Singing of all styles requires a sound basis in vocal technique, whether the technique is applied in the form of classical lied, opera, jazz, folk or Music Theatre singing. Healthy singing requires us to combine an interior gesture with an expansive one. The act of vocalising invites us to sustain length and breadth in the body without locking or over-extension, and to remain flexible without collapsing or losing good balance. We learn how to keep freedom in the neck and the ribs, avoiding ‘grab’ in the neck, tongue or abdominal muscles. Freedom and flexibility in activity and intention underpin all the movements of singing, and I find that elements of Alexander Technique form an integral part of my teaching tool-kit in every lesson. The colour or timbre any singer seeks to use should be a matter of choice, not limitation, and there should never be strain or undue breath-pressure involved. Singing is a whole-body activity that requires mental and physical ease, balance and coordination.
I teach singing technique according to the Swedish-Italian school, which has produced such great vocalists as Jussi Björling, Kirsten Flagstad, Joseph Hislop and Birgit Nilssen. My own primary teachers, David L. Jones and Cathy Pope, have been a mainstay and inspiration for me in this respect over many years: David’s studies with Allan. R. Lindquest connect him to a lineage that includes Enrico Caruso, Mme. Ingebjard-Isene (teacher of Flagstad), Joseph Hislop, Maestro Rosati (teacher of Gigli) and Mme. Novikova.
I aim to nurture a positive and constructive interaction in voice lessons, affirming and building upon the positive whilst guiding my students to strengthen and align their vocal function and balance. My students are actively encouraged to record all their singing lessons, and I offer a free service for filming lessons with professional-quality sound to help them review their lessons and draw the maximum benefit possible.
I offer initial consultation lessons to students at every level and every style from age 16 and upwards, with no maximum age. At this first lesson we will work to determine the best path for your next steps in singing.
I teach from Monday to Saturday at my studio at La Scellerie in Normandy and in the nearby town of Coutances. Less frequently I teach in London and Paris, often by invitation or in conjunction with other engagements.
‘Intensives’ tend to be very productive and I recommend them for more experienced students, spending a few days in Normandy to take a block of four or five lessons within a week, then taking the recordings home to study and work with over the following weeks or months. This kind of work seems to produce bigger breakthroughs than the same number of lessons more widely spaced.
Voice lessons for speakers
Voice lessons are often invaluable for teachers, lecturers, actors, broadcasters, clergy politicians and business people.
Effortless power and clarity of speech are strong messengers in their own right and are an asset in most areas of life as well as in work and on the platform. I help students to find stamina and flexibility in the voice, whether with authority or intimacy, or to heal from vocal fold damage without resorting to surgery.
Past students have found help in recovering from thyroid surgery, throat trauma, vocal fold surgery, inflammation and fatigue, asthma, coughing, and effects associated with cystic fibrosis and with Motor Neurone Disease.
WORKING WITH ME
Singing lessons will generally start with warming-up and vocalising. You may have come with a specific technical issue, with fatigue after an illness or injury, with a performance to prepare for or for your ongoing development as a singer and vocalist. I tailor my way of working with each student to build on their existing strengths and help them develop their vocal skills in a logical sequence. (If two students have differing vocal habits or tendencies, they may find they have each been given vocal exercises to work with that the other has never heard!)
My studio is a place where it is okay and safe to be vulnerable or to ‘go wrong’. Indeed, going wrong (and knowing it) is often our best friend, as it points us towards discoveries and breakthroughs, usually with some laughter along the way. You will always receive a positive welcome as you arrive. I am no fan of ‘should’ or ‘ought’ in teaching, as we learn best when feeling affirmed and supported. Please cooperate with this ethos by arriving with your full focus, leaving worries or difficult journeys outside the door and turning off your mobile phone.
Most lessons will be half to two-thirds technical study followed by music, but this can change according to need. It is important to put new skills to use in music so that we don’t merely become very good at practising. I ask that you bring two copies of any music you are working on, to allow me to accompany while also watching you sing.
Occasionally a student may ask to sit in on another lesson as a silent observer, with the pupil’s consent. This can be immensely helpful in learning, so long as the observer remembers to abstain from any commentary at all.
Spoken voice work is about the quality of sound you are making, the clarity and efficiency you bring to communicating, your presence on stage and podium or in the audition space. (Please note that I am not a language or pronunciation coach and do not teach different regional accents to students.) Your lessons take place in the same ethos of safety and positive affirmation as singing lessons. I would ask you to bring a spare copy of any text that you are working on for my reference. As with singing lessons, you will be given exercises to help you refine your vocal skill and are encouraged to take an audio and / or video recording of your lesson.
If you have had photographs taken of your vocal folds during diagnosis of vocal problems, it is very helpful for me to see them, so please remember to bring them with you.
Masterclasses and seminars
I am available for voice masterclasses, for singers and for speakers, and to speak at seminars and conferences. I have also sat on the judges’ panel in competitions for singing and for composing for the voice. Please contact me for more details.
I am proud to be an Associate Teacher of the David L. Jones Voice Studio in New York. www.voiceteacher.com