Question about Studios and Coaches

Hi, all-- we are just embarking in earnest on specific music school research and I have a question for the veterans.

How can you figure out on a school’s website which professors are the ones who have a studio and/or coach students? I am particularly asking about vocal coaches and whom to request sample lessons from, and I am finding it difficult to tell from titles and bios.

Is there a way to find out, or is it best to just call the school and ask?

Thank you!

That’s a really good question. On top of that, it perhaps better for the student to reach out and call the school right? Do parents here get involved with contacting schools directly? How is the experience? I sometimes give some guidance and try to stay out of the direct contacting part. But it may be a common practice for parents to bring up the question directly?
Often times during the application process, you will be given the opportunity to pick the professors, first choice, 2nd etc. It’s the indication that those studios will have open slots.

Oh, that’s really interesting about the list that may come during the application process-- that makes sense!

And to clarify- I wouldn’t call myself, my student would. I am somewhat controlling but this is work he will be doing while I am sort of suggesting things…

thank you!

Through talking to schools during the parent’s info sessions, I have also learned that some schools have more flexibility with whom the students study with. Once admitted, there will be interactive dialogues to make sure the student has an individualized plan best suited for him/her. I guess getting into those schools is the hardest part. It spares us from worrying too much beforehand.

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I agree that getting in is the hardest part, but it does seem vital to find the right person who is going to be your individual teacher for your degree. That, to me, is almost as important as the school decision itself!

One idea is to call music admissions and/or the head of the voice dept and ask. At some schools (with grad students) there may be teachers that have studios that lean heavily to grad students. There may be others that consist primarily of UG students. The studio make-up at schools may be determined by a lot of factors. My D’s UG teachers liked to work with certain types of voices where she had more experience in their sound. For example, she had a lot of Mozart voices. So how do you figure that out? You can fish around with admissions, the head of the voice dept and look at opera programs at the school to see who is singing what parts. Studios are often listed in the bio. Finally your private teacher may have some recommendations based on experience or just checking out bios. This would be the organized, pro-active eager beaver approach.

Or you could do what “not so knowledgeable” people do (meaning me). You can focus on the school, academics, ensemble opportunities and “assume” that at a good, reputable school where you kid is accepted, there will be a good teacher for him…particularly if the program has a good number of teachers. You could then do sample lessons after acceptance to determine the best teacher.

Instrumentalists usually approach the teacher choice very seriously. Vocalist are young as musicians and seem to be more flexible in picking teachers. My D has worked with a variety of teachers and liked almost all. I don’t want to say VP majors shouldn’t put teacher front and center…but it does seem less common. VP candidates may be looking at chances to perform on stage as very important…and feel that they can find a teacher that will work (as they are still so young in the process). My D met her teacher for the first time the first week of school. They are still in touch.

My advice would be to do a little of both. Do your research. Learn what you can about teachers. But also look closely at the school and training/opportunities offered at schools. Many of the programs have solid teachers. If you get a handful of acceptances, then the teacher could be the one to determine your decision. Note I have seen VP majors show up with no teacher the first week, and still do very well. The schools will work hard to get them with the right teacher. So you should look around…but know that the school that accepts you will help with studio placement…early on…or late like first week of freshman year.

A bit of a ramble but I hope that helps.


Very helpful. I agree with your viewpoints. I happened to chat with my son today “ why the voice education in the US is outstanding?” He responded “Because there are so many outstanding teachers who strive to help their students achieve their very best”. If the student has a handful reputable programs to choose from, chances are he or she will end up with a good coach. I also think summer camps and multi-day on-site visits are very important in getting a taste of the school’s real profile. A mere trial lesson is rather limited and could be superficial or miss leading in terms of having a true assessment of the person. It’s one of the many factors but I won’t place it at the very top. I really like the idea, as assured by some schools “Our program director will work with you kid to come up with an individualized plan”…leaving it to the experts and I trust those schools 100%.

I like all this advice, thank you! I’m mostly glad I’m not missing some secret code to figuring out who the studio teachers are.

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If there was a secret code, I never figured it out! A few other comments for this thread. Plz note that these comments are more specific to VP and only one person’s opinion.

