My masterclass for EVTA @ PEVoC 2019, Copenhagen

The European Voice Teachers Association (EVTA) has organized a co-teaching demonstration masterclass at the Pan European Voice Conference (PEVoC) on August 30th, 2019 in Copenhagen. I got to work with the lovely Filomena Croce. The other teachers were Susan Yarnall Monks & Gillyanne Kayes.

I have already sent out many thankyous in my Facebook post right after PEVoC, but here, I’d like to add an extra thank you for one important group of people: All the teachers I have had the honor to learn from, be it as their student or as a fly on the wall while they were teaching others. I got to do my thing on that big stage because of them. I was standing on the shoulders of the giants of the past (and present! 🙂 )

Why I’m grateful to be officially declared handicapped to the voice.

In 2018, I have designed a poster based on a blog post I have written in 2017.
I present it at several international conferences & symposia, with and without a group discussion attached to it.

Thank you, Bram Algoet, for helping me design my poster!
(Click on the image for a pdf version that can be zoomed in)

Why I'm grateful to be officially declared handicapped to the voice - Sarah Algoet

Eurovox – The Hague, August 30th – September 1st 2018 / Self care for the professional voice user

index

This post is a mix of a blog and a report. Feel free to skip what’s not interesting to you 😉

Eurovox is a congress organized by the European Voice Teachers Association (EVTA) every third year and focuses on various aspects of human singing. Therefore it gathers professional and amateur singers, their teachers, scientists, physicians and other enthusiasts of the voice all together. Together with the other board members of Evta-Be (Belgian Voice Teachers Association), I represented Belgium at Eurovox and the council meeting of EVTA, prior to the conference.

The theme was Vocal Fusion:
Working together in all aspects of teaching and singing: with other singers in a choir, in musical theater, with a stage director, with a pianist or band, with a conductor, with a voice therapist, with a teacher. The central question is: What does this mean for a singer’s education and how can voice teachers and other (voice) professionals incorporate this in their teaching?

Click here for the program, abstracts & presenters from Eurovox and read on for my personal report.

logo-nvz-02This time, The Dutch Voice Teachers Association, NVZ, has cooperated with EVTA for organizing Eurovox 2018 at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and I’d like to start this report by congratulating them on their wonderful accomplishment! For example, the conference app, which enabled the participants to easily plan our personal schedule, receive updates, get in contact with the organizers & other participants, receive handouts,… was a handy addition to the experience. I’m also very grateful that they have arranged a host family for me, so I didn’t need to book a hotel.

acting-advice-audition-tips-casting-directors-backstage.jpg.644x645_q100Normally, I visit these conferences, wearing the hat of voice teacher, vocal coach and voice researcher. However, this time, I have mainly lived these 3 days as a singer. I have chosen to do so, as right before the start of Eurovox, I have received a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will elaborate more on this opportunity in a future blog, but the gist of it is that I was invited for a very important audition that was going to take place right after Eurovox. So I decided that for the coming days, I would be 100% singer in order to prepare for that. This meant that all my actions, including choosing the lectures I was going to attend, were taken in the light of this audition.

I’d like to share not only my report on the lectures, but also the other actions I have taken, as I have to admit that these days were very confronting for me. I have gained an important insight that you might recognize as a singer-teacher… If you’d like to skip that and just read the report of the lectures I have attended, feel free to scroll down 😉

As a voice teacher & vocal coach, I am in service of my clients. As a singer, I am in service of my audience. In order to be able to be in service of my clients and audience, an important part of my job is self care, as it means being able to give the best I can give. In my everyday life, where I’m currently mostly wearing the hat of self-employed teacher, taking care of myself is an everyday conscious decision. It’s a challenge. Now, while wearing the hat of 100% singer, very surprisingly, self care came automatically, didn’t cost me any effort and didn’t induce feelings of guilt.

all-about-self-care

I will not ponder on the reason why – I still have to figure that one out, but these are the ways I have taken care of myself:

Asking for help

Help, support, advice, guidance signpostOften, I keep this kind of opportunities for myself, until I’m 100% sure that I’ve succeeded. I have to admit that the chance of “having to admit failure” has a lot to do with that… This time, I have chosen to share what was going on, ask for help, and not be afraid to “fail”.

An EVTA colleague helped me to arrange for a room to study at the conservatory.

One of the songs I had to prepare for the audition, was in the genre in which one of my colleagues is specialized in. I asked for her opinion on my version in order to improve it.

My personal osteopath (see below) presented at Eurovox. I have asked him for a treatment after his lecture – Well, hello there, stress-induced blocked larynx! – and a teacher at the conservatory provided me with a classroom with treatment table.

During the workshop of Sanne Graulund (see below), my jaw suddenly unlocked, I was overwhelmed by emotions and tears ran freely – with a room full of colleagues witnessing it… I didn’t hide, but I shared my emotions with a few colleagues, and went off to study. OMG, how my voice thanked me by singing freely!

(Isn’t it amazing, all these people that have helped me? I’m so grateful!)

Working Mindful

Yes, I had to study every day, as the songs were challenging. And I studied for hours every day. But whenever my mind or my voice told me to stop… I stopped, even though I had planned to study more. Taking time to rest and do something “useless” is an important part of studying too.

Saying NO53f7682ca3b043c6a7a859c982a8a07d

I allowed myself to not go to lectures that might have been interesting, as I needed the time for other things like studying, resting, yoga, downtime,… I also said no to certain social obligations. Yes, they were very interesting networking opportunities, but I had different priorities.

I also asked my EVTA & Evta-Be colleagues to only give me tasks that were absolutely necessary, and could not be done by somebody else.

