Not every performer can instruct. Not every instructor can perform. I've been performing since middle school (earlier if you count church choir) and engaged the music theater and dinner theater world professionally and semi-professionally for several years. I've performed solo and with bands for audiences of thousands, as well as small gatherings, receptions, congregations, weddings, and a host of other venues. I've also invested the time, energy and expense in learning not only the crafts of vocal performance, leading, playing, and the like, but - particularly in the area of voice - the I've learned best practices for optimal, healthy singing for a lifetime. That includes learning all about the *vocal instrument*, how it all works together physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, my students tell me over and over, I have the ability to communicate these vital pieces of information effectively so that you can begin learning the craft or creating powerful, positive changes to your voice, performances, and communication from your very first lesson.
I truly love helping people define and then reach their goals with music. I also love bringing people to the point at which they can lose themselves in their music, while not losing the music, in terms of pitch, communication or strength. And I love to watch people grow in confidence as they grow as musicians. I also love and appreciate the opportunities to get to practice, rehearse, and sing with my students on occasion. That's a joy that keeps me in the game, too, while we're achieving their goals.
She is an amazing teacher!
She uses a structured process for teaching adult beginners that is very helpful. She is excited about teaching and is very encouraging.
After a new student or student's parent contacts me and we agree upon a lesson day and time, I send them complete instructions, including what happens next, payment instructions, directions to my home-studio, and the three required forms they must complete and return to me preferably before their lesson.
My training has come from a variety of world-class music instructors and choral conductors (Norma Lowder, Earle Lowder, Gary Bradberry, Morris Beachy, and others); private music lessons with instructors specializing in Broadway-performance techniques (Margaret Riddleberger), classical (bel canto) (Bonnie Bradley), and general music theater and performance (David Troupe); and the school of hard knocks. :-) Since 1979, I’ve been involved in a broad variety of musical endeavors: musicals (a season in The Washington Savoyards); dinner theater in D.C.; professional entertainment on a dinner cruise ship; wedding and event singing; church soloist (classical); church worship bands (contemporary); church choirs and licensed major musicals as a child, youth, and adult; The University of Texas Longhorn Singers; early childhood music education (both Music TogetherTM and KindermusikTM, and owned and ran a KindermusikTM studio for several years); teaching music in public and private schools; and all manner of singing, both meaningful and fun, from childhood up to now.
As of 2018, A Higher Note LLC fees for in-person lessons at AHN’s location are as follows:
60-minute lesson: in-person–$60; Internet $65
45-minute lesson: in-person–$45; Internet $50
30-minute lesson: in-person–$30; Internet $35 (recommended for young children, not highly recommended for adults and older youth)
All my life, I've been a singer, so voice has always been my primary instrument of study; but that's not how I started giving private lessons. Throughout the 90s, when I was in full-time youth ministry at a church in Maryland, I taught scores of Junior and Senior High kids to play guitar and lead worship in our youth group meetings. A woman in the church approached me about teaching her elementary-school-aged daughter to play guitar and offered to pay me. I'd never given private lessons before, so I was nervous. But I met her daughter and fell in love with her, she practiced hard, and we were off to the races! After that, between that mom and the parents of the kids I was teaching in the youth group, along with people hearing me sing at church and for weddings and receptions, word got out. By a few years later, I was teaching all levels of voice along with the folk guitar lessons I'd already been teaching. I added beginner piano a few years later. At some point, I began to treat it more seriously as a business and decided to become a sole proprietorship and, eventually, an incorporated small business.
I have taught professionally, part-time for 19+ years, with students including one Miss Connecticut, two “Miss America” contestants, professional and avocational stage performers, rockers and music theatre actors, singer-songwriters, event vocalists and many church worship leaders.
On December 19, 2015, a collaborative friend and I performed a benefit Christmas concert in our town to raise funds for and awareness of anti-human-trafficking efforts through Women At Risk International. We had a fantastic turnout in a beautifully-decorated, Victorian-era venue, and had the blessing of promoting a worthy cause.
You can find that concert on YouTube by searching for "2015 Songs for the Season Benefit Christmas Concert."
Here are some questions to keep in mind as you research possible instructors:
What qualifications, either from studies or professional experience, does the instructor have?
Do you feel comfortable with the instructor?
How well does the instructor understand and support your musical goals?
How clearly do you understand what the instructor is saying/teaching?
Do you want to be in recitals? If so, does the instructor offer those or does he or she offer/support other means of performing?
What practice requirements does the instructor have? Am I willing to practice as s/he requires?
What are the instructor's rescheduling/cancellation policies?
Remember, not every singer can teach singing and and not every singing teacher can sing.
If a "voice instructor" can sing but not teach well, they may inadvertently propagate poor or incorrect information or, worse, produce frustration and bad vocal habits in the student. If a singing teacher can teach but sing well, he or she may not know the ins and outs of actually performing over a lifetime. Neither strength is "wrong"; but there are pitfalls in either scenario. Just be sure the teacher you're interviewing with has the skills you particularly need at that point in your career/hobby.
Also, make sure the "fit" between instructor and student is a good one. This will make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone over the long haul.
Ask the provider...
How do you help your students keep moving forward in their music practice? Recitals? Auditions? Competitions? Other events? How often?
What kind of practice is expected of me outside of the lesson time?
What additional books or music might be required?
Do I come to you, or do you come to me? Do you offer Internet lessons?
For professionals spending a lot of time on the road, ask the provider, "Do you do ad hoc in-person and/or online lessons so I could check in with you for a tune-up when I'm in town or available?"
Ask your child…
IF YOU ARE A PARENT CONSIDERING LESSONS FOR YOUR CHILD (or you're an adult and you need to think a bit further about the investment of time, as well as money, when it comes to taking on instrument lessons), consider answering these questions before talking with instructors:
1. Has your child taken private lessons before for any instrument? How did that go? What was their attention span like? Did the time drag by for them, fly by, or did it seem just right?
2. If your child is very young or has a very short attention span, can he or she thrive in a 30-minute lesson (the typical industry standard for the shortest lesson time-unit)?
3. If your child is younger than 10 years old, are or another responsible adult willing to sit with your child in each lesson to observe, participate when asked (not texting, doing work, or otherwise not paying attention to the lesson ;-), and help your child practice sessions in-between lessons? Is your instructor willing for you to learn alongside your child, so that you may help him or her between lessons?
2. What specific prior experience with the instrument does your child have? What self-taught experience does he or she have?
3. What books or courses has your child used to self-teach, for how long? Importantly, how diligently did he or she pursue it?
4. How much does your child want to take these lessons? Is your child aware of the need to practice several days each week in between lessons, and willing to practice without a big fight with you? (I advise a minimum of 3 practice days per week. For different age ranges and goals, I typically advise different practice-length time goals. Discuss these options with the instructor to see what they think about minimum weekly practice days and lengths.)
If you're one of the adults looking for lessons for yourself so you read these questions out of personal interest, be real when you answer these questions. You already know this, but I'll still state the obvious: Acquiring instrument skill, much less mastery, no matter which instrument, doesn't happen by magic or osmosis. You have to practice. Sometimes you'll love it; sometimes you'll just feel like you're slogging through it. But if you practice consistently and actively, and you stick with it, you'll advance! You'll start singing or playing songs you really enjoy. You'll feel happy and proud of your accomplishments. Your teacher will be pleased. :-) You'll impress your friends, eventually. And you'll gain the coolness, personal joy and fantastic life skill of playing an instrument, which is amazingly awesome.
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