Singing students…..should you go to university?

Did you take vocal lessons when you were younger? Are you happy with your voice now? Can you sing the songs in the style you want?

All too often children and teens taking singing lessons during their youth have high aspirations of being a “singer” in today’s music business. Their parents spend thousands of dollars getting them the training they think they should have. The students may even go on to university to polish their skills only to find out after graduating that their voice isn’t suitable to sing commercially accepted music. They find out their voice can’t perform the style for the bands they want to join, and they soon learn that their auditions for theatrical performances are being given to singers with a more commercially-accepted edge to their voice.

Let’s face it, musical theatre is changing. Newly written musicals are more often than not, wanting vocals with a strong chest voice in their mix.

Unfortunately, universities are not changing along with the times. Professors in vocal training at universities are teaching their students the same technique that they were taught….which can create a beautiful classical voice…exactly the type of voice they were taught to have. Unfortunately, these students soon find out that they are unable to enter the workforce in today’s music business, so they are left with the only other option and that is to teach others exactly what they were taught…..and so it goes….another generation of classically trained singers, who again go on to teach rather than perform in the music business.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree?


2 thoughts on “Singing students…..should you go to university?

  1. Hi Susan,
    Interesting article, not sure though I entirely agree, at least not for Europe. There are undoubtedly courses that don’t teach the student a commercial/Pop vocal quality. Why would someone enter a classical voice course though if they mainly want to sing Pop? It is the student’s responsibility to find the right Uni/course/teacher (something some people like to forget), and there are plenty of courses that teach contemporary vocals. Or Jazz. Or Musical Theatre. Or Classical Voice. It is up to the student to do their research. If no course is availablein your chosen style, don’t do another one as a second best solution.
    I can’t speak for the U.S. and Canada of course, but in Europe, you decide what type of music you want to sing and pick your course accordingly. Is this any different across the Atlantic?
    In general, I agree about classical technique often still being hailed the only way forward, but it’s not as if there aren’t any contemporary courses around in my opinion.
    One step further: I think you should actually pick your course not entirely on what the market says, but what you really believe and feel comfortable in, no matter what others say. Your chances of getting a job are probably higher if you do a “minority” sound well, than going for what you THINK will sell, the market dictates, and you end up sounding like everyone else. Just my opinion of course 😉

  2. Hi Petra
    Thanks for your comment. Certainly there are schools and teachers who teach a vocal sound that is marketable in the 21st Century, and you are correct, the onus is on the student. I’m simply writing from my experience as a coach and a singer, and I have many adult students who come to me with trained voices who want to be “untrained”. They have loads of breath support and range in their upper register, but little power and hard palate resonance in their chest voice (ie very little twang). In my “small” part of the world, I think loads of teachers teach strictly from a head voice coordination without an adequate balance of chest voice and mouth resonance. As you know, I am a big fan of the “middle voice” and “twang” and I really believe these are the most marketable voices of the 21st Century. I think it’s fantastic that young students can hear/watch the TV show GLEE. I encourage all my students to learn from their voices. This is what I consider the ideal trained voice for employment in today’s music business.

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