Sleep

I went to bed early and slept in every day. 10 hours of sleep was my minimum.

b5dea904acbced9f915cd5940f4f2d1e

Yoga

Every d*mn day. My goal was being in contact with my instrument, my body, and (trying) to be OK with in whatever condition it was. No performance drive, no judgement.

Nutrition

I ate healthily, according to my food intolerances, but allowed myself to enjoy a little “sin” once in a while. The occasional sin is also healthy 😉 I drank a lot of water. I’m never thirsty, so drinking enough is a big challenge for me.

So there you have it. Asking for help, working mindful, saying no, sleep, yoga and nutrition. I know that these 6 elements are crucial for self care, but they come so much more easily while wearing my singer-hat than my teacher-hat. Why? I haven’t figured that one out yet. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments 😉

 

Nico Lambrechts – The role of osteopathy in the singing voice

Nico is my personal osteopath, I refer a lot of my clients to him, and he’s a valued member of the advisory board of Evta-Be. Why? Because he looks at the voice from a holistic point of view, and knows how to help singers and other professional voice users with osteopathic treatments that stem from the latest insights and research. I have used his tips & tricks on many clients of mine and they have become an indispensable tool for me as a teacher. I consider Nico as an important part of the team I try to create around my clients, together with SLP’s, ENT’s, nutritionists, psychotherapists,…

IMG_6727

In the past, he has led a very well received workshop for Evta-Be about the power of the tongue, a not-to-be-underestimated force. Unfortunately, at Eurovox, there was no time for practical work, only a theoretical lecture. Even though the information was – again – very much on point, I’m afraid that some people have missed the practical application.

 

Sanne Graulund – Workshop connective tissue and singing

This is the workshop I was talking about before… The one that made me cry 😉
I have been wanting to invite Sanne to Belgium for a few years now, as I believe in the power of working with the fascia – Everything is related, and I have heard so much good things of her work. At Eurovox, she has led several workshops. I have attended the ones on the ribcage and the larynx. The explanations on the theory of the fascia and the exercises linked to it were very clear and effective. Before I go on, here’s a nice video on fascia:

I’m a firm believer in yoga, osteopathy, somatic bodywork and the likes. What I really like about Sannes approach, is the way she connects bodywork with breath and sound. It all seems to click together very nicely and speed up the process of release. I regularly perform the torsion exercise she made us do, but I have never done it while breathing in and out on a loud F. And it is that particular detail that made my jaw first shake like crazy and then release… Along with the tears that needed to flow desperately at that time! The result was that I could finally sing freely, after a few days of stress-induced blockages.

40528429_237102286955087_2081254230093463552_n 2

15 seconds before the release 🙂

While the board of Evta-Be was there, we have invited Sanne to lead a workshop at our symposium next year and I’m happy to say that she said yes!

 

Lieve Jansen – Round Table discussion

While Lieve had prepared very interesting and urgent questions, I’m sad to say that the discussion was highjacked by a few big egos. Something we desperately need to get rid of! However, big thumbs up for the contributions of the Tido Visser and Marc van Vugt. And I’d like to share a quote from Peter Renshaw with you: “How does one create mastery of craft? Not that you’ll ever master it…” I believe this to be a fundamental truth we all need to stay aware of until our very last day.

IMG_6769

 

 

Jane Oakland – What you think is what you get: Psychology & the performing artist

Ahà! This particular subject is one of my pet peeves. I have written a blog on Fear of Failure and Stagefright, which I use a lot as a starting point when I coach my clients through this important part of their growth process. I was very happy to see that the basic ideas I work with, that stem from sports psychology, are still valid and supported by more recent scientific research. There’s a big difference between empirical & scientific evidence 😉

I loved Janes energy and she got some lovely results in the micro-masterclass at the end of her lecture. Given that I was preparing for an audition with very high stakes at that time, this lecture was very welcome!

IMG_6798

Brian Masuda – Workshop: Are you easily assimilated?

Obviously, the abstract on this lecture & workshop spoke to me:
With the extreme demands of the internet era, singers must possess wonderful voices, convincing dramatic skills, excellent vocal technique, linguistic mastery, and a physical appearance as good as one that is photoshopped. “Am I good enough?” “Will I be accepted?” Shouldn’t a singer be concerned about something else?

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a link between this and what Brian actually did on stage. When he worked with the singer, it was 95% him talking, and only 5% the singer singing. And instead of focusing on 1 thing at the time, he gave a gazillion tasks to the singer at once. It was very confusing, so I left early.

But I’d like to end this report on a positive note! I have really enjoyed most of the lectures I went to, reconnecting with friends & colleagues, and meeting new ones. And most of all, it has been very interesting to experience this kind of event while wearing my singer-hat. This was actually also very enriching for my knowledge & skills as a teacher & coach!

Thank you EVTA, NVZ, colleagues & friends. Till we meet again 🙂

I am officially handicapped to the voice. (For real. No clickbait.)

Why I'm grateful to be officially declared handicapped to the voice - Sarah AlgoetToday, I’m sharing a very personal story that has led to my basic philosophy as a voice teacher and vocal coach.

In 2018, I have designed a poster based on this blog post, which I present at international conferences & symposia, with and without a group discussion attached to it. Click on the image to see the poster & conferences.

Let me start with a time line.

  • 1997: After 7 years of playing the flute, I chose voice as my second instrument at the music academy, as I was singing almost constantly and everywhere. This singing was much to the dismay of my brothers, as I loved inventing backing vocals while we were in the car with the whole family. I guess they preferred the lead vocals… or no vocals produced by me at all 🙂 I was 15 years old when I took my first singing lesson. My teacher was a classical singer, so I received classical pedagogy.
868946lilia3

No, this is not me and one of my brothers, but it might have been…

  • 2001 – 2003: The love for voice had overpowered the love for the flute, so I went to a conservatory in Belgium. I got my candidate’s degree (now equivalent to bachelor’s degree) for classical singing. And might I add with some pride, with great distinction for voice.
  • 2003 – 2005: I proceeded studying classical singing at a conservatory in The Netherlands.

