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For Teachers: The Performing Vocal Teacher – How to Keep Singing with an Active Private Studio

Finding time to perform while you are teaching full time can be a challenge but both you and your students will benefit from it greatly.

Finding time to perform while you are teaching full time can be a challenge but both you and your students will benefit from it greatly.

Performing while maintaining a teaching schedule can prove to be a difficult endeavor, given all of the other aspects of our busy lives.  Discovering the best ways to search for auditions, network, and sing will help to maximize time spent away from the teaching studio.  As a performing teacher, you can be involved in various projects and organizations which will allow mutual growth for both you and your students, who can observe you in a singing environment.

Perform in your Local Community, while Building a Studio

Having a recital in your community can be a wonderful way to entice new students to your studio, as well as giving your current students a sense of healthy singing and your skill set.  It is best to sing repertoire that will not only appeal to the community, but also showcase your specialty.  With proper advertisement throughout the community, the audience should be plentiful.  Following up with networking is essential for building a strong community base, both as a teacher and performer.

A good relationship with performing arts high schools or high schools with reputable choral music programs can eventually enhance your student recruiting base and yield a higher quality student for your studio.  If you provide a masterclass for students, that also shows the students what kind of improvements you can make in their singing in a short period of time.  Singing recitals and caroling at nursing homes, local clubs (Elks, Eagles, Ladies Luncheons, etc.) with or featuring your students will serve a similar purpose:  it facilitates good relations between you and the community and gives you and your students more singing opportunities.

Church soloist and choral engagements are available almost everywhere.  Many of these are paying jobs, but even if they are not, church positions give plentiful opportunities to have more people hear your singing.  These opportunities can sometimes lead to performing engagements, such as weddings and funerals, and will establish your role as local musician.

Community theatre productions can be time consuming, as there are usually more rehearsals for music and staging than professional productions.  If you are a cross-over singer, this can be a very good outlet for singing musical theatre and again, establishing yourself as a local singer.  Singing in non-paying community productions can make you visible as a team-player to your community.  If direction or music direction appeals to you, fulfilling a similar role in a community production can also work to your advantage as recruitment to your studio.

Perform Beyond the Local Community

To further build your performing repertoire, oratorio is a good option for singing teachers.  Oratorio requires less time away from the studio if you have to travel, and many communities will offer solo opportunities within your local area.   Larger cities sometimes have choral societies for which you can audition as a choral member or soloist – Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn groups, choral societies, etc.  If it is in your repertoire, nearly every American community has a Handel’s “Messiah” that may be available to you as a soloist, if you promote yourself as such.

Opera schedules tend to be much more difficult to accommodate than oratorio schedules.  Travel may be involved, and many teachers are wary to let their students be without lessons for multiple weeks.  However, it is an option that you should consider, on occasion, to continue to hone your skills and increase your visibility as a performer.  Opportunities exist for performing in summer opera programs, especially at the pay-to-sing and young artist level.  If you live in a metropolitan area where you can perform with local opera companies, it is far easier to balance a teaching and operatic schedule.

Singing in competitions is another option for private vocal teachers.  Not only are you singing publicaly, but you are also working toward gaining accolades from other professionals in the field.  The major downfall to most competitions is that many have a maximum age of 28 or 30.  There are certain competitions that are more suited to bigger voices, often with a maximum age of 40.

Summer programs are available to teaching singers in the form of mainstage roles for larger companies, young artist programs, and pay-to-sing programs.  These are all viable options to increase your repertoire and gain an opera role.  If you find that gaining an opera role can benefit your résumé and CV, as well as singing a role in your Fach (which may have changed over the years), it may be worth it to do one of these summer programs.  It is also a prime way to stay on top of the self-promotion and networking opportunities that come from meeting an entire cast and crew that is involved in an opera.  Additionally, many companies offer paid (sometimes unionized) engagements for opera choristers, but these are primarily available during the school year/traditional opera season.

If given the opportunity to sing new music, you should consider doing so.  New music is often recorded and will give you a discography.  Any recordings that are made on any label, especially if they are available online to consumers, will help to promote your singing.  Make sure to maintain a copy of any recordings for which you sing.  If the recording is not available to the masses, make sure to still maintain a copy for your archives.  If it is new music, make sure to obtain permission from the composer and/or poet before distributing it online.  Most composers will be happy to have their music available to a wider audience through YouTube clips or as an audio or video file on your website.

Network

Maintaining contacts and continuing to promote yourself as a singer is necessary for gaining new singing opportunities.   Social networking has become almost a necessity for continued success at making people remember you.  Keep your prospects open and keep up to date on the latest technology.  There are new forms of social media on a regular basis, such as Instagram and Tumbler.  Myspace has options for both social and “musician” pages, but it has become considerably less used over the past five to ten years.  Twitter is available to give continuous updates on your life and career.  LinkedIn provides information on job, career, and aspirations for anyone who may know you through a work environment.  Facebook is probably the most used social media.  Facebook offers social sites, but also offers public figures pages, which you can create to promote yourself as a singer or teacher.  If you are going to create a public figures page, it is best to have audio or video clips available so that people can see what kind of music you sing or feel most comfortable teaching.

YouTube clips are a very good way of making your music available to the public.  It is important when putting anything on the internet that it features you to the best of your ability.  YouTube is becoming increasingly important to singers because many companies are requesting YouTube videos instead of live auditions, or as a pre-screening audition.

Starting and having a specialized website to feature your singing or teaching career can help to aid in self-promotion.  Many singing teachers opt for one type of page or the other (singing or teaching), or separate pages.  A website gives a glimpse into your professional life, but it can also link to your Facebook public figure page and any other pages that showcase your skills and interests.  Some things to be sure to include on your website are numerous photographs (including headshots), a press kit which can include a downloadable résumé, audio or video clips, and a schedule of upcoming and recent performances.  You can also start a guestbook, which can give you a list of people interested in following you.

Find Auditions

One of the more convenient ways to have access to almost all of the auditions and competitions available is to subscribe to YAPtracker.com.  These accounts will provide you with e-mail updates based upon the criteria that you have submitted as acceptable for audition notifications.  A prime example would be if you are over 30 years old, you can alter the settings on YAP Tracker to “weed out” the 30 year and under competitions so that you do not have to read through the entire advertisement to see if the competition is applicable.  YAP Tracker works for nearly every kind of audition – from cross-over to managed opera singers.  However, if you are looking for a teaching position, it will not cover those types of interviews.

Classical Singer Magazine has an online subscription option (as well as personal website options) that can help you find any teaching positions that are posted.  They also have Auditions Plus, which is very similar to YAP Tracker.

Another possible opportunity available to singing teachers is to take on a teaching, directing, or music directing role at a summer music program or young artist program.  At these programs, there are often faculty singing events.  Sometimes it is an informal concert, or perhaps you might be asked to sing a full recital.  In any event, this is a way to increase your exposure while singing, as well as performing outside of your local teaching community.

Regardless of your location and the type or size of your studio, you will only become a better teacher if you continue to sing. Do not be hesitant to ask other singers or teaching colleagues if they know of any singing jobs that might be a good fit for you.  If opportunities seem to be eluding you, create your own.  Put on a concert at a local church, perform with your students, or start your own company.  If there is a role that you want to sing, learn it and do a staged or concert version with friends, colleagues, or volunteers.  It may take much work and planning, but it will be worth the time and effort.  The best teachers are those who realize that they must continue to learn and develop, and continuing to perform will earn you the respect of your students, their parents, and your community, as well as making you an even better vocal teacher.

AUTHOR: Kirsten Kunkle – Click here for Kirsten’s bio

 

 

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