Rachel Velarde

Rachel Velarde

I began my music career in Bloomington, Indiana. After receiving my B.A. in Music from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, I earned two Master of Music degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Luminaries I have worked with include Vernon Hartman, James Caraher, Lorenzo Malfatti, Shirlee Emmons, Mary Sue Hyatt, John Sikora, David Jones, David Britton, and Carol Smith. I offer private, one-on-one weekly or twice-weekly instruction to students of all ages. I am also Adjunct Voice Faculty at Grand Canyon University, and am beginning the pursuit of my DMA at Arizona State University. I accompany my students on piano as much as possible, and I encourage healthy singing, coupled with a working knowledge of the voice. My goal as a teacher is to give my students a “toolbox” for their vocal technique, so that they can work towards a healthy, free and easy production. My students should be able to sing for a lifetime of enjoyment. Singing is, above all, FUN. If you love it, you can learn it.

Have a conversation…

Every year it’s a good idea to check in with your students to make sure that you’re both on the same page.  Many teachers do this via written survey.  I prefer to take lesson time to discuss with my students how they feel the past year has gone.  Because it’s one-on-one, I start with basic questions and then elaborate according to the student.  My basic questions are as follows: [···]

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Something I’ve been working on in studio lately is how to make sure the students really understand what to do and how to practice.  To that end, I’ve been re-evaluating how I’m telling students information.  The realization I came up with is simple:

Don’t do… = MANY options to replace the undesired behavior.

Do… = ONE option for the student to accomplish.

How much more efficient would our lessons be, and how much more productive would our students’ practice be, if we focused on this one small aspect of our teaching language: always tell your students what to do and how to accomplish it, rather than what not to do?

Especially as a voice teacher, I find that this little instruction helps to clarify (along with my recent posting on asking students “What does it mean to you when I say that?”) information for the students.

I then write this information into the student notes that I take on my computer as I teach.  At the end of the lesson, I copy the notes from the student’s computer file and paste them into the “Reconcile lesson” function in Music Teachers Helper.  Voila! The student has a reminder, I have a reminder of the language that worked for the student, so I can use it next week, and the student has a clear understanding of what to practice doing, rather than what to avoid.

What kinds of language do you use in your music teaching?  Have you changed any approaches recently?  Why or why not?

Happy music making!

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Especially as singers, we HAVE to think, as that’s the only way to affect our instrument. Questions I ask are: “What was the difference between that time and the time before?” “What are you going to do to try to change XX; How successful was what you tried and why?” “What did you think about that sound?” “What did you do differently?”

Overall, I have banned the words “good” and “bad” because neither tell you what to continue working with and what to try to fix. I also try to always use only positive directives. We’ll identify both what behavior we want to replace and then what we want to happen instead. Focus is then on what we WANT to happen, rather than what we don’t want.


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