Hello! I am a soprano and voice educator currently in the final stages of completing my doctorate at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University studying with Carol Vaness. I decided to pursue a doctorate because of the ever-changing and evolving world of vocal technique. Groundbreaking research in the field is happening all of the time and I want to be well-versed in everything that's happening. I've participated in a number of workshops and conferences all over the US; most recently as a participant in the Bel Canto/Can Belto Workshop at Penn State with Mary Saunders-Barton and as a presenter at the New Voice Educators Symposium.
Since developing an interest in vocal pedagogy in my undergraduate studies, I have been teaching voice. I taught for two years in Boston, MA, four years in the metro-Atlanta, GA area, and for two years in Memphis, TN. Now a resident of Bloomington, IN I teach classical and musical theatre voice to students in the Bloomington area and beyond, through my active online studio. My students have successfully won competitions, secured scholarships, performed well in All-State competitions, and been seen on stage in recitals, concerts, musicals, plays, and operas. You can check out my operatic bio in other areas of this site, so I thought I'd highlight my theatre experience here.
Not only is my doctoral research in the field of Music Theatre repertoire and pedagogy, but musical theatre has been a passion of mine since receiving a recording of Showboat in middle school. Besides singing dozens of classic favorites at concerts and galas, I've performed a number of roles including The Witch in Sondheim's Into the Woods, Joy in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, Peep Bo in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado, Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, and Mrs. Bobby Child in The Gershwin's Crazy for You.
Who am I ready to audition for?
Maybe you are ready to audition for college programs in music or theatre. Maybe you are making your first steps after studies into the professional classical music world. Maybe you are auditioning for a local community theatre. Maybe you are auditioning for The Voice. We can decide together if this is right or realistic for you. Attempting a career in music is a long and expensive road that is filled with ups and downs. Honest assessment as you go along your musical journey is vital to the process and the best thing you can do for yourself. Once we've decided on which auditions to apply for, audition prep begins! We'll pick out the perfect songs, decide on wardrobe for the situation, and make sure you are as professional and prepared as possible. I have a wide variety of audition experience on both sides of the table and look forward to sharing it with you!
What is the right age for lessons?
When children are interested in music, we want to give them every opportunity to explore that interest and learn and experience as much as possible. For very young children, oftentimes a kindermusik or beginning piano lessons may be a better place to start; but if singing is the only thing that they will agree to, then there are options! A significant portion of lessons will include learning music basics - reading the notes, learning the keys on a piano, etc. The rest of the time will be spent exploring how our voice works. Eventually, songs will be learned - but young voices are delicate and need to be looked after with care. Generally, students begin studying voice in high school or the end of middle school.
What about if I just want to sing for fun?
Many people study voice as hobbyists for years and get immense pleasure from it. Singing can help as a form of release and relaxation, time for yourself, or as a way to process a difficult period in your life. It can even help your speaking voice. Many professions, for example, teachers, use their voice constantly and at times feel vocal strain and don't know exactly what to do about it. Most of the concepts used in singing are directly applicable to regular speech and can help people find relief. Don't be afraid of 'having a bad voice' or 'being tone deaf'. Many people just don't know how to use the tools they have; and why would they? They've never had a voice lesson! So what's stopping you?
Unlike many who pursue a career in classical music, I do not come from a musical family. My mother is deaf in one ear and has been known to say that she “Can’t hear some of the notes” I sing. My father scolded me as a child for singing along to the radio because “They’re doing fine on their own.” Do not misunderstand me – I love my parents! But all of this is to say, my love of music came from a number of different avenues, one of them being science. While my father did not particularly love me singing along to his Elton John albums, he did love Albert Einstein. The ideas of scientific discovery and fact-based methodical processes played a huge role in my childhood. We watched space shuttles launch, our Christmas presents were telescopes and encyclopedias, and my brother and I loved it. Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” I have to agree, curiosity fuels my learning and teaching style as I constantly seek new knowledge. I began teaching private voice as a way to make money between singing jobs. As I taught, I learned more about my own instrument and its abilities. This relationship sparked an entirely new level enthusiasm for teaching. As an undergraduate student I had been intrigued by the abstract concept of vocal pedagogy. Each student’s individual idiosyncrasies afforded an opportunity to explore and hypothesize upon something new. Passionate curiosity and the desire to instill that same curiosity in my students form the basis of my philosophy of teaching. I strive to accomplish this by creating safe conditions to experiment, exploring new ideas and techniques, and using questions to make students constantly aware of the processes they are creating for themselves.
