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Course Review: Essential Elements for Voice Teaching Success with Justin Stoney

Friday 3rd November 2023

New York Vocal Coaching Founder and President Justin Stoney broke down his practical and engaging ‘Essential Elements for Voice Teaching Success’ course into five easy-to-digest categories – Technique Essentials, Professional Development Essentials, Lesson Strategy Essentials, Business Essentials and Inner Journey & Confidence Essentials – which in turn contained five essential elements each. Personal anecdotes, tips and examples were introduced throughout.

Participants were asked to score themselves one point for each of the qualifying statements that Justin set out for his 25 elements that they considered themselves to be currently adhering to. The round-up at the end of the course featured a ‘Final Score Card’ with the chance for personal reflection on how many points were scored in total. Justin’s full list of ‘Essential Elements’ is as follows:

TECHNIQUE ESSENTIALS:

  1. DESIGNING EXERCISES
  • ‘The joy of customisation’
  • Avoid the temptation to rely on ‘go-to’ exercises
  1. BEING HOLISTIC
  • Be a ‘multiple trick pony’
  • Develop confidence in many ‘other’ components such as mentality and expressiveness
  1. EMBRACING ALL VOCAL PARAMETERS
  • Welcome and encourage bizarre, experimental and seemingly irrelevant sounds
  • Be a champion of these sounds when students are hesitant or resistant
  1. PRIORITISATION
  • Discern the #1 highest vocal technique priority for the student
  • Don’t feel pressured to solve everything – accomplishing one thing is enough
  1. CREATING A THRIVING LESSON ENVIRONMENT
  • Strike the perfect balance of positivity and honesty
  • Allow authenticity, risk-taking and stepping outside of comfort zones

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ESSENTIALS:

  1. CONTINUING LESSONS (‘student mode’)
  • Commitment to developing one’s own voice, even if not a performer
  • Gain the same outside feedback that’s normally given to others
  1. PURSING INFORMATION, SCIENCE AND PEDAGOGY
  • Know that understanding of the voice is constantly evolving and changing
  • Be specific and accurate in language and have a ‘game plan’ for getting better
  1. NOT GETTING LOST IN SCIENCE
  • Be wary of hiding behind knowledge and information
  • Remember that science is just one element of a much bigger picture
  1. DOING THE LISTENING
  • Listen as a technician not just as a fan
  • Expand listening to sounds outside of the comfort zone
  1. BECOMING A MASTER TEACHER
  • “Teach, teach, teach, teach” – there is no substitute for practising the craft
  • Let the students be the teachers

LESSON STRATEGY ESSENTIALS:

  1. AVOIDING PLAYING IT TOO SAFE
  • Be unafraid to take students into challenging or uncomfortable parts of their voice
  • If the voice teacher does not push the boundaries, the full potential may never be reached
  1. STYLISTIC SUPERIORITY
  • Be wary of stylistic preferences and be comfortable with sounds not usually enjoyed
  • Bring an unbiased ear into lessons
  1. NOT BREAKING THE PROFESSIONAL FOURTH WALL
  • Create a ‘one-sided friendship’
  • Consciously maintain a professional barrier
  1. BEING IN ‘TEACHER CHARACTER’ (Justin’s overall #1 tip)
  • Be ‘you on a good day’ – not dishonest or disingenuous
  • Develop a professional teaching presence
  1. MAXIMISING LESSON TIME (Let ‘em sing!)
  • Be mindful of how much time is spent talking/explaining
  • Remember one’s own lesson experiences

BUSINESS ESSENTIALS:

  1. SERVING THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
  • Thoroughly investigate the local singing community
  • Develop a reputation of excellence in the area
  1. HAVING A PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE/FOCUS
  • Have materials that present one’s finest qualities and unique specialities
  • Consider: If I’m a new student seeking voice lessons, would I choose myself?
  1. RETAINING CLIENTS
  • Have students that come back (ideally for many years)
  • Create a mindset that encourages long-term study
  1. SHOWING GENEROSITY
  • Be motivated by giving to rather than getting back from
  • Take joy and humility in the craft to the extent that financial success comes as a surprise
  1. MAKING YOURSELF VALUABLE
  • Constantly ask: “Would I study with myself?” and “What makes a valuable lesson valuable?”
  • Recognise that long-term success is more valuable than short-term shortcuts, fixes and hacks

INNER JOURNEY & CONFIDENCE ESSENTIALS:

  1. AVOIDING BURNOUT
  • ‘Put yourself on the calendar’ and prioritise rest and rejuvenation
  • Ensure one’s schedule and pace is sustainable long-term
  1. USING IMPOSTER SYNDROME
  • Let it be a guide towards one’s uniqueness and specialisms
  • Show humility and a desire to be better
  1. RUNNING SOME TESTS
  • Recognise that not all answers are needed immediately
  • Vocal exercises allow us to ‘run some tests’ and use the results for developing our ears
  1. WHY? WHAT IS MY MISSION?
  • Consistently examine why
  • Allow the mission (statement) to inform the business and one’s unique teaching voice
  1. SHOWING GRATITUDE
  • Remember that voice teaching may just be the ‘world’s greatest job’!
  • Let gratitude be a fundamental guiding force in everything

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