So, for 7 years, I have been trained in what I would call “the traditional classical pedagogy”. The teachers had a very clear goal in mind and guided me towards that goal. They put me in a box of voice type (from mezzo to soubrette…) and decided which songs would suit me and my vocal development. I did my very best to fit into the box and perform the songs as I was expected to. OK, I have to admit that I cheated once in a while. As a teenager, I performed at quite a lot of weddings and funerals. If my teacher at the time would have known that I didn’t just sing ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Pie Jesu’, but also belted out ‘The Power of Love’ (Celine Dion) and the likes, she would have kicked me out. Seriously. I was to sing classical music. And if I sang a musical theater song, It’d better be sung with classical technique.

The older I got, the more I came across wrenching situations.

Angry-woman-calm-man

For example, towards the end of my classical training, I fell in love with Kurt Weill songs. He has written songs for actresses without trained singing voices. The emotion prevails. A lot of songs are sung by tormented women that are enraged, because a man has done them wrong in one way or another. *Yay* 🙂

However, for decades, it has been the tradition among a lot of classical singers to sing Kurt Weill “beautifully”. With that, I mean with a dark, round, classical sound and no vocal effect whatsoever. For me, that’s not how these songs are supposed to be sung. When I sing / shout “Nimm doch die Pfeife aus dem Maul, du HUND!” (“Take that pipe out of your mouth, you DOG!”) from ‘Surabaya Johnny’, I want to bite with a sharp raw sound, grunt, growl, pour my heart out. But I got told off for every sound that deviated from the teacher’s opinion. It was not interesting, not as it’s supposed to sound, and most of all, damaging my voice. However, to me, it was interesting, sounded as I wanted it to sound (great!), and it didn’t hurt. Even so, I listened to the teacher. She was the teacher, she must’ve known best.

In my final year at the conservatory, my vocal problems started. And they didn’t stop for a year. Without any identifiable reason, my voice would suddenly ‘stop’. Sometimes it felt like my voice was a piano with some of the keys missing. C and D would be fine, E was missing, but F and G were fine again. The day after, the problem was gone. But the day after that, the G was missing.

None of the ENT specialists I went to could give me a diagnosis. All I heard was “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know whether it will ever go away and if it goes away, if it will stay away.”. All I knew was that during examinations, there would sometimes be a sub glottal deficiency noticeable. A swelling that would come and go without an identifiable cause and very randomly. The final ENT specialist I went to, was a very renowned one. He worked with the top classical singers of that country. And that’s the doctor who declared me officially handicapped to the voice. I have it written black on white that I am genetically not predisposed to be a singer.

I still see myself sitting on the bench outside the hospital. I cried a bit. But to be honest, that was the only time. I think my mother has cried much and much more about the situation than I have 🙂

I quit my studies at the conservatory and moved back to Belgium. A few months later, I solved the issue myself and it took me exactly 1 day. On that day, I said to myself: “From now on, I’m not going to do anymore what other people want me to do, or what I think that they want me to do. Instead of trying to point my voice in a certain direction, I’m going to listen to my voice and follow the direction she is leading me to.” For the first time since I had started voice lessons, I made true contact with my voice without having a certain goal in mind. You might say without forcing her down the road I thought was the right one, because my teacher had told me so.

The+road+less+traveled_dfa92b_6179061

I only focused on 2 things.

  • Does it sound as I want it to sound – and not as somebody else wants it to sound?
  • Is it healthy? This means that it doesn’t hurt, tickle, strain,… and I can repeat it perpetually without getting hoarse.

And there she was: My Voice. Stronger, happier, more flexible and bigger than ever. I had loads of fun while playing around with funny, ugly, coarse, strange sounds. But then again, what is the definition of funny, ugly, coarse, strange and the likes? There is no such thing as “a beautiful sound”. What might sound beautiful to me, might sound ugly to you. Soon, I started to look for vocal methods outside of the world of conservatories. I was convinced that there had to be more people like me. People that also thought that you can sing with so much more than just “the classical sound ideal” and still have a healthy voice. Of course there were…

In 2007, I went to my first masterclass of a “non conventional” method. By that, I mean that at the time, it was not standard – and often even frowned upon – in conservatory educations. The light went on. There even was scientific research on all those beautiful, crazy, lovely, diverse sounds that we can make! That was the beginning of an amazing journey of educating myself in the latest scientific knowledge, methods and pedagogy. Since 2011, I’m also performing scientific research myself. If I would say that to my science teachers of my youth, they would have a hard time believing it 😉 And I am planning on continuing this journey until my final day.

It is my duty to keep on searching, discussing, learning, listening and growing as a singer, teacher and coach. Talking about my growth as a singer… Studying all these non-classical sounds also made me a better classical singer! Because the basic rules of producing all possible human sounds are the same. And getting to know every corner of your voice obviously liberates you in all possible styles and genres.

Now, I’m not saying that all these classical teachers I had were bad teachers. They were just not the right teachers for me. But the result of all this, is that I firmly believe that the job of a teacher / coach is to be in service of the artistic identity of the person that chose to work with us. We have to guide our clients through all the possibilities and help them find their own voice. Not a copy of our own voice. And this goes for the singing ànd speaking voice.

