Voice Teacher, Amanda, Shares tips on finding a teacher!

Tips on choosing a voice teacher. . .

Voice teachers are as subjective and as varied as the genres we can sing in! When looking for someone to study with, here are some things to be curious about:

Their availability and pricing. If your schedules don’t line up, then you cannot reach your goals with them at this time. Some teachers have a waiting list. If you really like this person, you may wish to wait for an opening. If your needs are more time sensitive, you may wish to look for someone else. This teacher may even be able to suggest other teachers in the area that fit your needs (pricing or otherwise). Don’t be afraid to ask anything!

Their schooling.  There is no one neat little certificate that says a person can teach voice. If there was, I would have it. Their is freedom in this. There is also a danger to this. If you were going to hire a personal trainer, you would check to see what gives them the right to train you.  Do the same for voice.

Their philosophy or teaching style. Continuing the trainer metaphor. . . If you wanted to run a marathon, you would pick someone who has experience training for one. If you wanted to learn how to run a faster 5k, you might choose a different trainer than one who has only run marathons.  Choose a teacher who knows what you want to know and can teach it to you well.

Keep in mind, the best teacher is not always the best performer or vice versa.  One can have all of the credentials in the world and still not be able to convey that knowledge in a way that clicks with you. Go with your gut, and find someone who understands your learning style and your goals. Also, find someone whose teaching style you can understand.

Their Goals.  Be prepared to share what you hope to learn or to do with your voice lessons.  Ask them the same questions.  You can ask how they handle specific vocal issues (belting, changing voices, breathy sound,etc.). You can ask what their goals are for their students after leaving their studio.  Every teacher has a different focus. Find one whose focus can align with yours.

Any cancellation policies or other expectations.  Some teachers will let you cancel and not pay for the missed lesson. Others will not.  Investigate this.  Do they have recitals you must perform in?  Will they only work on their repertoire and not coach you for auditions and singing elsewhere?You have a right to ask about anything you can think of.

Remember that this is a service. You can cancel your service anytime. You can seek another’s services after or even at the same time. I have learned something different from each of my voice teachers, and they have all helped to shape me and my voice today.  Stay curious!

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Amanda Ainscough is an very active vocal artist and can be heard singing all over Central PA.  She also has a large studio at the Perfect 5th!

 


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Flute foundations: 5 note patterns!

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In the flute studio at P5, on any given day, one is likely to hear about 10 minutes of every 30 minute lesson on 5-note patterns.   5-note patterns are the first five notes of every scale, and students are required to learn them from memory by the time they are finished with Blocki Book 1.  In order to do so, we practice with games that help the student memorize them.

The first step is working on finger changes between 2 notes at a time.  Then, as we focus on memorizing the 5 notes in a row, we play a game where we put the notes out in front of the student, and after playing it successfully 2 times in a row, we turn over a note to the blank side of the card.  The student again tries to play the 5-note pattern in a row and tries to recall what the missing note is.  As they continue this, they eventually have turned over the cards and they are playing from memory.

After the card game, we may place the note cards under rhythm cards and play the five note patterns to different rhythms that the student is soon to be focusing on in their music.  They play their five note patterns to these different rhythms.  To make it even more difficult, we play the patterns in harmony, with the teacher starting on the third note above the students note.  This also means that the teacher is playing a different rhythm from the student, thus reinforcing ensemble and leadership skills.

Another activity that we do with the five note patterns is walking while playing them.  I got this idea from Kathy Blocki, my mentor and KinderFlute trainer.  The students and I  walk outside on good days, or in a circle inside, playing the 5-note patterns over and over.  It is much less boring to practice scales while walking around! The student is to match their feet to the quarter notes that they are playing (one note each foot).  After they master this, then we work on 8th notes ( 2 notes each foot), and then 16th notes (4 notes each foot) and 32nd notes (8 notes each foot).  This activity is beneficial for several reasons. First, it helps students learn to hear the subdivision of the beat and feel it with their bodies.  Second, it is a good way to practice speeding up their five-note patterns.  Lastly, walking and playing scales is a skill that involves more brain power…it is much more difficult to play the scales while walking, therefore, if they are able to do well with this, is demonstrates mastery over the fingers when playing scales.

Sometimes in lessons, I pull out the Jenga game, which has all the 5-note patterns written on the blocks.  They pull out a block, and play the scale that is written on it.  We keep playing until the blocks fall.  I have other board games that I re-designed to become a randomized practice game, as well.  A favorite is the zoo-animal game, that requires the student to pull out random animals from a box and play the scale that is  on the animal.  Students try to make a very large zoo before they leave their lesson!  We also have random M&M days, where I have them play as many 5-note patterns from memory, and students collect M&M’s in their bags which I then hang up on a cork-board for all students to see.  Once a bag is full (and this may take several months), the student can take their bag home and we begin again.

Despite all the fun ways I have to teach scales and 5-note patterns, I work very hard at reminding students why I think scales are important.  I make up a beautiful song and play it for them on my flute. Within that song, I place scales in it and have the students point out when I am playing scales.  I tell them that scales occur in my music all the time, and because I practice my scales, I can learn lots of my music quickly! I show them music that I am personally working on and have them point out the scales in it.  I also tell them that scales are the time to practice lowering their fingers and practice good posture, so that they can play very quickly, eventually!

 


Molly’s Awesome Beginner Lessons

A blog written by Student Intern, McKenna:

Molly Shortridge’s creative and fun lessons for beginner students both engage and entertain young flute students. She has them learning the basics of scales, known as five note patterns, through captivating activities. After learning the pattern, they go outside and march around, which teaches them to internalize the beat and memorize the pattern. They do this on quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes which helped strengthen their pulse even further. Plus, it’s fun. By the time they have completed method book 1, they are proficient in all 12 five note patterns, and are ready to move on to full scales. They also work on these patterns on various advanced rhythms which don’t usually become prominent until method book 2. By doing them prior to reaching the second book, the student gains a thorough understanding of syncopated 2 beat rhythm patterns. They do these on the scales first so when they get into the rhythm patterns in music, they have a complete understanding. Molly’s innovative techniques and engaging teaching style is perfect for any young flute player looking to step up their playing abilities.

Innovative Acting Classes

Ben Hodge’s acting classes are a delight for actors of any age level. Ben is a local actor and director whose fresh philosophies enhance a performer’s abilities and skillset. His workshop studio not only teaches acting, but also incorporates life lessons. While improving their acting skills, students also learn how to be more confident, a stronger speaker, and better person and friend in general. Ben emphasizes emotion and empathy, and practices both in the sessions. The students of the class love it. They are excited to be learning from him, and genuinely enjoy the class. They have running jokes, such as “free relationship advice”, and say Ben gives amazing life advice.  All of the students enthusiastically express that they would take his class again, and that it helps them in both their acting careers and life. Ben is a creative and fun guy, and anyone who takes this class will walk out with an enriched understanding of acting and a new outlook on life.

Students Will Travel!

This student travels from Washington D.C. area in order to continue her studies with John Gerschefski.  Her mother mentioned that it is very difficult to find a teacher of his caliber, even in the D.C. area.  John Gerschefski has been a performer, conductor and arranger in D.C. for much of his life, but prefers to now reside in Mechanicsburg area.  Lucky for us and all string students in our community! DSC_0037.jpg