I wear a lot of hats. Sound Engineer, small business owner, studio manager, musician, songwriter, performer, video editor, author, web designer, graphic artist, blogger, electrician, carpenter, plumber, painter, gardener and cleaner. I’m also a father and husband. But I think the hat that I wear that brings me the most joy (other than the father/husband ones obviously) has been as a vocal coach/tutor.
I have no official training or certification that grants me permission to wear any of these hats. I’ve put them on anyway. I’m one of those “learn as you go” type people. I’ve never been good at being schooled in anything. I can research and I can experiment and I can apply things I’ve picked up but I have only really been ever able to do anything by just getting in and getting my hands dirty. Still, even without accreditation, I’ve managed to do all of these things to various levels of success. You’d have to check with my wife and kid about the fathering and husbanding parts but the rest I would think that my long list of happy people who have paid me to provide them with the above services speaks enough to say that I have a reasonable level of competence.
Competence I think is a fair word. Excellence? Hmmm. Not sure that would apply to most of them except perhaps in the vocal coach/tutor area. (Though I feel a bit jerky saying it.) The truth is though, I kind of think that if there’s anything that I do really well, that’s it. But here’s the catch, I don’t think I can take any of the credit for that.
I once heard a songwriter say that they didn’t really write any of their songs, they were just the first person to hear them. I reckon I can relate to that. As a songwriter myself, I know that I can’t just sit down with the intention of writing a song. A song will come to me. I can’t make it happen. It will write itself, I’ll just sit down and learn it. That’s my role in the process. The rest comes from somewhere else. I won’t speculate as to where or what that is. The more scientific of you would say “it’s the subconscious”, the more romantic might say “it’s divine intervention”. I’m not sure it’s important whether it has a label or not but I definitely believe that it’s handed down by some source that is smarter and more artistic than I am.
I’ve found that my singing tuition/coaching tends to tap into that same source within me. I honestly don’t have a lesson plan or a course guide or anything like that. I have two questions I ask a student on their first visit, “who are you?” and “why are you here?”
That’s what I walk in with.
That and trust. I trust that what needs to come out, will come out in the right way and at the right time.
I’ve had lots of students. It always works. I’ve never had anybody ever think they didn’t get their money’s worth. In fact, I’ve lost count of the amount of people who tell me that I’ve blown their mind. As I said, I can’t take credit for that. I doubt I would even recollect everything that I say to them in that space. It’s more like turning on a tap. It just comes out. An hour or two will pass and the student’s perception will have shifted.
There’s rarely much singing that will go on in a lesson with me. There’ll be some obviously but most of the time will be spent talking. Even then, if you were a fly on the wall, you might be forgiven for not thinking it was a singing lesson at all.
I doubt other singing teachers would use any of the methods I use. Most would wonder what the hell it is that I’m teaching but I’ve seen the results and I think they speak for themselves. I’ve seen singers improve their performances ten-fold from one lesson. But, it isn’t just their singing that seems to benefit. The things I’m teaching do indeed make you a better singer but their benefits go way beyond that. I think they can change your life. They’ve certainly changed mine. (which is the only way I know that they work.)
The strangest thing happened recently. I got a call from a student who had had a few lessons with me about two years ago. I hadn’t spoken to him since and, out of the blue, he calls and says he wants a lesson. He tells me though that he doesn’t need any “singing stuff” but was hoping I could “do that thing I do” to help him with some issues that are going on his life. I was a little surprised. I mean, I understood what he was talking about but to me, this had always been about singing and performing. I knew the other stuff going on was a big bi-product but I do call myself a singing tutor or vocal coach. I wasn’t sure that the hat he wanted me to wear fell under that title. Still, as I always do, I decided to trust that whatever needed to happen would happen as it has always and, sure enough, he came out at the end of it with a smile and feeling empowered to face the things he was going through with renewed energy and confidence. He told me that I “had given him tools to put in his toolbox to use and previously he didn’t even know he had a tool box”. He even told me he’d be referring a friend that was going through a relationship breakup because he thought I would be able to help him. I choose to trust that I can.
I came out of that experience with a lot of excitement and not a few questions. I spoke to my wife about it and she wasn’t very surprised that my student had wanted something other than guidance on his vocal technique. She knows how I teach and she thinks that it’s a natural extension to what I’m already doing that I expand into giving singing lessons to those who actually don’t need or want to learn how to sing. She suggested that I change my title from “vocal coach” to “life coach”. Hmmm. I’m not sure I like that term. I’m also not sure that other life coaches who may well have done lots of study and courses in that field would like me using it either. No. I’m just a vocal coach that offers something for people who sing and people who don’t sing alike.
Of course I offer no guarantees. I only know that when I apply the things I teach to my own life, they work. Big changes happen. I feel better, the people around me feel better and the greater good benefits. I know that sounds conceited but, like I said, I don’t believe I can take credit for it. Whatever “it” is that happens in that space is only partially within my control. The less I get in the way of it, the better it seems to work. (I know that sounds a little nuts. I assure you that I am mostly a sane person. I’ve been to crazy though. I’ve seen it first hand and come back so I would know.)
There’s nothing new in the information. It’s all stuff that has been written a thousand times before and is easily accessed. I’m sure it’s just material I’ve gathered up in my subconscious over my life after doing a lot of introspective work. I’ve certainly gone through my own issues and I’ve taken some radical paths on the course of my adventure. I’ve read a LOT of self-help material and I’ve developed my own ideas that have taken on board some of the popular beliefs and filtered out the things that I don’t feel work for me. But when it comes to being in a room with a student, I just seem to blurt out the right bit at the right time. I could be quoting the Dalai Lama one second and Yoda the next. All I know is that something will come out of my mouth and I’ll see the person opposite me pause and then it will be as if a light bulb has lit up in their mind. And it will be relevant to the situation, whether it be about singing, changing their career, confronting someone about an issue, getting over a break up or saving their marriage. Sometimes it’ll be confronting. Other times it will be comforting. I like to think that it’s always helpful in some way and a person can choose to take it or leave it. Ultimately it could all be completely wrong but so far I’ve had no complaints.
At any rate, I’ve decided that I’ll put this out there for anyone that feels that they might benefit from it. If you or anyone you know is interested in seeing whether this is something that may help them, then feel free to give me a call. I won’t promise you miracles but I’ve seen them occur. I’m charging the same rates regardless of whether it’s for singing or not. $35 gets you half an hour but most lessons are either one or two hours. (after two hours my throat gets sore and I’ll tell you to go home and come back next week. Lol.)