Kitty Machine Gun GIF - Kitty MachineGun AK45 GIFsIf someone enters my studio with the song “Memory” from the musical “Cats”, and she will audition for a part in that particular musical theatre play, I will tell her what “the rules” within the genre are. She must know what the judges expect her to sound like. If she would ask for it, I would give my own opinion. After all, I do have one 🙂 But the most important question is “What do YOU want?”. If she wants to sing a death metal version of the song, with distortion, grunt and the likes, and I find that it sounds horrible, that’s my problem. Not hers. My job is to help her sing the song with distortion, grunt and the likes in a healthy way. Period.

My personal artistic identity is very diverse. I love to start the day with a very clean, lovely, classical “Ave Maria” at a church service, and end it with a rock band, while I rattle my heart out. And the day after, I might perform a jazzy version of “Blackbird”, accompanied by my favorite accordionist. Nowadays, we know that that is possible in a healthy way and that there are methods to teach singers all this. If the singer that enters my studio doesn’t want to know all these possibilities and just wants to perfect one part of his / her voice, then that’s also OK. I must not project my own ambitions onto my clients. I am in service of them and their choices.

All I can do, is try to guide my clients towards consciousness of their voice, their body, their breath, their instrument, their sound, their story,… And with this consciousness, they end up being able to make their own choices. I open the door, but they have to walk through it.

Thank you for your trust, dear clients. Thank you for allowing me to accompany you on such a personal and emotional journey. What an amazing job I have.

PS: In the end, I am very grateful that the ego of that ENT specialist didn’t allow him to say “I don’t know.”. Because of this official declaration of me being handicapped, I was able to quit the conservatory very easily. My voice had tried to tell me already for a long time that the road I was taking was not the right one for me. The doctor gave me the final push and very soon, I ended up on the path that was oh so right 🙂

PPS: No, I don’t have a disabled permit…

ada-handicapped-parking-permit-sign-k-1443

Am I a bad colleague?

In this blog, I would like to share a certain situation with you, in order to start a discussion and maybe find the beginning of a solution. This situation is not THE problem, but it illustrates a bigger problem that I don’t know how to handle. I have taken some action, but I don’t know whether I took the right decision by doing so. I’m hoping that this blog will result in an open discussion between voice teachers, vocal coaches, voice students (yes, them too!) and everybody else that thinks (s)he can contribute in a constructive way.

The discussion is already going on with quite a lot of people, but very privately, and I think that has to change. If we strongly feel that something wrong is happening, we have the right to speak up and try to do something about it.

Before I start to explain the situation, I’d like to state that this is my personal story, opinion and my emotions. I’m not acting as the vice president of Evta-Be (Belgian association of voice teachers), nor member of the council of EVTA (European Voice Teachers Association), even though I started a conversation on this within these associations. Because in my opinion, we need to take action on national and preferably also international level.

Last week, I have posted this on Facebook.

FB

I think you get the point. There is a “vocal coach” in my country that I’m not a big fan of, to put it nicely. I didn’t use the name of the coach, but since this post, I have been receiving a lot of private messages from colleagues, asking who I was talking about. And most of them had already figured it out, as they know the situation and share my opinion. This has been going on for years.

Normally, in a situation like this, I turn to the idea that every voice student is responsible for finding a good teacher / coach. With that I mean somebody with an education, knowledge and skills. The voice student also has to remain critical and true to his / her intuition. If it doesn’t work, if it hurts the voice, if the coach is pointing you in another direction than what you need,… then you have to find another coach. But this coach works with a lot of young voices. These children don’t have the ability to be critical yet. So it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut. Bad voice lessons can not only hurt a person in a physical way. Messing with a voice is messing with a soul. Yes, I admit to the fact that I’m speaking from personal experience 🙂

So. Who is this person? I am still not using her name, but I realize that describing her in such a detailed way makes it pretty clear who I am talking about. I know this is dangerous for so many reasons. But I decided to do it anyway, for the sake of the open discussion. Even though I am putting my own reputation on the line by doing this. Hence the title. Here we go.

This person writes in her biography that she holds a master in music, which is true. But she writes it in such a way, so that the person reading it, thinks she holds a master in voice. She does not. She has a master degree in producing. As far as I know, her only voice education is local private singing lessons. Yes, she has a diploma of a 1 year teacher training. Mind you, this training consists of general pedagogy, not vocal pedagogy. Nevertheless, she calls herself “master vocal coach”. Actually, I have noticed that she has dropped the “master” on one particular social network since my post, so I guess that she agrees on the fact that this term does not correspond to the truth.

As far as I know, she is not a member of any voice association. She does not go to voice conferences, focused on voice pedagogy and / or voice science, nor has she an education in these fields. Nevertheless, she has developed her own method on voice and written 2 books on it. She has admitted to one of my colleagues that she has read several books on voice methods – which does not mean that she has educated herself in these methods – and has made her own synthesis of it. She also trains people to be “authorised coaches” of her method.

She consistently claims that she runs the biggest voice institute of Belgium. As far as I know, she only teaches in Flanders, not in Wallonia. Belgium is Flanders + Wallonia. Recently, she has opened a “vocal clinic”. Yes. She is adding a medical touch to her voice studio. Cooperating with a speech therapist is great. Training yourself in massaging is great (She doesn’t specify how many hours and which massage therapy. But the school she went to offers mainly cosmetic massages). Doing a 10 hour training on kinesiotaping is great. Calling your voice studio a vocal clinic and actually “treating” people yourself is something else.

And then, last week, I found out that she is presenting research on her method at an important voice conference. When I read further into it, I found out that this is how she describes herself in her bio for that conference: “… is considered one of the Belgium’s leading top vocal coaches and a respected vocal expert …”. I kind of… Errr… Well… I exploded.

