As a voice teacher, a question you may get from prospective students is "what certification do you have?" (or "what school did you go to?"). The reality is that many private music teachers, whether we are teaching voice, guitar, piano, or anything else, do not have formal training but rather a vast amount of knowledge - much of it learned from trial and error.
How do you become a voice teacher? There is no single answer to that question. Voice teachers come from a wide range of backgrounds: some have music degrees, while others have no formal musical education. To become a voice teacher, you must determine what you want to teach and what kind of teaching style works best for you. And, of course, what training you need.
While trial and error are almost inevitable as you build experience, technique training programs and certification can be a valuable shortcut to teaching success.
There are several universities that offer vocal pedagogy programs. Still, many singing teachers have opted for private certification programs, especially for commercial and popular singing styles. While not a recognized degree, these certifications can be very valuable, both in the training you receive and the perception of expertise from prospective students.
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How Certification Programs Work
The coursework for voice teacher certifications can take place in-person or online. Some programs require participation in conferences and in-person training, costing thousands of dollars in travel and lodging. Note: COVID restrictions have moved most training online, although some programs will likely go back to in-person requirements once restrictions are lifted.
The number of required hours can vary from program to program. The curriculum can range from live classes done over a certain period to prerecorded courses where students can go at the own pace. There are also hybrid programs that combine prerecorded and live classes.
After the initial classwork, students usually receive testing, either written or an evaluation, where they teach voice lessons in front of the instructor.
Some programs require you to teach a specific technique, while other programs teach broader pedagogy skills where you have more leeway in how you teach. You should base your choice on how much ongoing oversight you are comfortable with.
Some programs are very restrictive, even dictating the language and terms you use in a singing lesson. While these methods can be very effective, it may not be a good fit if you prefer to be more open to other teaching styles and a variety of techniques.
The more restrictive certifications usually require ongoing fees and an understanding that you teach their methodology only. If you choose to incorporate other vocal techniques, you can lose your certification (and all the money you spent to obtain it).
Some organizations have certification levels separating teachers according to the length of time they have been in the program. This can lead to prospective singing students seeing you as less valuable than teachers at higher levels.
Choosing A Program
There are a few factors you need to consider:
- Are you a self-starter, or do you prefer to be walked through the material?
- What is your budget, and are there ongoing fees?
- Will you need to travel for portions of your classes and testing?
- Do you prefer a certain amount of freedom in your teaching style and vocal techniques?
I recommend you do a self-evaluation and ask what you want from your voice studies. A program needs to work for you, not the other way around.
Will Certification Bring You More Vocal Students?
A certificate certainly looks impressive on your studio wall or website and can help create authority, but a certificate alone won't bring in students.
I know teachers who work with celebrity singers who don't certificate programs in their bios.
You still need to work your business with networking and advertising.
I suggest getting a certificate to improve your skills and not solely as a business ploy.
The right certification program can be a considerable boost to your teaching skills and perception of prospective students. Access to experienced voice teachers and peers, as well as solid technique laid out in a logical, step-by-step curriculum, can greatly improve your abilities and confidence.
While you should be mindful of your budget, voice teacher training & certification is an investment in your business and future that will pay you back many times over.