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Thread: Becoming a vocal coach:

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    Default Becoming a vocal coach:

    Hello. I have been contemplating becoming a vocal coach and am wondering what background most professionals in the field (focus: musical theater/pop styles) have? Is there some kind of certification required?
    Or would one recommend a classical or musical theater vocal degree even for these styles?

    My background:
    I earned my B.M. (focus piano) and have done extensive postgraduate studies towards a M.M. (focus piano), though not actually completing the degree. I have a Kindermusik license, as well as Suzuki certification (levels 1 & 2 only). I have pretty extensive experience in both instrumental and vocal accompaniment, though I do NOT have a degree in accompanying. Nor did I have a chance to take any classes that focused on IPA, specifically in college. I do consider myself to have a good voice, but have no actual training. I have a basic knowledge of vocal repertoire, but limited understanding of the mechanics of vocal production at this time. I would prefer not to have to go back to school for a secondary degree.

    So, I guess my question is - is it possible to self study IPA, vocal repertoire, and teach myself the basic mechanics of vocal production, as well as gain an understanding of stylistic and theatrical vocal techniques on my own? What kind of background do the professionals in the field of musical theater/pop music coaches have? I understand there are varying degrees of expertise on this matter and perhaps operatic coaches have multiple degrees in opera and/or accompanying, but again, I'm not looking to be quite so ambitious - wanting to focus mainly on younger students and musical theater and/or pop. I would probably only attempt this on a part-time, supplemental basis. So is a classical degree in musical theater or opera typically expected for all styles of vocal coach? And if not, what measures would you suggest I take in order to fill in the gaps of my experience?

    Thanks for your time and advice!!!!

    All the best,
    RaiderJane
    Last edited by RaiderJane; Jun-02-2012 at 00:21.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    So the answer to this question depends on what you mean by “coach” and, indeed, what the client means by “coach”. It sounds like you mean “teacher”, “trainer” , perhaps “mentor”.

    I am a business coach. I currently have clients in financial consultancy, in large scale mining, in healthcare and so on. I know nothing about financial consultancy, mining or healthcare. My clients don’t need me to teach them about these subjects – they know it all, already. What they need is someone who can help them do it better.

    Of course, in reality my clients’ problems aren’t to do with finance, mining, health – they’re to do with business development, management and leadership, and providing compassionate care – and these are things I do know about.

    So, I think that all the things you mention are givens. People will expect you to know all that stuff – and more. People are entitled to expect that you know it: these things are not the point.

    What will make you a great coach are your interpersonal skills, capacity to develop rapport, ability to help clients see what their real problem is (as opposed to what they think it is/what they would like it to be), emotional intelligence, understanding of when to tell and when to hold back, and the rest.

    It is always the case that what makes a great coach is never about the subject they choose to coach and always about their capacity to relate strongly with other people.

    This is a life’s work. Don’t be disheartened if you think I have disillusioned you. I haven’t. OK, maybe I have, but it is for the best. You have only realised that the problem is not what you thought it was. And that is what coaching seeks to achieve.

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    Jeremy,

    No, there is such a thing as 'vocal coaching' which is different from voice instruction. It is my understanding that these 'coaches' are not necessarily instructing the singers in vocal production (the primary difference), but are working on the music, interpretation, embellishment, stylistic elements, and presumably, IPA. They don't replace the instructor, of course, but act in conjunction with the teacher to prep the singer. Think of coaches who work with actors trying to learn diction/IPA.

    I have experience with the majority of the above 'coaching points' from my college accompanying days. I don't know if you know anything about accompanying at college level, but pianists are often acting like coaches while rehearsing new music and are relied upon heavily by the teacher in the students' lessons. The elements I am deficient in - IPA and repertoire (other than basic) -seem to me things that can be self-taught. I have a sound sense for musical theater repertoire and its stylistic elements.

    So we're not suggesting someone just walk in off the street who has no classical training to coach this stuff. I guess the real question is - is certification required? Do the vast majority of professionals coaching have specific vocal and/or accompaniment degrees? Maybe it varies by style? It seems to me, if you have classical music training, you already have the foundation for application to other styles.

    You do raise great points about what truly makes a 'coach' -the ability to develop rapport, have strong interpersonal skills, and EQ. Your statement actually offers up much hope, as these qualities are things that I have and cannot really be taught.

    Best,
    RaiderJane
    Last edited by RaiderJane; Jun-02-2012 at 02:03.

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    If you want to work as an vocal coach in opera, you need to have a thorough knowledge of the operatic repertoire and the roles in order to be able to work with singers to prepare them for performance. I don't know if you do, but this is very important . You need to be able to play any of the operas in vocal score, that is,without the full orchestral score . Your job is to prepare singers to master their roles so that they can work with the conductor .
    Accompanying singers for song recitals can also be very rewarding ,even though you're never in the limelight .

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    Most vocal coaches in the operatic field have bachelor's degrees in piano performance and master's degrees (if not DMAs, as well) in collaborative piano. Vocal performance degrees are not required and neither are collaborative piano degrees, in many cases.

    The most brilliant coaches have acquired their expertise through experience. They all begin as accompanists--accompanying vocal and instrumental lessons and opera/musical theater show rehearsals. I think any coach would agree that this accompanying experience is priceless, since it provides an opportunity to listen to conductors and teachers and glean knowledge from the way they conduct their rehearsals and lessons.

    You don't need to know IPA to be a coach, but to coach opera, you must be familiar with the diction of the language. Obviously, the more languages you specialize in, the more valuable you make yourself. But it is not uncommon for some coaches to specialize only in French or only in Italian, for example. Many, though, have mastery of English, French, Italian, and German. I don't think the language background is so necessary for pop or musical theatre coaches.

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