In my opinion, this is how you do research:

  1. You start with a question / hypothesis.
  2. You research this thoroughly according to the standards of good research (If you want to read more on this, click here.)
  3. If you don’t have the necessary background, you cooperate with people that do.
  4. You take the time to process the data and come to a conclusion.
  5. You present that conclusion to your peers by writing an article and / or book / giving a lecture to your peers at a conference / …

This is the timeline of this person:

  1. 2012: She wrote a book on a method she has developed herself, based on private singing lessons and reading books on other methods.
  2. 2015: She wrote another book on this method.
  3. First half of 2017: She handed in an abstract on the research on her method, in order to present it at an international conference.
  4. July 2017: She actually started the research by making MRI scans.
  5. August 2017: Presenting this research.

Did you notice the time frame? I don’t think that writing 2 books on something and then researching that stuff is the way to go. An then there’s the fact that here is only one month between making the scans and presenting the whole shabam? Ow yeah.

She has made MRI scans of twang and belting, among others things. By now, the vocal world knows what twang and belting are, what they mean and how to use them. They have been researched and studied for decades. This coach has integrated them in her method in a way that shows that she doesn’t understand these terms. On top of that, she calls them vocal effects in the same category of distortion and growl. This makes absolutely no sense.

The success of this persons seems to grow bigger and bigger, as her PR is VERY good. And yes, she also managed to get herself hired as the vocal coach of a TV show. Another reason why this can go on, is that many vocal coaches keep their mouths shut, as they don’t want to be the one that gossips and slanders colleagues. While posting on Facebook, I felt so many emotions: Guilt, fear, shame,… But even so, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I just HAD to post it. The result of us keeping our mouths shut is, to put it bluntly, that a lot of clients of this coach are paying good money for a lot of glittery blabla, while losing time in their vocal growth, and even getting hurt.

I have shared this story with an ENT specialist that I work together with and respect very much. I wanted her opinion on this, as the profession of a voice teacher and vocal coach is not protected. Anybody can use this name. The profession of a doctor is protected. I was thinking of an ethical code, but she brought up a great idea: A certificate, created by an organization / association that is acclaimed as an authority on the subject. She made the comparison with the profession of managers. Nowadays, in Belgium, the certificate of Vlerick Management School is much wanted, as it stands or quality.

As I have represented Belgium at the council meeting of EVTA (European Voice Teachers Association) being the vice president of Evta-Be (Belgian association of voice teachers), I decided to bring the topic up during the meeting, obviously without using the name. It has been incorporated in a brainstorm session, together with other interesting topics. Going to this meeting, I remembered that the associations of voice teachers in Germany and the UK have great initiatives that can be part of the solution. I even wrote a report on it in my blog on Eurovox 2015. Scroll to FRIDAY JUNE 19TH, Pathways: A new teacher training course in the UK & Continuing education opportunities for singing teachers in Germany.

Why not a European initiative like this? Yes, it’s a huge thing to set up. And we are all volunteers in these associations. We don’t get paid and work during our spare time. Budgets are extremely limited. Maybe we can apply for European funding? Are there other ways to find the money / support?

After sharing this story with you, I’d like to start this discussion with these questions.

  • How do we protect the people that might be hurt from people like this, especially the younger ones? How do we “spread the word” without hurting our own reputation?
  • Do you like the ideas of an ethical code and a certificate? Do you have another idea on how the national and international associations could contribute to solving the problem that the profession of voice teacher and vocal coach is not protected?
  • How do we handle situations like this personally? Do you think I have handled this wrongly? Should I have kept my mouth shut? Am I a bad colleague? Yes, I’m asking this round of questions, because I’m having a lot of emotions on my actions. Guilt, fear, insecurity,… I worry about my own reputation and the one of the associations I am board / council member of. And it might surprise you, but I also worry about this person, now that I have started all this. I know that I have hurt her. She must be so angry, sad, insecure,… And I am sorry for that. But is that a reason to remain silent?
  • Is my information on this person incorrect? This is an important one. If anything I have written is wrong, please tell me! I don’t want to claim something that is not true. It’s bad enough that I’m doing this. Doing this with wrong information would be so much worse…

Please, reply with your real name, function, and evt. your training.

UPDATE 05/08/2017, 10h00, half an hour after making this blog public:
I am currently in Stockholm at ICVT, the International Congress of Voice Teachers. Johan Sundberg, the GOD of vocal science, just advocated for solving the problem that anybody can call himself a voice teacher… It was difficult not to shout “Hoorah!” 🙂

20597074_10155621414884187_2124504494129328771_n

UPDATE 06/08/2017:
Apparently, she is not only performing, but also training her employees to perform kinesiotaping and manual facilitation of the larynx (MFL). She herself has had 10 hours of kinesiotaping. That’s it. While kinesiotaping can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Taping 1 mm wrong and you can harm a person’s voice very badly. I don’t know where she got her training in MFL, but I sure as hell know that she doesn’t have the background in order to safely pass the method on to other people. The more I know, the more the word ‘dangerous’ comes to my mind. Brrr…

UPDATE 09/08/2017:
In the meanwhile, this blog has been read nearly 600 times. I still get a lot of private messages of colleagues that are happy that I have posted this and people are discussing this non-publicly. Unfortunately, the typical Flemish reaction is the ostrich-kind 🙂 There are not a lot of replies to this post. But I get it. It is not easy to speak up when your own reputation might be harmed. People might call you jealous. But that’s not the word. The right word is indignant. We have the right to be indignant about this.

UPDATE jan 2018:
She didn’t present her “research” at the conference. In fact, she was not present at all. I believe that that says a lot.
A lot is happening within national & international voice teachers associations! For example, France is working on a law that states that you can’t teach voice, before you have had a 3-year education. A good beginning!

