when the student cannot attend a lesson?
  • Will you make payments on time?

There is no law regulating private music teachers.  ANYONE can call themselves a  voice teacher.  Several things to consider as you choose a teacher would be:

  • A good performer does not automatically result in a good teacher.  Yet a good teacher must be able to model and demonstrate good singing.  Bad habits and incorrect vocal technique can actually do damage to a young voice.
  • What is the musical training of the teacher?  Where did they learn technique and vocal styles?  What results of their teaching are documented/
  • What kind of recommendation do local music teachers give for that person?  They may not say negative things, but read between the lines and find out who they DO recommend and why.
  • What style of music will be studied and taught?  Is popular, musical theater, or classical the style of music to be used?
  • What are the expectations of the student and parent?  What are the expectations of the teacher?  Is it only to get a I at contest?  Is it only to “have fun?”  Are all in agreement of the goals?
  • What are the piano skills of the teacher?  How will they teach literature and how are accompaniments for the music handled?
  • What is the cost of lessons?  Will the student have to pay for an accompanist for performances?  What is the policy on missed lessons?
  • How are music theory and music fundamentals incorporated into the lessons?
  • Will recitals and performance opportunities be offered as a part of the study?
  • How much of the lesson time is spent on vocal technique?  Each lesson should include technique and fundamentals.
  • What is the teacher’s expertise in vocal health problems and how would they handle detected problems?
  • What kind of literature is being taught?  Is music too advanced and beyond the age capabilities?  Is music too trite and inconsequential?  Is it all classical, or pop, or musical theatre?
  • What kind of library and resources does the teacher have?

The question is often asked why there aren’t more good voice teachers.  A simple answer is money.  Although professional singers may pay $100 a lesson, that would be unrealistic for a high school student.  At first glance it looks like voice lessons are expensive.  Then allow for taxes, facility expense, resource material, literature – and continued study and professional growth.  Voice teachers have no health benefits, must provide a location for study, have limited work hours since they cannot teach during the day when students are in school do not have a guaranteed monthly income by a school district or corporation, and there’s no retirement provision.  It is almost impossible to make a living as a private voice teacher.  Consequently those teachers often have “day” jobs to allow them a livable income.  Add in students (and parents) who forget payments, don’t pay for canceled/missed lessons or expect make up lessons.  The “take home” pay becomes more like minimum wage yet the profession demands extensive training and expertise.

        When is a good age for a child to begin study?  For voice, a standard answer is “Grade 9 or when they demonstrate a sincere interest.”  There are a number of good children’s choirs and they are often the beset answer for the very young singers.  Some students may begin in 7th or 8th grade (or younger) based on each individual situation.  Again it depends on the goals and expectations of both student and teacher.  Piano study is always helpful to a vocalist.  Either before or during vocal study, the piano study develops note reading and ear training skills.  Please note that the above comments are for vocal private study.  Instrumental study is recommended at a younger age for students.  Any instrumental training will be helpful to a vocalist in developing note reading and ear training skills.


The Choir Director as Administrator | by Noel Fulkerson

This is a super-sweet article that will be COMING SOON.  Be excited :-D.


Photocopying & Copyright: It’s All About Respect | Compliments of Alfred Publishing Company

This is a super-sweet article that will be COMING SOON.  Be excited :-D.


Helpful Resources for Young Teachers | by Amy Parent, Chris Munce, Stephen Rew, Dustin Cates, & Brian Hartman

This is a super-sweet article that will be COMING SOON.  Be excited :-D.


Thirteen Steps to Becoming a Professional Choral Director | by Sandy Cordes

            What is a professional and how is it defined in the dictionary?  This word is one that has been on my mind for several weeks so I decided to look it up and see what the definition was.  I went on line and had my computer do this work for me and found out that the best definition was “showing a high degree of skill or competence.”  I went one step further and brought up the definition for professionalism.  This one really drove straight to what I was looking for.  It says that professionalism or professional standards are “the skill, competence, or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession.”  As a teacher of thirty-four years, I then asked myself:  When did I begin to be a professional or when did I have the skill, competence, or character expected of a member of the choral profession?  I will reassure you that in my case it was long, but enjoyable roads that lead me to be qualified in choral music.  I was fortunate to have many experienced and skillful colleagues that helped me to become a trained choral director.  But what about our present young colleagues that are not as fortunate as I was?  Where are they to get the guidance and back-up that they need to succeed in our profession?  I have been asked this question over these past few weeks as I have visited with MCDA members around the state.   Thus I have a few points that I would like to share with you that will aid in your journey to professionalism.


Thirteen Steps to Becoming a Professional Choral Director

1. Be on time and be prepared.

2. Always meet deadlines.

3. Read all directions for entries, state rulings and any policies of your school district, community or church choir that affects your position.

4. Don’t procrastinate.

5. Set a professional example in appearance.

6. Keep your professional and personal life separate.

7. Speak appropriately to your students, their parents and your superiors.

8. Study your music.

9. Practice your major talent.

10. Organize everything.

11. Keep accurate records and be accountable for them.

12. Listen then speak.

13. To be a professional – act as a professional.


For those experienced choral professionals reading this article – maybe you have additional steps to add to this list.  E-mail them to me and I will be glad to include this in future issues of the Reporter.  Good luck to all of you on your professional journey in choral music.

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