“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein
What is the ideal learning condition? It is different for every student even more so for voice students. A voice is hidden from view, personal, and inside of us; and because of this provides special challenges to a teacher. Each student comes to me from a different set of economic, cultural, and musical experiences. I do not choose to think of whatever habits, tensions, or inaccuracies that student has as negative – I cannot. If a student comes to me wanting to sing, but sings with a chest arched out so far that I wonder how they stay on the ground, I cannot immediately tell him that it is wrong to hold his chest in that manner. For whatever reason, he has chosen to hold his chest in that way. I show him new and different ways to hold his chest and with guidance, allow the student to discover why they might be more effective for a full, deep inhalation. Ideally, he will then find the most beneficial posture “on his own”. This is a longer lasting lesson than correcting every minutia. I instruct my students to ask me questions if they don’t understand what I am saying to them; creating a space where students feel safe to experiment with themselves. I commend them for being brave and making odd or embarrassing noises. I thank them when they participate whole-heartedly in a lesson and giving each exercise we try everything they have, whether or not they are sure of the results. Despite being a musician, I am a very left-brained and logical person. I have always felt that when presented with facts, one will easily be able to look at them and make the ‘correct’ conclusion. This does not work for teaching voice. You may tell a student to raise their soft palate twenty separate times, but until they hear it in a way that works with their learning process, they will not be able to succeed. I am learning to adjust my teaching to fit my students. I have a student with a great deal of facial tension. He feels that if he does not use every muscle in his face he will not be able to sing effectively. I am not sure where he developed this idea, as it was very fully formed when he arrived in my studio as a secondary voice student. In the studio we were working on his song for spring juries with a high G natural at the end, “Mr. Cellophane” from Kander and Ebb’s Chicago. He achieved quite a bit of success with freeing up this pitch by spreading his arms wide and lifting his chest up, allowing himself to feel air rush into his body. Now, one week before the jury he had clearly gotten himself into a head space where he did not think this pitch was possible. I examine what I know of this student: he is a double major, in composition and mathematics with a minor in French; he doesn’t cancel his lessons on religious holidays, he asks if he can come early, so that he can make it on time to temple to read at the service. He is busy. He is hard on himself. He expects way too much. He over-fixates on his issues to the point where it makes him visibly upset to watch himself sing – but he still loves to do it. So I decide to just completely remove him from his comfort zone. I will be calling out emotions to him as he sings, and he needs to change his emotion no matter what I say. He looks at me skeptically, but trusts me enough at this point to go with it. The first emotions I give him have nothing to do with the song, and I change them roughly every two measures. He is still a bit unconvinced but then begins to be frustrated in a constructive way, by the task as the emotions I call out move closer to the actual meaning of the song. He has let go of a good bit of his tension and is staring me down waiting to see what I try to stump him with. He sings a variety of colors, dynamics, and intensities until we get to the last note, when I call out, “Carefree!” His high G natural is not perfect, but afterwards he has a smirk on his face, and begrudgingly admits that he enjoyed what we had just done.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
With the voice being an un-see-able instrument locked away inside of our bodies much of what we do as teachers is trial and error. The best we can hope for is to be like infants, trying things multiple ways until we find the best method; and then keep using that method until a better system presents itself. I proudly state that my teaching is a continual work in progress. There is constant trial, critique, analysis, and reworking of ideas. At the beginning of my teaching career, I did not necessarily proceed in any particular order. I thought back to my own beginning voice lessons, and worked from there. As a doctoral student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, I am exposed daily to numerous views, collaborators, and master teachers feeding my desire for innovative knowledge. I have explored various workshops across the country based in vocal pedagogy, body movement, and other outside fields. This lead me to the idea that I should come up with an order in which to approach material with my students. I formed a plan on how I was going to teach each student this semester, in what order I would expose the student to each concept, and how quickly I would move through the ideas; keeping in mind the course requirements of four songs learned per semester. I decided that to talk to students about breath first was still best, but to change the framework of the discussion, instead talking about breath intention. I conveyed to them to be conscious of breathing in air and just as conscious of breathing air out. It made an enormous difference. Making sure that students truly understood that a task that is normally done by an autonomic system was a task that one had to pay full attention to, changed the speed with which my students began to be able to manage their breath and grasp and apply other ideas more effectively.