UPDATE APRIL 2018:
It doesn’t stop! Now, she claims to treat medical issues like: irritable bowel syndrome, burn-out, depression, fibromyalgia, whiplash, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart diseases,…

Why is it so difficult to understand the announcements in Flemish train stations?

The thoughts of a voice geek while taking the train on a sunny sunday…

The woman that does the announcements speaks in Neutral with air, with a low larynx. This kind of use of the voice is preferred in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. For example, the majority of our TV and radio presenters use this soft, friendly, warm and non-agressive sound. Something that can’t be said about our Northern friends 😉 This sound, however, lacks twang, an important element for a voice that needs to be present, ringing, clear and understood when there are disturbing noises around the person that wants to hear the message. For example fellow travellers (that know how to use twang 😏) or shreeking train breaks. Twang amplifies frequencies around 3000Hz, that travel very easily through the ear. This means that a voice with a very little amount of twang disappears completely into the other sounds.

So, next time you try to understand the announcement in a Flemish train station and you don’t succeed… Don’t blame your ears. Blame the person that chose to use this voice.

BTW: Does anyone know this person? I think he / she would be a very suitable candidate to become a client of mine

The emotions of letting go and new beginnings…

Finally, I have moved!

I have been wanting to do it for years, and there have been a few times when it nearly happened. But every time, it didn’t work out. To be honest, it has made me sad on a regular basis for the past years. Even though I have lived through happy times in my old house and singing studio, there were enough reasons why I needed to move on.

I needed to grow. singsing! needed to grow.

For a week, I packed boxes, cleaned rooms and threw away stuff. It was hard work, so I didn’t have time for emotions. I just did what I had to do. As I kept on teaching until the very last day before I moved into the new house, the singing studio was the last room I had to pack and clean. I started out motivated, but suddenly, it hit me: I didn’t have pictures of my singing studio. I have made a gazillion of video recordings of lessons, but I had never taken the time to just take pictures of this very important place. So, I took my phone, in order to take some. Of course, my battery had died on me. Thank you, Murphy. I didn’t have a charger and there was no time to lose. I had to pack and bring everything to the new house.

So, there they were: The tears. For the following hours, while packing, I shed many. I thought about all those emotions that the walls have witnessed. So many singers have laughed, cried, had breakthroughs, sung their hearts out, shared very personal stories,… I have laughed and cried with them. I have listened and was grateful for all the trust that they gave me.

I have studied and rehearsed in that studio for 8 years. The walls (and neighbors) have heard me sing, scream, swear, shout, laugh and cry. I too have had breakthroughs and moments when it just didn’t go as I wanted to and had to let go.

In the middle of the night, when I had brought all the boxes to the new house, I returned to make pictures of the empty singing studio. The only items left were the ones that were too heavy for me to carry alone.

Dear singers, Thank you. I hope to make as many beautiful memories with you in the new singing studio ❤

IMG_9972

IMG_9974

IMG_9976

Thoughts & Blurbs from the past

I just realized that I have been neglecting this part of my blog… So, I have collected some of my favorite thoughts & blurbs I have posted on Facebook the past years. The fact that while going through them, I read a lot of variations of “I ❤ my job”, made me very happy. Be prepared for some cheezy stuff 😀

 

12020050_10153042910847791_452949862564043895_n

Professional classical singer – First session.
She sang Ave Maria (Caccini) beautifully. But I heard more potential, so I asked her to relax her jaw.
*BAM* Tears in my eyes after only one note. I didn’t know why. She started crying too, but kept on singing. After finishing the song, she told me that thìs was the freedom of singing she had been looking for her whole life. And then I knew why the tears caught me off guard: The power of a voice being released is undeniable. Those vibrations go through your whole body & soul and touch the very essence of your emotions. To sing is to be. To sing freely is to be freedom.
God, how I love my job…

 

10380058_857307254322961_4811313237632343614_o

 

“A good teacher is someone who pulls things out of you instead of stuffing you with it.”
I’m trying to live up to this ideal every day 😉

 

 

*ARGH* This singer only needed one hour to find the centre of overdrive, curbing & edge, after a lifetime of pushing volume with air. AMAZING results. And now I’m forced to wait at least a month. He has no time to book more lessons. Too many studio-sessions and gigs.
Fingers are itching. Can’t handle it. Don’t know what to do with myself *professional deformation*

 

1948064_10152835369267791_6559693192281494170_n

 

 

That moment when you hear the single of one of your singers on the radio for the first time and you can sing along with every word, because the singer has been working so hard on the song with you…

 

 

11350451_10152788200052791_2750361061053457965_n

 

 

Today, I have coached somebody to recite ‘In Flanders Fields’.
*Goosebumps*
I was not just happy with this moment. I felt honored.

 

 

 

That moment when you watch the first performance of two of ‘your’ singers with their brand new band and you end up crying like a baby for 5 consecutive songs. I ❤ my job…

 

11150652_10152761770887791_4165010845848041076_n

The shy & tiny Neutral voices that open up in Overdrive with only a few tricks, after a lifetime of frustration… They never tire me.
The pure joy & release on the face of the singer, while creating the power she has always been wanting to create… It fills my heart with happiness!
I ❤ my job. And I ❤ Overdrive. And CVT

 

For my colleague-nerds 😉

 

Cutest coaching-moment ever.
A 12 year old boy has to focus on the active verb “making the girl that he loves happy”. When I ask whether can see the girl in his head, this is his answer “Yes, because you are that girl.”
*Awwwwwwww*

 

10500295_10152730908492791_5709282040834906446_n

Aaaaaaah…
That moment when the singer has done the necessary technical work, can forget all about it, has found the perfect active verb and manages to LIVE it through the song.
❤ Ilovemyjob ❤ —  *impressed*

