Tired Singing Teacher? Reconnect to the Joy of Music

Reconnecting with the Joy of Music
Intense schedules and a multitude of demands can cause singing teachers to be weary. Juliet Russell shows a way through...

Singing teachers and choir directors are often freelancers wearing many hats in one day, from song writing to publicity to performing to recruiting and more. Their intense schedules can leave them feeling burned out and far away from the joy of music that they so skillfully inspire in others.

Juliet Russell is a voice teacher, choral director, festival director and TV personality in London, England. She teaches five simple activities teachers can do to keep themselves “on top.”

Below is a transcription of Juliet’s video:

Singing teachers: this one is for you. We’re going to explore five ways that we can reconnect to the joy of music. 

So, we’re incredibly lucky. But also a number of us – probably the majority of us – are freelance and self-employed. We find ourselves doing multiple roles on a daily basis – and sometimes within an hour.

This means that on top of your singing teaching, you might also be performing, songwriting, arranging, organizing, administrating, doing accountancy, publicity, marketing, negotiating, and recruitment! I’m sure you can add probably about thirty more jobs to that list!

So what I really want to look at is keeping ourselves fresh and inspired. And these are just some of the techniques that I sometimes use to keep myself on top of things:

1. Go to a Fun Music Event

Go to a gig or concert or go out to a nightclub and dance just for the sheer fun of doing it – not because one of your students is in the performance, not because your colleague is performing. Just go to see someone who inspires you. Or, go see a new artist you haven’t seen before or check out a new venue. And just go: get a group of friends together and go out to enjoy music.

… get sociable. Go to a concert or go out to a night club and dance just for the sheer fun of doing it. You’re not there to analyze it, you’re not there to mark it, you’re certainly not there to teach it – you’re just there for the sheer joy.

– Juliet Russell

Now I’m sure that the reason you got into music education in the first place is because you have a sheer joy and passion for music and singing. For, the work that we do can be incredibly rewarding; being involved in someone’s growth is really gratifying and the people that we meet can make a real difference to the enhancement of our lives. 

Alternatively, you might find that you want to combine your dance floor moves with your appreciation of music. So, get down to a local salsa class, a local club, whatever suits you –  get your friends together and just connect to that joy of moving and appreciating music. You’re not there to analyze it, you’re not there to market, you’re certainly not there to teach it. You’re just there for the sheer joy.

2. Stay a Student

As a singing teacher, having students in foundational to your work, For, without your lovely students you don’t actually get to be a teacher! So, obviously we should have been very thankful for these people. But we are also starting to realize how life-long learning is positively related to brain elasticity. So, in addition to the teaching and performing that I do, I consider it important to stay a student.

It’s a really exciting time for vocal pedagogy. There’s new things coming out all the time. We can all learn from each other. And the ideal is to form a really creative community around these pedagogies. Just consider the number of inspiring teachers out there, people that teach different styles – and also in the styles that you teach. 

I’ve honestly done everything from beatboxing to a Tuvan throat singing just for the sheer joy of learning something new and using my voice in a different way. Now I’m not brilliant at either of those things and I haven’t used Mongolian throat singing in anything apart from my own enjoyment, but actually being open to new approaches keeps my own approach fresh.   New exercises and new ideas boost my joy of learning. So, I say, be a student: go to workshops; try out some master classes. Be the receiver, not always the giver.

3. Turn It Up and Sing!

A lot of my students tell me that they really love singing in the car because it’s like having your own personal space. It’s walled in, no one can hear you singing, so you can do your practice and sing along. But I’m not going to promote fossil fuels, so I’m going to say: do this at home. Turn up your music to maximum volume. Put on a singer that you absolutely love and just sing along. 

Make sure you’ve got house clear, and that you have understanding neighbors – or they’re out. Turn up the volume and just dance around your room, singing at the top of your voice. Don’t worry about it. Make a mistake. Sing loudly, forget the words – there’s no pressure on it. Just turn it up. Enjoy it. Simply connect to making sounds, having fun through playing with your voice.

4. Change It Up

It’s easy to get stuck in a groove – literally. There’s research that shows that the music we tend to have the strongest affiliation with is the music of our teenage years and through our early twenties. This is not surprising because this is a time of great discovery, a time of relationships. It’s often the first time that we fall in love – and we’re discovering our own tastes and styles. 

The music of this time period can really define us. But it’s equally easy to get stuck in that zone. This relates to our need to stretch our brain through lifelong learning. You might love nineties R&B and that’s a great choice, but actually there’s some fantastic music being made now.

So, look beyond your genre. If you’re an opera buff, then explore a bit of jazz. If you love grime, then check out some old Stevie Wonder. A lot of the exciting musical things happen where fusion occurs, where different people take different influences and create something new. So I would say change it up in terms of era; change it up in terms of genre; but also change it up in terms of culture.

5. Create a Playlist for Joy

Now, I was lucky run across the Kali Trio this last summer. I’d never heard of them before, but I was in the Czech Republic at a festival and this particular band was on – otherwise, I would have never encountered their music. Listening to something from beyond your own culture is really important. 

There’s a whole magical, amazing world of music out there. So, listen to something you’ve never gone to before. Go to a record shop or look online at recommendations for something you wouldn’t come across ordinarily. Ask Your friends what they listen to. This will help you to step outside your era, genre and culture to really explore new musical tastes.

Now that you’ve discovered with this new music, and you’ve been out dancing with your friends, I want to share tip number 5: create a playlist that brings you joy. It might be something really uplifting. It might be something with yearning. It might be something that kind of is the soundtrack to your life, something autobiographical. It might be one of your own tracks. Include whatever you wish, but do consider choosing tracks that uplift you in some way, that connect you to a great memory or that inspire you.

Final Thought

These are just five ways in which I like to kind of reconnect to my joy of singing and music, to keep myself fresh and inspired. You might have your own pathways to these, but I hope that they provoke some thoughts and ideas. But please do explore  – and create your own because they’ll have so much more meaning for you.

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