Introducing: The Vocal Edu Series (1)
Allow me to introduce myself - I am Katja Maria, a vocal coach and new guest blogger for Vocal Blog. Partly singer and artist, partly “voice nerd” and pedagogue. Today I will introduce you to the teacher part of me. As a vocal coach and Authorized CVT Teacher I work with singers of all music styles. One day I am working on fine-tuning the breath support of a classical singer, the other day I might be helping a jazz singer discover new sounds, or teach a rock singer how to use effects like distortion without hurting their voice. I also work together with choirs and vocal groups, and help them achieve the sound the conductor is looking for. My work with singers goes paired with teacher training and pedagogical coaching. I work for example with singing teachers and conductors who want to learn new techniques, need new tools for working with contemporary singers, or want new ideas and inspiration for their work.
THE TOOLBOX OF A VOCAL COACH
Aesthetically speaking, there is no ‘correct’ way of singing. My job as a vocal coach is to make sure singers can achieve the stylistic sounds they need and stay healthy through long tours, recording sessions, or teaching schedules. In my work with singers I draw from a big toolbox of vocal technique, body-work, interpretation, musicianship skills, and coaching in creative and artistic ambitions. I am specialized in solving vocal issues and problems related to support, range, volume, dynamics, sound color, and vocal effects. Other aspects of my job includes giving emergency aid, vocal rehabilitation, and teaching healthy (new) vocal habits to singers suffering from vocal health problems.
The “less nerdy part” of my vocal coach work consists of giving singing workshops to people from various backgrounds, and coaching singers or groups towards a performance. This is where technique meets musicianship and performance. In my singing workshops, I usually work with repertoire from contemporary music styles, folk and world music, jazz or other improvised styles.
SINGING IS EXPRESSION
When talking about vocal technique, it is important to remember its position in the big picture of singing. Singing is about expression, and technique is just one tool out of many that help us achieve the expression we want. Other tools include interpretation, rhythm, melody and text. Singers should not fall into the trap of being so busy “building their instrument” that they forget about expression or musicianship all together. Technique has to serve your expression, otherwise learning singing technique is useless.
It is also important that we connect vocal technique exercises to real-life singing situations, just like we connect grammar and spelling exercises to real writing and speaking. One of my teachers, the American music educator Doug Goodkin, often talked about “musical teaching”: making the learning situation a musical experience for the participants. This is a big challenge for all teachers, and something worthwhile striving for.
SINGING, RESEARCHING AND WRITING
My teaching jobs find balance in my work as a singer and musician. I could not teach if I would not make music myself. I perform as a singer-pianist, and right now I am working on a new project with theatrical influences – a music program around the songs of American songwriter icon Tom Waits. When I am not singing or teaching, I am learning new things or writing. Perhaps that’s why I just recently decided to embark on a research project that will hopefully one day result in a publication of some sorts!
For Vocal Blog I will contribute with a bi-weekly post in the Vocal Edu Series. In my posts, I will partly be sharing tips and information on vocal technique and vocal health, and partly write about other topics related to vocal education. Look forward to blogging and hearing your thoughts on the topics I will write about!
About the writer:
Katja Maria Slotte is a Finnish-born vocal coach, singer and music education consultant. She currently lives in The Netherlands and works as a vocal coach throughout Europe. Katja holds a MMus degree in music education and contemporary singing from the Sibelius-Academy in Helsinki, studied Brazilian music and Jazz at Rotterdam’s Conservatory, and graduated as an Authorized Complete Vocal Technique (CVT) Teacher from Complete Vocal Institute in Copenhagen.