Singing is a wonderful thing. It allows us to express our emotions in a way that few other things do. I learned that on a personal level as a singer, and over the course of years, I have had the opportunity to work (as the student) with a number of outstanding vocal teachers. In my 20’s, I began to teach other singers, both privately and as the Vocal Head of the Musical Theatre department at Dance Co. In 2013, I officially opened my own small music school, The Studio School of the Arts. Through my extensive work with students over the last 30 years, I have come to a philosophy of teaching that applies to beginners and professionals alike, across all the contemporary genres.
So what's your approach?
I teach both technically and from a performance point of view. Students have said repeatedly that I'm personable and warm, and they find me extremely easy to talk to and relate with. Don't worry, everybody is nervous for their first lesson, or even their first couple of lessons. We have to establish trust for it to feel more comfortable to try things, and that's ok. Let's face it, voice work is pretty vulnerable. I get that. So we go at your speed, paired with my support and expertise.
When it comes to the music, I'm all about good technique. Good singing begins with good breath work. Plain and simple, I come from the perspective that 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 (the muscular coordination of breath support) to get through the phrases. So I start with breath (seriously, your first lesson might be ALL breath), and I come back to it often. I also talk a lot about vocal health and hygiene, which is a shifting landscape as vocal science learns more and more, but I aim to give y'all the up to date info! 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. That's what makes a great performer. So there’s a lot of talk about both the technical and performance aspects of singing in your singing lessons. I think my superpower is figuring out where your technical and emotional blocks intersect, and helping you navigate through untangling them so that you can find your most authentic voice, and most authentic performance.
What's your area of specialty?
I specialize in contemporary (or non-classical) voice. That encompasses almost anything in the genres of pop, rock, country, jazz, musical theatre, etc. Good technique is good technique. There are some differences in classical technique as compared to contemporary genres, so if you're looking to study classical voice, you would best be served by a voice teacher who specializes in classical voice (and that's not me.) The differences are mostly rooted in vowel shapes and placement, but they are pretty specific. Breath support, vocal hygiene, and muscle use/relaxation are all things that move across the genres. The necessity for a great performer to connect with the emotion of a song and tell a good story is universal. (In classical music, it's often just in a foreign language!)
What ages do you teach?
I generally work with students beginning around age 15-16, and up. (I've worked with students in their 70's! So there's no end-point to pursuing training if you want to work on your voice.) There are a few reasons for the starting age. 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, at least the way I teach. I work in a very somatic style, and most kids don't understand or connect to their bodies yet, so it's not typically a great fit. Female bodies continue to grow and physically develop until the age of roughly 15-16. Male bodies can keep growing even longer than that. Unless a child needs to use their voice professionally (let's face it, we have a lot of young working singers and actors these days, and I do teach some kids who have professional demands on their voices), I believe the preferred course of action is to involve kids 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 (and they are starting to understand their body connection better), then it’s a great time to begin to add technical components to the vocal instrument that has developed naturally, making the voice stronger and improving range and focus.
But I'm nervous to take lessons!
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 those challenges are, I meet them head on, in partnership with the student. Once more for those in the back: in partnership. You live in your body, and you know where your comfort zones and firm boundaries lie. We will communicate, and we'll work together towards your goals.
OK, so what's the student's job?
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 my studio for homework missed. Most of y'all are adults, and you get to choose how you do life...and let's face it, sometimes sh*t happens. 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.
So how do you work?
In 2013, I opened my music school, The Studio School of the Arts. This opened up a whole world of online music classes. In 2022, The Studio was rolled into sararamsay.com to keep things streamlined, but it's the same teaching studio. Occasionally I have students who want to be in person with me in White Rock, but the vast majority of my private coaching sessions are held via Zoom. There are also opportunities for larger group classes and workshops.
And I have one or two special projects in the works that will expand the learning containers...but I'm not quite ready to spill those beans yet. Just sayin'...stay tuned!