When you find the right one never let them go. The many hours a singer spends one-to-one in a room with their teacher are endless. They are your personal expert, your guide, your coach, your psychologist, your friend, your manager and your most honest fan. It is one of the most intimate experiences you can share with a teacher. As a singer and performer it is inevitable that during these times you will show yourself at your best and your worst. You’ll find yourself smiling, laughing, crying, prancing around the room and sharing some of your biggest secrets.
I’ve experienced ‘blanket teachers’, who fail to treat you as an individual; ‘fake teachers’ who aren’t as much of an expert as they think they are; ‘opera teachers’ who don’t believe other types of music and styles exist in the world; ‘pushy teachers’ who send you out into the world before you are ready; ‘scary teachers’ who bully you into doing things you’re not comfortable with.
The best kind of teacher is one who is patient, can explain things in a way that you understand, gives you time to process, nurtures your fortes as well as your pianos (as it were) and has a clear idea of what is good for you as a performer. One that allows you to explore music and gain other singers and teachers input, safe in the knowledge that you will return to them as your secure base to discuss what you have learnt.
I’ve been lucky because my very first teacher, Louise Ryan, was fabulous in every way and I learnt all the basics from her. We are still friends. An important teacher, Vetta Wise, was a font of knowledge and created numerous opportunities for me in recent years. Diana Moore and Gail Pearson are pure inspirations. Professionals in the field with relevant anecdotes and an understanding of every performers fears and dreams. Teachers who know how to explain technique and are in tune with their pupils. And it never hurts to be greeted with a smile.