Sunday, March 13, 2011

Annual Review

This month marks my fourth year teaching voice.  In the grand scheme of things, I haven't been doing this for all that long considering that my coach was in her 70s when I started working with her and she'd been at this for a long time.  We all have to start somewhere and every year, I reflect on what I managed to accomplish and what I want to work on for next year.  This year, I happen to have a convenient place to do so.

Keyboard Skills:  Those 10 or so years of piano lessons in high school went up in smoke when I basically didn't play the piano for about 15 years.  I played a little here and there but never enough to keep up with it.  Prior to teaching, I took 6 months of piano with my boss, Malcolm Halliday, to help me find my chops again.  Six months of lessons does not undo 15 years of not doing anything, but it got me to a point that I thought I could sit and play for my students as we worked.  (Please note that many voice teachers aren't proficient enough at the keyboard to play for themselves let alone students -- they're stuck with hiring a studio pianist to play which can double their fee). 

Every year, I'm a better pianist.  I have a whole mess of bad habits that I'm aware of that I will probably never correct, but I screw up less when I'm playing for students and I can play increasingly more complicated pieces.  I'm still not comfortable playing outside the confines of my studio.  Malcolm is pushing me to do some solo piano work -- he doesn't ask if he doesn't think you can do it.  So that's my goal for this year.  We're working on a piano/organ duet based on the Meditation from Thais right now.  I hope to have it ready to go for late April or May.

Languages:  This past year, thanks to Bach's "Wachet Auf" (not the Bach, but one of his sons), and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, I conquered German.  This was a language that I have sung in, but not frequently enough to get cozy with it.  Now I'm feeling cozy.  I hope to continue to refine my pronunciation and not forget everything I learned this past year.  Now I'm on to French, my arch-nemesis of a language.  I did a program with Malcolm and tenor, Stanley Wilson this past Fall which featured a couple of Pauline Viardot's pieces in which she set text to Chopin.  I really enjoyed the music and would like to learn more, but the French was a challenge.  I suspect it may take me awhile to get really comfortable with the language.  I am also hoping to pick up a book on IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).  Had I attended conservatory instead of engineering school, I would have learned it there.  This is one of those holes in my education that I would like to fill.

Teaching:  I'm always on the look out for new exercises and different ways to explain a given concept.  This Fall, I expanded my library with a few books on singing and great singers.  I've found some new gems to add to my collection.  I also did my periodic review of my notes from my coach and dusted off a few exercises I forgot about.   I also went shopping for new music books.  Some girls like to go shoe shopping.  I like new music.  (Oh heck.  Who am I kidding?  I dig the shoes, too).  This year, I plan to continue expanding my teaching resource library and I also plan on joining NATS (National Associatin of Teachers of Singing).

Project Work:  I was really pleased with the variety of music I was able to work on this past year.  I sang the role of Narrator in "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" while simultaneously working on the solo the Mozart Requiem or the RPI Festival Chorus.  I returned to RPI this Fall for Beethoven's Ninth and renewed some connections and friendships in doing so.  In between all of this, I had several smaller projects.  I have one project already in the works with pianist Tom Hill which will feature spiritual music and oratorio.  I am in the planning phases of two other projects and who knows what else will pop up along the way? 

Self-Promotion:  I was sad to find out that Borders Bookstore in Shrewsbury changed their bulletin board over to community events only.  This has been a great resource for me in the past.  I still have a few other places to post flyers and I still regularly post to Craigslist.  I've found Craiglist to be more and more of a hassle for less of a reward.  I know when my ads are live because I get bombarded with spam and phishing expeditions.  I plan to get a website together and NATS will provide some promotional opportunities as well.  I'd also like to advertise my services on some of the homeschool mailing lists that I'm on.  I've seen others do this and as long as you aren't obnoxious about it, it's usually allowed.  I'd like to pick up another 3 - 5 students this year.  I've got a nice studio right now, but I see myself losing at least one student in the near future and I'd like to get a few more people in the door so when I lose one, it doesn't hurt the wallet so much.

Overall, I'm pleased with all that I managed to accomplish this past year. I'm hoping to use this year to continue building on my studio and my skill set.

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