Part III: Let's talk about.... picking a teacher
Guru. Mentor. Awesome adult. Voice teachers are all of these things. While you're in college, your voice teacher will be the most consistent person in your life. The person you see every week for four years. You'll see them for lessons, studio class, coffee when you need some mentorship, and everything in between. Finding the connection with that person before you enroll, or even audition is something that is so important. It can make all the difference when you start getting offers from schools, too! In this blog, we talk about strategies to find the right fit. A: Identifying teachers
According to the National Association of Teachers of Singing, there are over 7,000 active members. When you consider all of the members who are not members of NATS, that's a huge number of voice teachers! So how do you pick your person out of let's say 10,000? Hopefully part 1 of our blog series has been helpful as you process all of the nitty-gritty stuff that goes into this important decision. When you have your list of potential schools, start to research the teachers on their website. Look at their bios. Does their experience speak to you? Is it important that your teacher has performed on every major stage across the world? Would you rather a person who has done several national tours and is now teaching broadways' next generation? Do you want your teacher to have a ton of experience in voice science so they can teach you all of the anatomical stuff that happens when you sing? Would you prefer a teacher who has a ton of connections after you graduate? Maybe your teacher is a little bit of everything. Use your trusted adults to help you with this decision. Maybe your voice teacher knows people at the schools you are considering. Maybe they have a friend of a friend who works there or attended that program? Here are some ideas on how to begin that conversation- "Hey voice teacher, I'm looking at XYZ school and I wanted to see if you, or anyone you know, is familiar with ABC voice teacher? If not, can you do some inquiring for me?" I bet your teacher will be really happy to help facilitate that. If their questions come up short, post here we'd be happy to do some digging! B: Campus Visits
Ok! So now you have a list of a few teachers at each school. Woo hoo! Now what? If you are the good voice student we know you are, you're going to schedule some campus visits. Because you gotta see the school in order to make a well-informed decision. While you're on campus, see if you can shadow a current music student? Sit in on their classes, eat the actual food on campus (not the catered banquet they serve your parents to impress them), meet other students, and get some real-talk on what they love and what they don't. Many colleges want you to see what actually happens on campus versus the curated experience you get on the general tour.
We encourage our students to do this on spring break or fall break. Avoid the first month of classes like the plague. After September is probably a good idea. You won't get really helpful feedback during the first month or so of classes since a whole bunch of new students are adjusting and figuring it all out. C: Sample Lessons
While you're on campus, see if you can take a sample lesson. Many colleges will post contact information for their faculty online. If not, send an inquiry to the music department. You could say something like this: "Dear Music Department, I am a perspective [student/parent] and I'd like to set up a sample lesson with [a specific teacher, or any teacher who might have time (you choose)] could you put us in contact?" Once you have that contact info get to typing that email. Wait? You need help with this too? Ok ok! I'm on it! Your email might look something like this: "Dear Amazing Voice Teacher,
I received your contact information from the [music office or department web page.] [I/My Child] is starting to look at colleges and we are planning a visit to [your school] on [DATE]. While we are there, We are hoping to set up some sample lessons and wanted to inquire if you might have availability? If not, would it be possible to observe you working with a student? If [I/student] can take a lesson, what are your fees?" Sometimes sample lessons are paid for by the university as a recruitment tool, other times you'll be expected to pay. There could be a cost associated with these sample lessons they range from affordable to cringeworthy. Always ask and don't be surprised by whatever the teacher says.
The teacher might not have time for a sample lesson. It can be just as beneficial to sit in on a lesson as it is to take one yourself. A lot of the time it might be less stressful to watch a lesson versus take one of your own. When you watch, you'll get a lot of information that can be so helpful when deciding if this is the right teacher for you! Whether you're watching or taking a lesson of your own, pay attention to some super important things. Does the teacher have or develop a rapport with the student; do they speak a language you understand, meaning, when they teach do you understand how they express themselves; is the lesson pace too slow, too fast, or just right; do you like what the teacher has to say; are you super confused by what they have to say; does this teacher excite you and motivate the you/student to work? These are just some of the things you can notice when you watch or take a lesson. Ask the teacher if it's ok if you take notes if you watch, or record if you are singing. This will help you as you reflect back on your experiences with multiple teachers. D: Summer Programs
Often times, college professors will teach at summer music programs. A lot of the time these are geared towards college students from other universities so when you're looking make sure there is a division for high schoolers. This can be a great way to meet professors and get to work with them one-on-one. If you're really hitting it off with a teacher at one of these programs, start asking questions. "Would the university you work for be a good place for my goals?" is a great way to start your discussion. Be ok if the answer is no- it could be that they don't have the kinds of opportunities you're looking for even if the teacher is the bomb dot com. E: Other Considerations
Go with your gut. If you have a connection with someone immediately, trust that. If you want so much for it to work, but it doesn't, don't force it. Good luck!