Teachers must develop a persona that is the best version of themselves – says Justin Stoney.
I like to say “I’m not a voice teacher in real life, but I play one on TV”.
This is a joke, of course, but it reflects the reality that voice teachers must be deliberate about their speaking technique while teaching.
They must do this so they can model healthy vocal production for their students, but also to keep their own voices healthy and strong.
I train not just singers, but also voice teachers through the NYVC Voice Teacher Training & Certification Program. When I train voice teachers through this program, I encourage them to develop a “character” that is comprised of the best elements of themselves.
They put forth this character when they are in their teaching mode so that they can successfully and sustainably survive the emotional, physical, and vocal rigors of a long teaching day.
This means they are not 100% themselves – they are instead the best version of themselves for the purpose of serving their singers.
When I am having a casual conversation with a friend, I am not always using my optimal speaking voice. I’m just chatting. When I am in my voice teacher role, though, I am trying to demonstrate and model the optimal functions of the voice. That’s when I am ultra-conscious of my speaking voice.
I teach voice teachers to have these four qualities in their speaking voice:
- Variety – In my videos, I begin with an intro, “Hi everybody, my name is Justin Stoney…” etc. Right away you can hear my speaking voice exemplifying quite a large amount of pitch variety. It’s present, resonant, supported, and I’m using different larynx positions as well. Since the voice is muscular, it’s no different than keeping a muscle flexible. For example, you could take a lot of yoga classes and your body would be healthy and spry. Similarly, we can do “vocal yoga”. What you hear in my speaking voice on my YouTube show highlights lots of vocal variety. Variety is truly the SPICE of vocal life.
- Tension control – We can and should control the looseness and tension of our vocal We can make them pretty solid, or we can make them a little bit looser when we want them to be looser. The loosening gesture is particularly important to teachers because if you feel your vocal folds start to get heavy and tight and tired, you can move them towards the decompression and looseness that protects them. This looseness also gives you a gentler and “kinder” sound if you will.
- Resonance – When I’m teaching I also make sure my voice has enough of both nasal resonance and twang present. These are both factors that help the voice to carry and to “cut” without a lot of effort or labor. In other words, they give you “more for less”.
- Breathing – This one may be obvious, but it’s important and foundational nonetheless. Teachers should have sufficient breath and a low breath (as opposed to a shallow breath) for supporting their sound when speaking.
Teachers are very much like an actor taking the stage. They must set a high bar when it comes to their speaking voice, day in and day out.
This serves as a tool for increasing their longevity, but also for being an ideal model for their vocal students who are also seeking to become the best version of themselves.
Justin Stoney is an internationally recognized Vocal Coach, and is the Founder of New York Vocal Coaching. As one of the leading Voice Teachers in today’s industry, Justin has worked with thousands of singers, including students from over 60 countries, Celebrity Recording Artists, Tony Nominees, and anyone seeking to “Make A Joyful Noise!”