Humans are born curious entities. We seek information about our world from the moment we breathe. Teachers are born the same, and then they learn that the best way to learn is to teach. A good teacher seeks, more than anything, to bring out the curiosity in her students and allow that curiosity to drive the student’s education.
In music there is no difference. I try to use my student’s curiosity to imbue the fundamentals, and then I help the student apply those fundamentals to any approach to music that she chooses to pursue. It’s a cycle that builds on itself into an upward spiral; each fundamental allows the student to grow in understanding both her goals and her music, and each time a student grows, her curiosity has been rewarded, leading her to grow in curiosity as well. The student then seeks out the next step.
Because curiosity and fundamentals work together to create opportunities for learning, my job as a teacher is to ignite, follow through, and use every opportunity for the student’s learning. My primary motto would then be that you can lead a student to knowledge but you can’t make him learn; if instead you make the student thirst for learning, there will be nothing you can do to stop him from getting there.
In a classroom environment, this translates into lesson plans that make use of as many approaches as possible to reach as many students as possible. In a one on one situation, it is far easier to tailor the lesson to the student, rather than trying to get the student to tailor his learning to what the teacher has decided to teach.
Vocal training is a demanding and difficult task, and some of it is age dependent. So while classical voice training at a high level is not done with children, childhood is the perfect time to gain confidence in front of a group or audience, train the ear, build an understanding of musical principles, learn to read music, and as importantly, learn to listen to and fully appreciate music, ranging from the classical to modern to the latest pop. This range of activities can help students maintain interest in singing while building the foundations for more involved training as they become adolescents.
In their teens, students’ voices change. It is more obvious in boys but also happens to girls. The end result is not as important as respecting the process, which affects both physical and hormonal states in the body; just as an athlete does not overload muscles while they are recovering, so vocalists train only within the ranges their bodies will tolerate, pushing growth with care.
With the right guidance, the student can learn to listen to her body—to become as mindful of her vocal chords, which are muscles, as an Olympic runner is of hers. My role is both to guide the student toward challenges and to make sure the student doesn’t overstep and hurt her instrument.