What To Expect When a New Teacher Is In the Forecast
I recently had an initial meeting with a prospective new vocal student at the music centre where I currently teach some of my vocal students. This student spent our entire time together complaining about how the teaching space was smaller than that of her previous vocal teacher, how the instruments playing in the adjacent lesson rooms were too distracting, and how my warm-up exercises were different than the ones that her former teacher had had her do. She repeatedly told me that she wouldn’t sing in front of me because she was too uncomfortable with how different things were, (even after I had attempted to alter my exercises dramatically in order to match her descriptions of those which she was accustomed to singing).
Although she readily admitted that she struggled to hear pitch and quite often couldn’t find the correct starting notes for songs, she asserted that she needed no technique training whatsoever. She believed that she had already achieved her ideal tone, range, strength and control, and felt that further technique instruction could offer her nothing and would have been a waste of time.
This teenaged singer was resistant to any change, and refused to entertain the possibility that she may yet have things to learn from someone else and areas of her singing technique that may need improvement. Yet she nevertheless wished to resume taking vocal lessons for her own enjoyment.
(Since all that she was interested in doing with her lesson times was singing songs with an accompanist, I was able to determine early on in our meeting that I was not the type of vocal teacher that she was seeking. She was really looking for a vocal coach.)
Your New Search
Maybe you haven’t been making steady progress with your current instructor, and you don’t believe that your money is being well spent under his or her tutelage. Maybe you’re planning to come back from a break from lessons and desire a fresh start with a new teacher. Maybe your current teacher is taking a personal leave or is moving, but you would like to continue learning in a formal manner. Maybe your goals, needs or schedule have recently changed, or you have moved, and keeping the same teacher is no longer possible or feasible. Or maybe your vocal teacher has brought you as far as he or she can – a case of the student surpassing the teacher – and you need to find someone with more advanced teaching skills and experience.
Whatever your reasons, there is one important thing to remember when changing your vocal training over to a new instructor: Expect the unexpected.
Every vocal instructor has different training and has developed different techniques over his or her years of experience. The good news is that every teacher also brings a unique set of skills to the table, and you will be challenged in new ways to grow and develop as a vocalist.
More than anything, flexibility and open-mindedness are going to be imperative if you hope to have success with another teacher. While some flexibility on the part of the vocal instructor is helpful and sometimes necessary, don’t demand or expect the new teacher to change his or her entire approach just for you, especially since he or she will likely believe in the proven successfulness of his or her established technique. Instead of focusing on how different the new teacher’s style is from what you’re used to, which will only be a waste of time and energy that could otherwise be spent learning, be positive about the possibilities that a new technique or fresh approach could present or open up for you.
Although you may initially feel self-conscious or awkward – it will undoubtedly be a bit of a “learning curve” for you – you will soon learn the new exercises and adjust to the new instructor’s teaching style. It is normal to be a little uncomfortable with change, and to be frustrated by it at times. However, if a vocal student is completely opposed to trying new ways of learning, he or she will likely find it impossible to settle on a new teacher and will be stuck in an endless search for an exact clone of his or her last instructor. Depending on the reasons for seeking a new vocal instructor, this resistance to change may prove to be a significant hindrance to the student’s vocal development.
It may take several lessons before you begin to feel comfortable with your new teacher’s technique and vocal exercises, and before you can begin to relax during your lessons. Give yourself sufficient time to adjust to and begin benefiting from the new technique and the new teacher’s expertise. If, in the end, the instructor still proves to be a bad fit for legitimate reasons (e.g. not solely because he or she takes a different approach to teaching singing than what you’re used to), you will at least have given him or her a fair trial before continuing your search for someone else to train you.