 

 

Man: “Hello, I’m calling you regarding singing lessons. What is your price?”
Me: “Take a pen, because it’s a whole system.”
Man: “Ah, that’s impossible. *Cough* I’m outside. Smoking. *cough*”
Me: “…”

 

“Sarah is sensationally good! What a personality! What a voice! What a coach! She certainly made an enormous impression on us all and I hope that the investment in yesterday’s workshop will pay off handsomely in our oral presentations.” (A professor of linguistics)
I couldn’t resist sharing the feedback I just received about the workshop ‘Creative use of the voice during oral presentations’ I taught this week @ the university of Antwerp.
And apparently they loved my English 😀
I personally loved teaching this workshop in English too, as these linguistics have a British accent, so I was allowed to speak a bit “posh” 🙂
*me diva*

 

I’m loving this. LOVING THIS, I TELL YA! 😀
If you’d like to learn how to do this, you’re welcome.
If you’d prefer to learn how to sing the original version, you’re welcome too, of course.

 

Listening to the radio, asking myself where I know the song from, suddenly realizing it’s one of my clients singing… *Proud*

 

10991265_10152590019377791_4340807487697775439_nBest moment of the day:
An osteopath doing the happy dance at the end of his first singing lesson, because he sounds so much better and realizes that he is going to be able to use SO MUCH he has learned for his patients…
Singing is good for your health! Do it as much as you can! The osteopath agrees!

 

10981865_10152589595222791_6416313480763352406_nYesterday, I took a trip down memory lane, teaching a workshop for a choir in the region where I grew up. It was the middle of nowhere, but driving through those familiar country roads and having all that fun with those lovely people sure felt good!
*ilovemyjob* ❤

 

10481669_10153058207038564_9211494268154573459_n10422923_637272059711064_3942763796701019424_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10675742_10152334512812791_738760762457361115_n

According to the first singer of the day, teaching right after my yoga-class makes me extra mean.
BUT THE RESULTS ARE THERE!
So quit whining and sing!
Please.

 

 

A singer that beats a lifetime of flageolet in one lesson and walks out the door while saying ‘The world has opened’.
Thàt’s what makes me happy 😉

 

No, I did not watch The Voice Kids and am not planning to do that either. Reading the raging comments from my colleague vocal coaches is enough. I’m challenging myself NOT to engage in the discussions this time. Please punish me if I can’t help myself. Really.

 

You know you’ve been coaching a kinder garden teacher when you can’t get ‘Tic Toc Clock’ out of your head.
For hours. And hours. And hours. (And hours)
*ARGH*

 

10570503_10152223762992791_4856115575218421548_n*KABOOM!*
Feeling the energy of that long desired high note, sung by a singer that has been working for it LIKE HELL…
Recognizing the destructive perfectionism – 
OMG, how I know her feeling…
Witnessing her victory & hearing her belt it out…
I ❤ my job 😀

 

1904086_10152197279412791_6984902236853374784_n

Me: “So, what do you want to do today?”

Singer: “Scream & shout”
I ❤ lessons like that!
But am in need of more deodorant, though…

 

 

Zingen,
dat is het mooiste
van binnen
naar buiten laten komen.

Dat is alles samen
wat apart niet te zeggen valt.
Het is trillend klank geven,
met je ziel op je tong,
aan de blijheid,
de boosheid,
de angst,
de trots
of de liefde.

Maar ook aan de stilte.

Ja, zingen,
dat is zo ontroerend stil zijn,
dat wie luistert
diep in zichzelf
een speld kan horen vallen.

*Geert De Kockere (Met dank aan Griet Samain)

 

10303796_10152111207487791_2170321023068792444_n

 

Dear singers,
Next time I’m teaching you with spinach in between my teeth, please tell me. Spare the next singers this view. And me the shame.
Thank you.

 

 

10288708_10152347552613180_2233553209972421714_n

 

Even though I’m graduating as an Authorized CVT Teacher tomorrow, this will remain one of my mottos forever 😀

 

 

1526404_10152068605057791_6077193604542202458_n

 

Aaaaaah… coaching an equally big diva (in the good sense!) as myself with ‘Somebody to love’, ‘Music of the night’ & ‘I want to be a producer’. All in 1 session! ❤ it.
My dramatic heart has been spoiled today.

 

A loving family of 20 people
+ the claim that they know nothing about music
+ a desire to sing in multiple voices
+ lots of enthusiasm (& alcohol…)
+ me as a vocal coach
= An evening to remember 😉

 

If the video of my latest Skype coaching would be thrown online, I’m quite sure people would want to pay to see it. *HILARIOUS!*
❤ my job 😀

 

Desperately trying to find a legitimate reason to incorporate this in my lessons…

 

 

1972518_10152004070932791_2048159016560567284_n Today, Ambition-seminar.
“What are the values of my business?
My answer: Music, Joy, Growth & Depth.
I needed 3 seconds in order to come up with this. No. 2 ❤ 😀

 

 

1978836_10152002004817791_1983919720072164476_n

When a client can’t go on singing, because she starts to laugh & cry at the same time during a session, I guess it’s safe to say she’s happy with the sound she just made

 

 

1236568_10151998813057791_4310076880228632236_nWhat an *AMAZING* day of teaching!
For 8 hours, I gave all I had, and I received even more.

Thank you, dear singers, for trusting me, for putting your precious voices in my hands, for letting me guide you in this beautiful path we call ‘growth’, for giving me all you have, time and time again…

I bow my head for you…

 

 

10156096_10151962761412791_1908036521_n

 

*HILARIOUS* session this evening… Pirate-metal!
A festival of rattle, growl and grunt 😀
Unfortunately, it wasn’t this yummy pirate that laid his voice into my hands :-/
Arrrrrrrrr!