1.) Terms: You are looking for a voice teacher (not a coach yet). The teacher in general will steer your journey, run the studio and develop your technique at the school. My D had a vocal coach from Sophomore year on (Freshman year was more simply an accompanist). Coaches are often both a vocal coach and an accompanist. They will work with you on your pieces and may make comments on rep. Still the teacher is the primary person. You meet with your teacher once a week. You meet with your studio once a week. And you meet with your accompanist (and hopefully coach) once a week. Many accompanists for VP students will also be coaches…they can go to school for that. So you may want to ask at some point how the school/studio handles accompanists/coaches. It can be a rude awakening the first week to find out you have to go search for an accompanists and pay for their time. Still that is not uncommon. Just know that when you audition that is in front of Voice Teachers/Faculty. If you make a request to be in a studio, again that is with a teacher.

Contacting Teachers: Yes it should definitely be the student. If there is a teacher that you want to meet, try in the fall. Right now they are probably very busy (unless you have been accepted than by all means contact teachers and/or the head of the voice dept for help!). A student can send a short email of interest and attach a music resume (letting the teacher look at it or not). My D’s UG teacher took NO sample lessons from requests. My D was her PA for a year. Her teacher never even looked at them. So be prepared. Her philosophy was she picked from the audition…and sent out requests to students that she was interested in. Or if contacted AFTER an acceptance would respond. So if a request is sent with no reply before an audition…“thems the breaks”. If a teacher is well-known, they just may not have the time…and may decide to wait until later. Other teachers may be very responsive and warm. It’s really up to what works for you and your student. I would just suggest not taking it personally at a good school that seems like a fit and wait out the process…until it’s obvious it’s a no-go from a school or teacher. You’ll know when you are “done” with a school or teacher. Final note: I sometimes handled the more “administrative” emails for my D, especially about money, to admission people. But I did not ever email a teacher.

The expertise of schools: You can lean on the school to help with these decisions as discussed above. A school with a good sized faculty has a lot of experience with student placement each year. They should have a sense of a good fit for your student. It certainly should be a back and forth…but if they accept you, they will find you a teacher…and if it’s not working, they will get you a new one. Be aware that teachers do leave, move, retire. Also your voice can grow and change. Many students stay with their original teacher but there is always some moving around over 4 years. There is nothing wrong with that.

If you DO have a student with strong opinions on a teacher and method…and maybe your student has had opportunities to work with other teachers…then you may be able to focus more on a teacher or two (kind of like instrumentalists do). That’s fine and may make for less anxiety. However with VP you may not have had those opportunites (my D didn’t do any summer programs) so you really come in with little knowledge of what you need in a teacher. The good thing is the schools do have a sense…since they see a lot of kids with lots of budding talent but few “opera” experiences. So they have ways of getting those kids to the right teachers.

I do remember thinking…I have no idea how this teacher thing is going to work. We were very behind on understanding it. Still the audition doesn’t care about your knowledge of a teacher. It cares about your kid’s talent. My D got acceptances (despite my lack of knowledge) and we “figured” it out from there…meaning we chose a teacher and program that we thought was best…and crossed our fingers!

I hope this is helpful.

You should look to arrange trial lessons with voice FACULTY, not coaches. On the school websites, all individuals listed as voice faculty would have studios. A “vocal coach” or the “head of the opera studio” will generally not have a set roster of students for weekly lessons. Neither would someone who is emeritus, or choral directors. Coaches are generally assigned on a rotational basis. D had one primary teacher (assoc. prof of voice) and cycled through all the coaches over 4 years. The teacher (member of voice faculty) assigns rep, works on technique, and the coach polishes things up a bit. Whether a given voice studio is full or not can only be determined by directly contacting the studio. Hope this helps! P.S. Most students choose a teacher of the same voice type as they are, but this is not necessary. Also note that most vocal coaches will have collaborative piano on their resumes while the voice teachers have resumes of their stage performances and solo voice work.

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@songbirdmama and @bridgenail - Fantastic explanations! This is super helpful and clears up much of my confusion.

