Mining for gems: assess how you assess a new student

Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep 23, 2019
by Linda Balliro

Mining for gems: assess how you assess a new student.

The moment a new student arrives is magical. They open the door with a big smile, put down their bags, and there’s a little bit of glitter in the air. You’ve got your shovels and microfiber clothes ready: the experience, intuition, training and empathy you’ll be using to unearth hidden gems, dust off the grime, or polish the surface so the singer can discover their own true voice. Your work begins the instant the door opens.

  1. Observe How do they move? Do you notice stiffness, or athletic strength? Do they have good posture, or shoulders slumped, stomach tight? Is their face expressive? Are their eyes engaged or wandering? How is their speaking voice? Do they talk fast, or are they hesitant? Do you notice vocal fry, nasality, breathy tone, loud volume?
  2. Gather information. Best not to use direct questioning because nerves or adrenalin may cause faulty replies! Try “tell me about your singing” or “What have you been doing with your singing” What’s bothering them? Many times, singers say something they heard on youtube, from a previous teacher, workshop, coach, or Aunt Phyllis. “I need more support” or “I have a weak head voice” but they may not know what these words describe. Instead of words, focus on their experience. “What about your singing makes you feel like your head voice is weak?” Often, a flurry of thoughts pour out of their mouth. Do they have any general health issues, like asthma?
  3. Tie it together. Now you begin singing. You know how to listen for connection and cord closure. Can you connect what you observed before to what you’re hearing? Can you recognize the movements and posture you when they sing or is it different? Does it seem like something they said their isn’t really true? My favorite is “I really need more support” and then they sing in a very breathy tone. J How are they listening? Do they have a physical sense, or spatial sense? Are they seeing what’s around them?

Mining for gems means deep digging to find the most precious stones – and that means asking yourself questions. Can you make your own list of questions for the next time you hear a new singer?

Linda Balliro, author

“Being A Singer: the Art, Craft and Science”


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