My teaching evolves significantly every year. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am constantly exploring new voice modalities, biomechanic body-movement strategies that benefit vocal production, and partake in continuing education as often as I am able. I have experienced debilitating performance anxiety, muscle tension dysphonia, and spasmodic skeletal muscles throughout my life. Through cognitive behavior techniques, rehabilitative voice therapy exercises, and self-massage techniques, my teaching has evolved to become a comprehensive conglomerate of the mind and body.
My students receive an eager and energetic teacher on a daily basis. I am inspired by the mechanics of the voice and the buildings of good technique and encourage my students to approach technique building with the same naiveté as a young child. I am spirited and patient, sensitive, communicative and vigorous. My teaching is fast-paced and I rarely use the same exercise twice; the voice exhibits functional deficiencies that are different from week to week and I believe the teacher’s job is to diagnose and treat the voice as it is which, for most young singers, changes frequently. I keep copious notes on student progress and technical achievement and hear the singers with a fresh set of ears at each lesson. I am cognizant of their technical end goals as well as micro-goals which can change by the day and week. My students are kept up-to-date with current scientific findings through case studies and IRB approved research, current trends in pharmaceutical effects on the vocal mechanism, as well as from my own observations in the teaching studio.
A method of teaching I rely on frequently is student based observation-diagnos-treatment of their vocal faults through what I call “teacher-student reversal.” If, for example, the student is exhibiting hypernasality, I will demonstrate with the same amount of nasality they were producing. I will have them communicate what they hear audibly, why it is occurring physiologically, and how they would fix it anatomically. I often have them negatively practice (in this case, by exaggerating even more nasality in the resonance) so they can feel the extremes of incorrect vocal tract alignment then have them overcorrect with hyponasality. This 180-degree exploration of “incorrect first and corrected sounds second,”give the student a healthy compare-contrast approach to fixing vocal faults. I have found this method to be very beneficial as they become the observational, teacher component in this scenario and challenge their auditory perception of vocal faults through the filter of my own instrument. In addition, I have them write weekly lesson responses from the lesson recording to assist in the process of correction, helping them facilitate these changes at home and in the practice room. I have not chosen a different method because this method has proven to be the most comprehensive and fastest treatment of vocal faults I have experienced in the teaching studio, but if in the future I find something more proficient I am open and willing to explore it.
I want students to learn, first and foremost, that their voices are not ethereal mechanisms that cannot be manipulated or altered: I pride my singers as versatile vocal-adjusters with a solid understanding of vocally agile, fully-accessible instruments. I know my goals are being met when my students have access to their full range, exhibit consistent sounds from week to week, and when their speaking voices organize themselves in ways that are resonant and healthy.
I expect my students to know the four systems of historic voice pedagogy, how they function, and the complexity of system imbalance if one part of the whole is not functioning proficiently. I also speak at length about how the future of voice science is expanding and that other systems of the body are at play in the phonatory process (i.e. endocrine, skeletal, cardiovascular, etc.). I expect my students to have a general understanding of what constitutes a healthy instrument: laryngeal flexibility, resonator accessibility, vibrato consistency, a malleable power source, the ability to make full and light edge sounds, and access to all functional parts of their mechanisms. I expect my students to be brave in exploring how anxiety overrides comfort and what causes debilitating performance experiences. Finally, I expect my students to communicative honestly about their experiences in the studio and to sensate how their voice and mind feel while studying with me.
My teaching is physical, emotional, and spiritual. I believe in informative, twenty-first century voice science with instruction that is hands-on, communicative, and diagnostic. Student learning is multi-faceted and complex and I believe my teaching style has evolved to approach and address all facets of the student learner.
I create an engaging and inclusive learning environment by giving the student a safe space to feel as comfortable as possible in the studio. As a member of the LGBTQ and brown communities, I pride myself on connecting to members of my studio who have, historically, been marginalized. I am demanding, yet collegial and light-hearted, and that combination has proven very successful. I have experienced many teachers during my studies who are judgmental, overly demanding, and simply no fun; I do not desire to be that educator and I believe I have found a healthy balance of these qualities.
I pull from my many years of experience in Alexander Technique, yoga, Linklater, myofascial therapy, and personal training to mold a full-body technical experience for my students. I am flexible in molding my teaching to students who have physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities and I adjust as needed when students are unable to do an exercise. I have spent years exploring the connection of the psoas muscle to pelvic positioning, alignment, and diaphragmatic release and getting my students moving and stretching in ways that benefit the singing mechanism is very important to the overall health and wellbeing of the singer-performer.
My teaching has changed dramatically over time. I have gained patience and flexibility in how I adjust my the studio expectations to the student. I have secured a unique and profound familiarity of the rehabilitative work I have experienced and pride my studio aesthetic to being one of twenty-first century science, biomechanics, reconstruction, and flexibility.