What a year 2020 was for all of us! While the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions put a halt to many activities, it also gave us time to refocus on professional and personal goals. For the studio, it meant an opportunity to do a website redesign with even more resources for singers. Visit the new website.
For many of my singing students, COVID didn’t stop their regular lessons as they worked towards their singing goals. The studio adapted to the changes by introducing online singing lessons and my students adapted to this new way of learning – some even learning singing online from interstate!
Our studio invested in enhanced audio equipment and recorded song backings to make online learning and practice easier. While internet connections can be erratic and Zoom lag can slow a lesson, we got around this by taking the lesson slowly and focusing on small learning steps – it’s been a terrific way for singers to intensely train.
After each lesson, online students receive a backing track of their vocalise and songs so they can practise and continue learning during the week.
I asked some of my students how they feel about what they achieved this year:
New student rediscovers her voice through online lessons
One of my new students found online lessons especially helpful. With her main goal being “to get back into singing, learn the fundamentals and obtain good technique”, after a long time away from singing, she feels she’s starting to build up her voice again. Online lessons helped her save time on the commute and were easier to fit into a workday.
We focused on the basics of breathing, mouth shape, relaxing the jaw, and delving into bad habits hindering good technique. “Having it explained in detail and understanding what I can do to improve is extremely helpful in utilising my apparatus in the most effective way,” says our new singer. “Having the studio send me a recording with the singing notes played with the accompaniment helped immensely. I can play it anywhere and multitask my learning.
“I’ve discovered that my top notes are still there. I thought I’d lost them. I’ve gotten a better grasp of why I struggle with the lack of fullness in sound for lower notes after using my head voice. Concepts such as blending are making a lot of sense to me. All the things I thought I struggled with years ago and couldn’t understand about my voice have been resolved by a lot of these fundamentals I have [learned]. I’m looking forward to mastering these aspects to sing with confidence, good skills and what I like to call ‘magic’ one day!”
Professional dancer uses this year to build his voice
Michael Boyle is a professional dancer who came back from working in Japan, with the goal to score a part in a Sydney theatrical production this year. His plans were stalled as auditions were cancelled due to COVID, and he broke his foot, so he couldn’t even work on his dance. Michael decided to focus on acting and singing classes.
“I decided my best bet was to work on developing my skills as a performer and wait for things to come back. This led me to contact Kathleen and start lessons in my least developed performing art, singing,” Michael explains.
“Lessons with Kathleen gave me a sense of purpose and it’s exciting to have something to work on, improve on and learn about. Being of a dance background, I had to really let go of a lot of my insecurities that I had surrounding my voice. It was difficult but extremely rewarding.”
Together, Michael and I have worked mostly on breathing and establishing some really strong groundwork for technique. “I struggle with relaxing when trying to reach top notes and letting my breath do the work. That’s been a big thing that [we] focused on and improved,” he says.
Long-term student takes on more challenging songs
Nick Barkl and I have worked together for five years, with face-to-face lessons in my city studio. He switched to online singing lessons when he had to start working from home. His 2020 singing goals were “to improve the consistency of my breath control and vocal production, as well as expand on the types of music I hope to perform”.
“I probably would not have been able to continue singing lessons this year without the flexibility offered by online learning,” Nick says. “Being able to do video calls ensured I was still able to receive feedback on my posture, etc. Keeping a consistent routine has been a key to my wellbeing this year and singing lessons remaining a part of that is something I was happy about. It allowed me to be more proactive about separating the working week from other projects and pursuits.”
A major focus with Nick this year has been ensuring his vocal production is consistent and not getting cut off or caught in his throat at the end of phrases. “Ironically, the challenge of using Zoom for rehearsals has forced me to be even more focused on this aspect,” Nick observes. “To overcome the native background sound cancellation, I have had to be more conscious of keeping my vocal production ‘projected forward’ at the end of phrases than ever!
“Despite our rehearsals being over Zoom, Kathleen and I have started some of the most challenging songs I have ever done during this period. Before starting lessons, I had believed I would never sing certain types of songs due to my vocal range, or the style of my voice. As I explore my voice with Kathleen’s help, I am finding these songs are within my ability to sing after all. This has given me the confidence to try songs I may not have considered in the past and enjoy seeing how I can adapt them to my particular vocal style.”
It continues to be my privilege to coach and guide singers to realising their potential and achieving their singing and performing goals.