 

 

20 Reasons to thank a music teacher
Thank you x1000, dear teachers! And thank you x1000, dear singers, to trust me and let me pass this magic on to you…

 

 

If only she’d know Complete Vocal Technique…
Still laughing my ass off, though ;o)

 

 

1898161_10151873499637791_1702188036_n

 

A beautiful quote and the beautiful truth…

 

 

 

1601276_10151838456542791_1219679846_n

 

4 very enthusiastic policewomen on an introductory-course… I didn’t need much time to get them to sing overdrive or edge! *ringing ears* ;o)

 

 

 

When during a coaching session, a man sings a lovesong with the lyrics “for Sarah” in almost every sentence… It’s difficult not to feel serenaded ;o)

 

One of my clients just called me a magician…Can I now say I’m a witch? ;o)

 

Why the things you say to your students may have a deeper impact than you think
I’m trying every day to put this into practice…

 

Oh, how *great* it is to see 4 superb women leave with a smile on their face and position my tired ass in the couch, knowing I have infected them irreversibly with the CVT-virus 😀

 

Improve Your Voice with Vibration
I’m thinking about introducing a sextoy in my voice studio… Really!

 

 

1234230_10151580240872791_1012760880_n

And then, a singer stands at my door unannounced, with a smile from here to Tokio (and back) & these flowers. Just to tell me that she has passed the audition and wants to thank me for my coaching.

I don’t care about the rain anymore, for me, the *SUN* is shining! ;o)

 

 

Another last lesson before THE day…
Saturday, he’ll sing for an audience for the first time ever.
And what’s most important: He’ll do it right after his ‘I do’!
Oh, I love love love my job ;o)

 

‘She gave me 75 years of her life’: The tone- deaf 96-year-old who entered heartbreaking song he wrote for his late wife into contest… and got it made into a real record
The power of music… *cry*

 

Conclusion after a 2 uur session: “So. Basically, I just have to open my mouth.”
Errrr… Yes. ;o)

 

It’s so touching when people start singing lessons, because they want to sing for their loved one at their wedding…

And it feels so great to coach them! *happyvocalcoach

 

Yes, it’s very nice to read your enthusiastic email that tells me that playing your horn is easier since your last singing lesson. But… How’s the singing going? ;o)

 

I just ❤ LOVE ❤ to witness the smile that appears on the face of a singer that has just experienced how far his / her voice can go! *happyvocalcoach

 

 

1383349_10151971707770638_2054305245_n

Testimonials on Skype Coaching

I have started offering coaching via Skype successfully in January 2013 and wrote a blog on my own opinion about it. But sometimes, I notice that people are still skeptical. That’s why I decided to share the testimonials of a few people that I’m coaching.

It’s simple: It works! ;o)

Julia Klotz, Musical theater singer, Germany, leading part in Evita.

Afbeelding

“I took Skype lessons with Sarah and her vocal coaching was amazing. She helped me through a tough time with lots of rehearsals and shows to play.

My singing improved more than I expected and it still does with her concrete and precise tips in mind! :-)”

 

Singer-songwriter, Belgium

“I was recording in studio and the deadline was approaching. Sarah was abroad, so I booked a coaching session through Skype.Afbeelding

Besides the advantage of the last minute aspect, I felt even more freedom compared to regular sessions: I didn’t have to come to the coaching studio and we immediately started working to the point. After the session, I felt completely relaxed and ready for action!

Compared to a regular session, the way Sarah handles coaching through Skype is equally personal, the result equally impressive and efficient.

Whether it’s offline or online, Sarah is always great, and the session is always productive.”

Sara Van Crombrugge, singer, Belgium

I just had my second Skype lesson. I wondered in advance whether it would be something for me, but I’m glad to say it was very nice. Next to the fact that I don’t have to make the trip to Ghent, it was very nice to have the lesson in my own living room, where I’m very at ease. I would recommend it to everyone  🙂 !

I’m so grateful to be a vocal coach!

Today, a student and I have had the last lesson before her exam… Oh my, she made me so proud!

This jazz-singer started her studies at the conservatory in october and started private coaching with me that same month. With a very hungry work ethic, she booked lessons every week or two weeks. Every time she was prepared and had a clear idea of what she wanted to work on. Her hunger sometimes turned into being a control freak, but that’s OK. I think we all have been there ;o) Of course I focused mainly on technique during the first sessions, especially breathing and breath support.

After a few sessions, I started to ask her more regularly why she wanted to sing the song a certain way. It was clear that she had difficulties understanding the fact that technique is only a tool. It serves your main purpose: Telling a story, touching hearts. Your audience doesn’t care about the mode you’re singing in, it doesn’t care that one note isn’t in tune…

Even though she had lots of difficulties opening up emotionally to the music and (I heard a lot of “I can’t!”), she kept on trying. During the last lessons of december, I noticed that something had happened. I could see, hear and feel a bit of her personality when she was singing. And then there were the holidays…

Today, I was so very curious. The last lesson before the exam. Had she been able to work and progress on her own? Would she be ready? And there she was: A performer. I witnessed her singing the songs from her heart, telling a story, showing me her musical identity, opening up to whatever would happen.

The way you feel as a coach, when you watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly… I can’t describe it, but if you could see the smile on my face right now, and feel the, well… butterflies in my stomach ;o) THIS is why I absolutely LOVE my job. It’s an honor that people trust me with their voice, their story. It’s so beautiful that they let me guide them to things that they sometimes never dared to dream of.

So, to all of you, that have ever walked into my classroom and sang to me: THANK YOU!
And to the singer of the story: Good luck, wednesday!

*Big hug*

Sarah