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has it own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein
The best things I received during my master’s degree at The Boston Conservatory were my best friend Tara and the education I received in private study with Dr. Rebecca Folsom. Dr. Folsom taught us to be self-sufficient singers. She questioned us in lessons constantly. After each exercise she’d ask which muscle was being worked, or which part of the vocal mechanism was being affected. I knew in each lesson I would be required to know why I was doing what I was doing. For many young singers this seems terrifying. Oftentimes, students blindly listen to a teacher and do whatever they say, not knowing why, just hoping it will make them better. Sometimes this is effective. Most times it just creates singers who do not know how their own voice functions and cannot improve or perform outside of their teacher’s studio. I have continued this practice in my own teaching, because it is one of the most valuable things a student can learn. While working on an exercise, if the student performs it near perfectly, I will stop and ask the student what she did differently from the previous attempt. What made this attempt more successful? How will she make the next attempt just as successful? This gives the student the ability to understand her own process. They can then do the same thing for themselves in the practice room. With very beginning students I have them close their eyes when I ask them how things feel inside their mouth while phonating, or where they feel expansion and stretch in their bodies during inhalation. This way, they are not distracted by looking around or looking at me for approval and can truly explore those vital sensations that only they can feel. Their input not only aids them but also allows me to make sure that what I am hearing is matching what they are feeling. I have a naturally gifted student whose mother has asked me for advice on college and career potential, of which I believe the student possesses both. Her mother tells me how much her daughter loves singing, and wants to be a professional singer; yet in lessons the girl appears rather uninterested. It can be a fight to get her to fully focus on the task at hand. I know that a majority of this comes from a lack of confidence and an overabundance of self-imposed perfectionism. She had been particularly non-committal about her acting choices, so I chose to work on the character of one of her favorite songs with her. “How old is she? Does she go to school? Is she single or does she have a boyfriend?” The answer to many of these was I don’t know. In the past I had helped her and supplied an answer right off the bat, as an example if she replied in this way, but not on this occasion. I chose to make her sit and think about it. I gave her hints of course, talked about the story, the setting, the other characters, until she said, “Well, she probably can’t read.” That was enough to let me know she was at least willing to participate. I asked more questions and she continued to answer until we got to the hard part: What did her character expect achieving her goal would actually look like? She paused for a moment, and I saw something come alive in her. “Well he’s got a lot of money. Maybe she could have nice clothes, and even a bed to sleep on.” She picked up a pencil and began writing things down as she was saying them while we finished the exercise. I watched her make this simple discovery about a song she loved, and finally realize she has more to offer than a lovely singing voice. Witnessing this transformation in a student is both inspiring and gratifying. I believe that I am a good teacher. That sentence is difficult to write because I have a difficult time accepting praise for performing, teaching, or even the earrings I am wearing. As I have progressed in my teaching and formed longer relationships with students I have realized that this is not something I do between singing jobs. I am a musician and a teacher, not one or the other. I am proud, excited, and passionately curious about both; and hope to instill in my students passion and curiosity for music, themselves and the world they inhabit. Here is one last bit of wisdom from my father’s favorite scientist. It can be found on posters in teacher supply stores all over the country, but that does not diminish the truth in the words that I hold as the highest privilege.
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein