“…Esther immediately and accurately identifies subtle changes in shape and function of muscles affecting sound quality. She brings enthusiasm, enjoyment and results to each and every lesson.” -T. Jaeger, MD (Mayo Clinic)
Learning to sing requires more than just the ability to make beautiful sounds. To become a professional singer, one must devote endless hours to his/her craft. They are required to study vocal technique/pedagogy, languages, movement, stage presence, and breath. Only through this process will singers start to discover who they truly are, which will allow them to put their own unique voice on the composer’s and poet’s work.
My Mantra for teaching is based on the famous quote by Joan Walsh Anglund: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Every student I teach has a different reason for singing: some want to pursue a professional career as a performer or teacher, some just do it for enjoyment, and some take lessons as a form of therapy, as it helps them to connect with emotions and start to release. No matter what their goal is, I try to assist them in the process.
The first step in becoming a singer is the technical study, during which you must peel back the layers of bad habits, misguided thoughts, or misinformation to reveal the beautiful voice inside. This is a very vulnerable process, and requires immense concentration, dedication, and discipline from the student. How you prepare during this phase determines what kind of artist you will become in the future. I focus on the mind/body connection while exploring technique, musicality, artistry, and developing a well-rounded individual. I truly believe the student and teacher must work as one to help the student find his/her own UNIQUE expression that makes them grow from a singer to an artist.
In my studio I teach students with a variety of musical backgrounds and stylistic interests, including Classical/Opera, Choral, Musical Theater, Spirituals, and Pop/Jazz. Every student in my studio receives my full attention, regardless of his/her vocal challenges, level of achievement, or ultimate goals. In addition to focusing on vocal technique, I think the singer’s physical and emotional health is critically important. Unlike other instruments, we carry ours inside the body and need to constantly strive for optimum health, as any imbalance can throw off a performance. This entails proper sleep, hydration, physical exercise, meditation/breathing exercises and nutrition, so I have started a series of blogs on my website called “THE HEALTHY DIVA BLOG” that singers can reference to help them through this process.
The art of singing is built on human emotions, and our job is to convey that to the audience. We need to understand what’s going on inside us, so we can properly honor the composer’s music by expressing it with a deep sense of commitment, imagination, and determination. Every single student I work with has a different knowledge and background, so I strive to create a safe, enthusiastic, collaborative environment for them to learn performance skills. I focus on teaching students how to communicate with the audience, and their colleagues. Gratitude is also very important. When you say “THANK YOU,” gratitude fills the person who says it, and appreciation fills the recipient, rippling out, like a stone thrown in water. This needs to be emphasized when training young singers.
Every artist has two voices - The beautiful tones created by vibrating vocal folds, and the one which exists in our thoughts, heart, and spirit, otherwise known as our DIVINE CONNECTION. Singers must learn to listen to that little voice inside of them, which leads them to their innate musicality. This part cannot be taught. No teacher or conductor can tell you how to personalize the music you are singing — you have to find that meaning inside of you, based on your own personal experience in life. However, one must learn how to turn raw emotion into artistic expression. Thus, part of your studies as a singer is to listen to and watch as many live performances as you can, so you can watch how other artists achieve this, and experience how it feels as an audience member. Listening to other singers can result in imitation, but by cultivating a wide range of artistic and musical experiences, a young singer can glean a variety of ideas that can then be coalesced into a unique interpretation of music and text.
Anthony J. D’angelo once said: “When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” I think this quote speaks volumes regarding the depth with which you must examine vocal technique and development. My teaching is based on the Enrico Delle Sedie chart and vocalises, combined with techniques from the Italian and German Schools of Pedagogy. I can see, hear, and feel what is going on when a student sings, so it allows me to work with them on posture/stance, breathing, vibrato, clarity of the phonation, tongue placement, laryngeal position, vowel/consonant placement, and dynamic and expressive control.
Singing makes me feel joyful, grateful, and blessed, and my heart bursts with pride when I watch an audience member become overwhelmed with emotions while experiencing a performance! It is truly my honor and privilege to be entrusted with helping students find their natural voice, and my goal is to be supportive, optimistic, and honest in the process. I want to share my knowledge and tools with others, so they may become empowered to find the unique, artistic, beautiful voice inside of them!