website © Brenna 1997-2015
piano instruction | vocal coaching | vocal instruction
I love to teach! I taught my first piano student at the age of 14. Though I don't remember much of this experience, I do remember loving the process of helping someone achieve their goals.
I am currently accepting new students in the Tillamook County area, for voice and piano instruction, vocal coaching, or organ instruction. All lessons are taught in the convenience of your own home, except for organ, which is taught at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Tillamook.
When I began teaching in people's homes in Portland, Oregon, in 1991, my teaching philosophy started becoming very clear. Playing piano as a child was very joyful to me, but I also had a few negative experiences as a young adult. As I worked with my students in Portland, I strived to pass along that joy that I felt as a child. Above all, learning music should be a positive experience, though some aspects of studying can be difficult. While the work can seem taxing, the rewards are far reaching. I firmly believe that a balanced approach to music education is the best approach to piano instruction. I include technique, theory, ensemble playing, composition, ear training, and improvisation in my lessons, in addition to the traditional classical approach.
While teaching in Portland, I worked with up to 30 students, from age five to 90. During this time, I had an active performing career, playing organ and piano for church services, accompanying vocalists and instrumentalists, and music directing and playing in orchestras for musical theatre productions.
vocal instruction and coaching
Vocal instruction and vocal coaching are two different ways of working with singers. I'll explain my approach below:
My experience in musical theatre, which included casting musicals, taught me a lot about what directors look for in performers, and I developed expertise in choosing audition material, interpretation, and making a good impression in the first few seconds. Coaching singers for auditions is a particular skill set, and is usually done by a pianist with strong accompanying skills. Voice teaching is something else altogether, and focuses more on vocal technique. I do both.
In my coaching practice, I do incorporate a bit of technique, if it is necessary, but my main focus is building confidence. I am an expert accompanist, and a very strong interpreter of lyrics. Working on a song as a monologue is just one technique I use to help a singer sell the song. An audience, whether it is one who is paying, or one who is auditioning a singer for a job, wants to see that the singer enjoys what they are doing. If a singer can bring an audience along with them on the journey that the song is taking, they will have them in the palm of their hand. Finding suitable material, the right key, and making strong interpretive choices will help you get the job or win over the audience!
Voice lessons should rarely begin before the vocal mechanism has matured, usually around age 13 for girls, and 15 for boys. The reason for this, unless the child is already doing quite a bit of singing, is that work on extending the vocal range and placement of the voice can potentially damage the mechanism. Once the child's voice mechanism matures, one would need to begin instruction all over again.
The only vocal work that should be done with a very young singer is that of breath control, support, choosing appropriate material, interpretative skills, and giving them performance experience. Piano instruction is extremely beneficial, as the theory and keyboard skills gained by learning piano benefit singers greatly!