Singing is a wonderful thing. It allows us to express our emotions in a way that few other things do. Sara learned that as a singer, and over the course of years, had the opportunity to work with a number of outstanding vocal teachers. In her 20’s, Sara began to teach other singers, both privately and as the Vocal Head of the Musical Theatre department at Dance Co. Through her extensive work with students over the last 20 years, Sara has come to a philosophy of teaching that applies to beginners and professionals alike, no matter the genre.
Good singing begins with good breath work. Plain and simple, if you’re not breathing properly and using your breath in a supportive way, all the correct placement in the world isn’t going to be terribly effective, because you won’t have the breath to get through the phrases. Sara starts with breath, and comes back to it often. She also talks a lot about vocal health and hygiene. Vowel placement is kind of a big deal too. Oh, and muscle use/relaxation also factors in pretty significantly. Although those are a lot of technical things to consider, singing is also very much about connecting to emotion and expressing the story of a song. So there’s a lot of talk about both the technical and performance aspects of singing in your singing lessons.
Sara specializes in contemporary or non-classical voice. That encompasses almost anything in the genres of pop, rock, country, musical theatre, etc. Good technique is good technique. There are some differences in classical technique as compared to contemporary genres. However, they mostly are rooted in vowel shapes and placement. Breathe support, vocal hygiene, and muscle use/relaxation are all things that move across the genres. The ability to connect with the emotion of a song and tell a good story is universal too. (In classical music, it is just often in a foreign language!)
Sara’s philosophy is that individual voice lessons should typically begin no earlier than age 15-16. There are a few reasons for this. Younger students often do not have the kind of body awareness and physical connection to their body that is required to properly delve into the technical aspects of voice lessons. Female bodies continue to grow and physically develop until the age of roughly 15. Male bodies can keep growing even longer than that. Beginning intensive, individualized voice training prior to the body completing it’s growth can potentially change the way a voice develops. While it may not manifest in every case, we believe it is a safer course of action to involve kids under this age in group singing programs with a sound technical component to them, such as school and community choirs, glee clubs, and Kodaly classes. Then, once the body is more or less fully grown, the vocal folds cease to be at risk of developmental change due to training. At this time, it’s a great time to begin to add technical components to the vocal instrument that has developed naturally, making it stronger and improving range and focus.
A singing lesson is a safe place to try new things in a supportive environment. Lessons provide the venue to learn great technique and have feedback on both technical and performance issues. Learning to connect to one’s emotions in order to tell the story of a song…that can be tricky business, and different students come across different challenges in the process. No matter what they are, Sara meets them head on, in partnership with the student. The student’s job is to do their work outside of the lesson (practicing) at the level of dedication and discipline with which they expect to progress: what you put in is what you get out. No one is ever going to shake a finger at a student in Sara’s studio for homework missed. But if practice is consistently not undertaken by the student, lessons do become supervised practice time, and the rate of progression slows immensely. It is always the student’s choice how they’d like to proceed in their lessons. Whatever the rate, it will be in a safe, supportive environment.
In 2013, Sara opened her music school, The Studio School of the Arts. This opened up a whole world of online music classes. From its most basic, private lessons are held via Skype, while there are also opportunities for larger group classes and workshops, as well as instructive products for sale. It also opened up the opportunity for those who are interested in guitar, theory, piano, bass, etc. to learn from other instructors at Sara’s school. (You definitely don’t want to be learning guitar from Sara.)
Sara’s current teaching rate is $85/hour for voice students, and $100/hour for professional singers.