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  • Dr. Heather Nelson

Why I Love Adult Singing Students

I have been teaching privately for almost twenty years now, and met wonderful colleagues in the four different cities where I've been fortunate to live. Something I've learned is that no two studios are exactly the same, and even if I try to emulate a respected colleague, I am at my best when I am true to my self and my own teaching strengths.


Many people consider private music study to be an activity for children, thinking that piano lessons and voice lessons are great childhood hobbies that can sometimes carry over into enjoyable adult hobbies. That is true for a lot of people, and many, many teachers are great at working with children through their formative years. I also enjoy working with kids, but I have found that I really shine when working with adults. Here's why:

1. Motivations. The impetus for adults to pursue voice study is usually very different from kids. Many of my adult clients have had some sort of music study in their past, but gave it up for some reason. A few others have never had private voice study before but decide to try something new. Whatever the reasons, the motivation to take voice lessons starts with the client, rather than with a parent or other outside influence. Even if a child asks for lessons (as I did for several years before I actually was able to start), a responsible parent or other trusted adult has to do a lot of the leg work to get the child started and then to continue. I have found that when adults take on the challenge of private voice study, their motivation tends to be more intrinsic. As a teacher, it is gratifying to work with clients who understand the investment they are making in themselves and the commitment they are making to me. That also motivates me to make the most of our time together and give them an excellent return on their investment.


2. The Challenge of Adult Voices. It's no secret that adolescents have a major voice change, but adults also face changing voices as they age. Loss of muscle tone and mass, less flexibility in the joints, and changes in hormones can all affect adults and make singing different. I find the anatomical and physiological changes fascinating, and having studied them in depth I am able to help more mature singers understand what's happening, anticipate what might be coming down the road, and refine their technique to make the most of the voice, at whatever age. My studio is a safe space where not only the technical aspects of the voice are explored, but also the emotional realities that come with singing as we age. As the voice changes, there can be joy and wonder, but also grief and confusion. These challenges demand that I continue to cultivate a deep knowledge of the voice, and to be able to disseminate accurate information in an understandable and compassionate way.

3. Expectations. It is rare that an adult client expects to become the next overnight sensation. Rather, most of my clients have a good sense of what they would like to achieve that is measurable and realistic. They also know that the demands of life, jobs, families, etc., can get in the way at times. While I set the bar high for all clients, I'm able to work within the framework I'm given and help set reasonable and achievable goals, and then chart a path that helps the client to be successful. Most of my clients are not interested in auditioning for graduate programs or competing in festivals. Progress may be slower at times, but by this time in life, most of us know that the journey is more important than the destination, and we are content to take our time.


4. Rewriting the Script. Let's face it: No one makes it to adulthood unscathed. For singers, especially those who are restarting lessons after a gap, there's oftentimes some sort of hurt or insecurity that has colored their experience of singing in some way. Having fought with insecurity my entire career, this is something I can understand and empathize with. Doing the work of facing those insecurities head on and telling ourselves a new story is hard, but so, so, so worth it! Because I've had to do the work myself, I love getting the opportunity to invite others into a nurturing environment that fosters growth.


5. Fun! Voice lessons are fun. I love teaching them, and I love taking them. Singing is something that can enliven our very deep human need for expression and connection. Numerous studies have shown that singing increases emotional health, reduces stress, combats loneliness, and strengthens cognitive function. What's not to love? Sharing my love of singing with other adults is a joy, and one that I hope will continue to be shared in my studio for many years to come.


Are you an adult looking to get back into singing, or want to refine and strengthen your technique? There's no better time than right now. Contact me to schedule an interview and book an introductory package. Not sure if private study is the right thing for you? That's fine, too! There are many ways to sing in the community, including community choirs, church choirs, and theater classes. I can help you find an outlet. The most important thing is to sing, and sing confidently. Anyone, at any age, can be a singer!

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