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To teach, or not to teach

I have noticed a huge increase in the volume of online teaching adverts over the last few weeks from fellow singers and I think it is FABULOUS! Having run my own music teaching business for the last 10 years, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for how to cope with moving your business online!

Why teach?

The answer to this question has changed over the years for me and to be honest with you, changes with each individuals personal circumstances. As I get older, my answer is because of the pure JOY it brings me. I realise now that teaching is the most beautiful way of giving back: to inspire the younger generation and to make positive changes to our industry by allowing opera and singing to be accessible to EVERYONE!


What skills do we develop?

Technique


This is one thing that I have found since teaching. We are constantly evaluating other people’s technique which means we are always thinking about technique. This transfers to our own singing and our time in a practice room. I often ask myself what would I say to my students when I hit a brick wall with my own practice and it definitely helps!

Communication


Online teaching requires a lot of energy! We have to constantly think of ways to keep students engaged and asking questions is a great way to help with this. I always encourage my students to ask questions and to challenge anything that they don’t understand. It is very possible that students are nervous about the move to online lessons so do encourage them to ask any questions or repeat things that they may not hear because of delays with technology.


Patience


I have found that there is slightly more of a delay with online teaching. This means that some younger students struggle with aural processing and singing back melodies. In person, we can give extra help with the accompaniment that we just can’t do online. This teaches us to slow down and actually ensure that students have the fundamental basics that they need for their music tuition. Hopefully we will see an improvement in general musicianship because of having to change our teaching pace.

Listening

We have to listen so much more online and this trains our own ears as singers. The concentration levels have to be high and in turn, this helps with our communication mentioned above. It is one big cycle of learning and improving skills which is one positive of lockdown.


What are the challenges and how can we overcome them?


Headaches


This is the one I have been struggling with. Several colleagues have also mentioned the tedious headaches that come with online teaching. I have found that the best way to combat them is by keeping well hydrated and staying off of technology when we have the opportunity.

Internet issues


As with anything online, there is a risk with the internet connection failing. Be upfront with your students that this might be the case and assure them that if you have to cancel because of technology, you will make these lessons up. Also ensure you have a good set up (good microphone, correct lighting, camera angled correctly so your students can see you etc).


Tired voices

This is one that I have been struggling with throughout lockdown. The most important thing to remember is to keep supporting your spoken voice. Easier said than done, especially when you’re trying to keep your voice down for other members of your household but it is a necessity! It’s the only way to keep our voices healthy on the other side of this!

No face to face contact


Communication is key. We usually have a crossover when parents pick up and drop off to give feedback if working with young kids which has now been taken from us in lockdown. My top tip is to either incorporate this into the last few minutes of the lesson or make your students aware that they are always welcome to book a time in to have a little chat if they have any concerns. Sending a text to keep parents in the loop is always recommended as well and just makes things a bit more personal!

Lack of energy from students


I should rename this one to lack of energy from students and teachers. That 3pm slump of energy is a killer. Perhaps you could incorporate a physical warm up at the start of each lesson which just keeps the energy levels up and also helps with posture from sitting down in one position all day long.



Final top tip!

I hope you have found these suggestions a little bit useful! One top tip is to apply what I’ve done above into our every day practice. If we come across an issue which is inevitable with moving things online, counteract it with ways you can overcome these issues. Remember every negative thought can be changed if you adjust your view point.

Lets keep the music going and continue to inspire the next generation of singers!


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©2020 by Chloë Pardoe Mezzo Soprano.
Publicity photography by Bertie Watson www.bertiewatson.com