Voice and Piano Lessons in Vallejo!

I am excited to announce that I now have a new home studio in Vallejo, CA!

I teach private voice and piano lessons for all ages and experience levels.

Beginning Voice: ages 6 and up; 30-45 minute weekly lessons for beginners (depending on age and level)

Intermediate/Advanced Voice: all ages; 45-60 minute weekly lessons, in classical or popular vocal technique.

Beginning Piano: ages 4 and up; 30 minute weekly lessons (or 15 minutes for very young beginners) for beginners.  I usually recommend increasing to 45 minute lessons once a student starts learning more challenging music (around level two of a method series).

Intermediate Piano: all ages; 45-60 minute weekly lessons.

Beginning Voice/Piano Combination: all ages; 45-min for beginners, increasing lesson length when needed.  This is a good way to get started reading music and singing, and is often a good choice for younger beginners.

A brief note about materials and repertoire: I will recommend specific books for use in lessons.  I generally use the Piano Adventures series for my piano students.  Voice students will be asked to purchase music as well, usually at least one songbook and one book of vocal exercises to build technique, which I will recommend based on skill level.

 

 

 

 

Classical Music is Not Dead

I recently read this article on Slate.com, proclaiming Classical Music dead and irrelevant, as well as these two excellent responses, a line-by-line rebuttal from Proper Discord, and Occupy Classical Music from Head/Voice.

The misconception that classical music is dead/dying makes me angry.  This art form is something that I am passionate about, and I hate to hear ignorant people describe it as irrelevant and powerless.  I don’t have data and numbers to prove my points, all I have are my observations and opinions.  As a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I was surrounded by incredibly talented and passionate musicians who inspired me with their dedication to their craft.  As an aspiring opera singer in my early twenties, I had to explain my chosen career to countless confused individuals who didn’t even know that opera singers really still existed.  And now, as a voice and piano teacher, I want to help my students discover the same passion for music that has inspired me.

It’s true that classical music is not as popular as many other forms of entertainment, but it still has an audience.  Just because something falls outside of mainstream tastes does not mean that nobody likes it– just look at the thriving indie music scene.  I believe that in our electronic and impersonal world, live music of all genres can bring us back together, make us feel things together, and connect us with each other.

And let’s not forget the growth of new opera companies and performing ensembles started by young performers with the goal of making opera/classical music accessible to everyone.  Is this a sign of a dying art form?  No.  Opera on Tap and Classical Revolution both organize performances in informal settings like bars and cafes, to bring music to the people.  This eliminates the obstacles that sometimes stand between the average citizen and an opera performance, like expensive tickets, fancy clothes, and proper audience decorum.  Instead, audience members can sit with friends, have a drink, and enjoy the music the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Many, many of my classmates from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music are building their own careers in new music ensembles and other exciting projects, and doing so quite successfully.  There are also new opera companies being formed by young singers who just want to make music, like San Francisco’s Waffle Opera.  These singers are hungry for opportunities to perform, so they are creating their own, and finding an eager audience.  These organizations prove that classical music and opera are, in fact, very much alive.

It all comes down to the fact that a live performance by an excellent musician is a moving and powerful thing.   This concept easily gets lost in modern pop music, with all the special effects and auto-tune and pyrotechnics.  But being in the same room as a truly great performer (in any genre of music) and really feeling the energy and passion of the performance is an amazing experience.  There is nothing else like it.

This is especially true in classical music, which generally uses no microphones or other amplification, so the wall of sound that is washing over you is PURE ACOUSTIC AWESOMENESS.  If you’ve never been to a live performance by a great orchestra or opera singer, DO IT.  Trust me.  Even if maybe you get bored after an hour or two or don’t absolutely love the whole thing, I guarantee there will be at least a few moments when you are hit by a huge wave of sound that leaves you with goosebumps and a smile on your face.

Classical music is far from dying.  It’s growing and evolving.  Some people are just to narrow-minded and lazy to look for it outside the traditional big opera houses and symphony halls.  Some people don’t realize that you can head over to an intimate cafe for a drink and watch some chamber music or opera scenes.  Some people just don’t understand the power of music and the dedication of those who have been inspired by it.  We are not giving up, and classical music is not dying.

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the biggest challenges I face with my students is getting them to practice regularly.  Consistent, focused practice is a necessary part of developing good vocal (or any other instrument) technique.   Students with good practice habits progress much more rapidly than those who only practice occasionally or not at all.

The goal is not to practice for hours every day, but instead to practice carefully and deliberately, reinforcing what was learned in your lesson and practicing those skills so that they become comfortable.   Pay close attention to what you are doing, how you are singing, and how it feels.  Focus your attention on practicing difficult sections and trouble spots.  Don’t just sing through the same song over and over and expect the problems to fix themselves.

For more on how to practice effectively, see this excellent post on Bulletproof Musician: How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?

Finding time to practice regularly is something I struggle with myself as well.  Besides teaching, I work an office job, and I don’t have a lot of free time.  I also live in an apartment building with thin walls, so I try to be considerate of my neighbors by not practicing too early or too late.  I’ve been trying different methods of scheduling my practice sessions, and have yet to find the perfect solution.  I usually do some basic warm-ups and vocalizes during my 20-minute morning commute, but it’s pretty much impossible to accomplish any productive practice while driving.

One thing that has helped for me is finding small chunks of time for practice, and setting a timer so I am not distracted by the clock or all the other things on my To-Do list.  Fifteen minutes is a good place to start when it seems like there is no time for practice.  Even with a crazy schedule, you can always find 15 minutes for singing, and you might be surprised how much you can accomplish in that short amount of time.  If I have a little more time, I’ll sing scales and exercises for 15 minutes, then work on a song for 15 more.  I am often more productive during these short practice sessions than I am when I have more time.

As a coloratura soprano, a lot of the repertoire I sing is very vocally demanding.  Repeatedly singing through some of these arias is tiring, and not the most effective way to practice.  This is where mental practice comes in– a technique I first learned about at the OperaWorks summer intensive program.    Especially with difficult coloratura passages, being able to hear the notes in your head (sung in your voice, the way you want it to sound) is crucial.  While mental practice is not the same as physical practice, really visualizing yourself singing (or playing) the way that you want to sound can be very helpful.  For more on mental practice, see this post, also from Bulletproof Musician: Does Mental Practice Work? 

For many musicians, keeping a practice journal also helps.  I’ve found that writing down goals (repertoire to learn, technical concepts to focus on, etc) can really help me focus my practice time.  Also, keeping a record of what was accomplished can help me track my progress toward those goals.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and happy practicing!