"The only thing I can do is try to understand a person and then discuss with him what he has not yet done. Really, I can't develop or change anything in anybody. I can respect what he is and try to make him a true picture of himself. It is between the teacher and the student to find out who you are."
As a teenager just out of high school, I was lucky to have a friend and songwriting partner recommend a wonderful singing teacher. She was my first. Although I eventually crossed paths with four other exceptional teachers, she had the most profound influence on my voice and understanding of what it means to be a great teacher.
- Master teacher Nadia Boulanger, Composition studies, Paris Conservatoire
Years later, I find myself teaching both privately and at the college level with students who have come to me from a variety of life's paths. Many come to see me with only a vague desire singing is something they've always wanted to try. These individuals have never experienced formal training and seldom know what to expect. Others have only studied in a group setting such as at a high school, church or in a community choir, while some have already worked with a singing instructor or coach. This last group can be divided into two types of students: those who have had adequate to excellent instruction and those who have had poor instruction. Some of these individuals have bounced from one teacher to another never fully satisfied that they are getting the help they need. Over time, these students develop the most difficulty with their voices. Their minds fill with contradictions and their bodies overrun with tension. When this occurs, students suffer from lower self-confidence and increased negativity. By the time one of these singers comes to see me, he or she often doesn't know who or what to believe anymore and every step forward is met by resistance and/or disbelief. It takes an extraordinary individual with great desire to overcome these tangled beginnings. As a teacher, these repeated observations have impressed upon me how important it is to have the right instructor when you begin your training.
In this next section you will find some questions to ask a singing teacher before signing on. I've also provided criteria to help choose the right singing teacher for you. By clicking on the individual questions you will gain some knowledge of how a legitimate and qualified teacher should respond to your inquiries. Regardless of whether you are looking for your first teacher or your sixth, it is my goal to help you remove some of the risk from the process. Feel free to print out the page of questions or any of the answers and keep them handy when interviewing teachers. The purpose of the information contained in the following pages is only meant as a primer to get you started. Once you find a good teacher, it will be up to the two of you to 'make a true picture of yourself.' I hope that your experiences will be as positive and nurturing as mine have been.
Orville Heyn, Vocal studies at Humber College, Toronto, Canada