I do tend to think of the voice type being somewhat important-- as a treble, my son was always coached/taught by women. Post voice change, he’s a true bass, (he was a baritone/bass when I joined CC and chose my name LOL) but his teacher is a tenor who fully understands the changing male voice in a way that I don’t think most women can fully understand- at least most of them aren’t studying it in any case. BUT, a good teacher is a good teacher, so he is open to any possibility.

Thanks again so much. He is a junior, so we have time to sort these things out, thankfully!

Super helpful information. Thanks you all for the questions and insights.

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What a great thread! My daughter is a 2nd year Vocal Performance major, and like you, I was completely new to this process. I can’t stress how much my daughter’s voice teacher helped us through the process at the time. Don’t forget that your local voice teacher has a vested interest in your son’s successful transition to their choice of Music school.

We had two meetings with our daughter’s teacher, specific to the college search experience. During the first meeting (end of her Junior year) we reviewed schools we had researched with our daughter, based on the kind of college experience she was interested in having. During that meeting, we were able to narrow things down to schools we thought might be the best fit. Since we didn’t have a real grasp of costs at that point (as you don’t know what kind of talent scholarship they will get), we gave ourselves options that included more affordable in State Universities, as well as some reach schools.

During her senior year, once the pre-screens were done, and we knew where she was auditioning, we had a second meeting to review faculty at each school with the idea of reaching out for a voice lesson during my daughter’s visit during audition weekend. In my daughter’s case, her teacher had students at some of the Universities and Conservatories on our list, so she had some familiarity, if not contact, with Voice faculty. At schools where she didn’t know the faculty, she reviewed their CV’s with us and reached out to her industry contacts to find out who might be the right fit. In setting up the lessons, my daughter handled all of the communication with the teachers at each respective school. Neither myself, nor her voice teacher were involved in contacting the schools, as we both thought it was important for my daughter to get a feeling for how each school operates and handles this process.

Keep in mind that some schools (Oberlin for example) include a lesson as part of the audition weekend process. In my daughter’s case, she had a lesson with one teacher she had reached out to on the day prior to the audition, and a second lesson after the audition with different faculty member. In the end, after being accepted, she was contacted by a third faculty member with an invitation to be part of their studio. So, just because you have a lesson, and maybe your son has a good feeling coming out of that lesson, it may not mean that is who they will end up with. As previous posters pointed out, some studios are full, some teachers leave, and none of us know what changes may be coming. As RachelParent pointed out, it also may not be an issue to go to school without an assigned studio. Your son may want to get settled in at school first and then have those discussions with faculty to help him determine the best fit.

What was great about the sample lessons, regardless of the studio your son ends up in, he will get a good feel for the instruction at the school. It also gives them an idea of how the faculties at some of these schools operate. Some schools were very business like in how they communicated, others were very laid back, and others were kind of difficult to communicate with. Just keep in mind that you have a great resource in your current Music teacher, who has been through the process themselves and likely helped guide other students on the same path.

Good Luck!

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Thank you so much for sharing @ParklandPop. I am very thankful for this website and would like to contribute whenever possible. My son has been reading Great Teachers on Great Singing by Robin Rice and he truly enjoys it.

"Interviews with some of the finest singing teachers in America, based on observations of their lessons. These master teachers present a broad range of technical approaches to vocal excellence and artistry, proving once again that there is more than one way to “skin the cat.”
He has also read Jerome Hines’ masterpiece, Great Singers on Great Singing (1982), and he absolutely loves it too.

The next couple of months are very important in terms of narrowing down teacher/school selections. I hope this type of book will help them understand the teaching techniques and style differences and guide them through the process.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I will check it out! I’ve been lurking for a long time without posting, but thought I’d share our experience. My second daughter is about to embark on this journey, though I think she may be gravitating toward musical theater as opposed to Opera. I check these boards every now and then to see how people are coping with the new audition processes. All I can say is I hope things move back to normal before we start this again.

S attended a zoom recently for accepted students and asked about trial lessons as he is in the process of reaching out to the professors. The admission officer says that the professors will be reaching out to the accepted students in the near future based on the preference listed on the application. Another data point also an assurance for those who are new to the process.


Thank you all for keeping this topic alive and adding such great insight!