We’d love to give you the chance to get to know our voice teacher, Olivia, who is celebrating her 1 year work anniversary at Sage Music! Watch the interview below, or read the transcript.
Jason: Alright Olivia, welcome to this little interview here at Sage Music.
Jason: Yes, Hello. And hello to all of you out there as well. I’m very excited to have you on for a couple of reasons. So one, you’ve just had your one year anniversary here as the voice teacher at Sage Music and we’re very excited to have you and to keep you going.
Jason: And secondly, you know, we have a lot of students who are taking guitar lessons or piano lessons and they also decide they want to take voice lessons. Or we have people who are doing violin and piano, so we have a lot of students now starting to take a multiple instruments and I just wanted to have people get the chance to get to know some of the other faculty here that they don’t always get to interface with. So, tell me about your studio and tell me… Yeah, let’s start with your studio. Tell me what your students are like and what do you like about working with them?
Olivia: So, I love my studio. I have so many different kinds of students. I have students that are studying classical voice, which is more traditionally what I’m trained in. But I have students working on blues and pop and R&B. I have a student who just released a single on iTunes that’s like a R&B hip-hop thing and she plays piano for herself. I’ve got a whole bunch of students that are doing musical theater or preparing for auditions, but I think the defining factor of the studio is everyone’s really working towards something which is so fun as a teacher because you just got to figure out how you’re going to do it. They’re all really motivated to accomplish a goal, which is super fun for me.
Jason: Right. Yeah. That is exciting. You know, and this was one of the things I’ve always liked about this school in particular is we just have students are committed to getting stuff done, right? So that’s one of the differences I actually had to learn for myself. It’s like going from that place of “what am I going to do today” versus “what am I going to get done today?” And those are really, really different things.
Olivia: Yeah. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s just a totally different approach.
Jason: Yeah. But I like seeing this in our students, too, because they’re coming here to learn how to get stuff done and that’s pretty awesome.
Olivia: And I think the teachers, too. I think we’re all here to get something done. I was talking to Veronica about this, that I feel like the culture of the school is just like to get better, whether it’s to accomplish a goal or to be a better teacher, to be a better student. I feel like everyone here is always thinking about “what am I going to move forward on today?” Which is really cool. I think the students and the teachers feed off that because we’re all getting stuff done.
Jason: Yes, I like this. And actually I’m glad you brought up that point because I always feel like as your job is to help the students grow, it’s my job to help the teachers develop and grow and also get stuff done on their lists as well. And the other thing, the other side of that is that we know that when it comes to performances, for example, students who focus on the process, and the growth factor rather than just on the results typically perform better. And they also have better, outcomes when they focus on the process rather than just on the result. So maybe you can tell me a little bit about how you feel like you’ve grown and how your process has changed as a teacher?
Olivia: Sure. So I think an appreciation of process is always something that’s really important for any musician. I think we have so much more process than product, particularly if you’re trying to be a professional, you spend so much time, hours and hours practicing, for that one three-minute song. So if you’re not really in love with the process and finding out what it is about the process that you can connect to, it’s really hard to keep motivated. And we do such a good job here, I think, of helping students figure out what process is going to be the right one for them where they can still get that result but also enjoy their practice time. I think for me, in terms of my being a better teacher here – I love my students, so I love that having a better process is going to help them do what they want to do. So a lot of the process that we go through for teacher training is like taking yourself out of the equation to really be 100 percent focused on what is the student goal, what does the student want, how are you going to help them progress, and in the moment It’s like a humongous difference between feeling like they’ve accomplished something from a bulk of lessons to every single lesson seeing that light bulb go off. So for me that’s like what I need. That’s just going to keep me going because it’s so exciting. You’re like, “Yes! that’s it.” And you get to do that like 10 times a day, which is so cool.
Jason: I just want to make sure I understand. So you felt like the thing that you grew at, grew into was instead of thinking about how you practice and having students that way, you were thinking more about what really makes the result in each individual student and then kind of taking yourself out of the equation and being kind of more of a – I don’t know – would ‘director’ be the right term?
Olivia: Yeah. Well I just think that I’ve performed a lot and I’ve done… I’m very proud of my resume, but nowhere have I ever gotten trained in terms of education, apart from kindermusic, which is a very different subset than teaching adults music. And it’s really funny to me that so many performers end up teaching and we have no training for actually how people learn. So once you start to learn how people learn, it’s not about you, it’s about helping them learn because you don’t only have to go to your experience, you have this knowledge about what’s going to work for them. So it really does make it much more of like a laser about what the specific concept or the specific issue that they’re working through in that lesson is instead of trying to find a way to contextualize from your own experience to help them. Does that makes sense?
Jason: I think it does. Yeah. So I see like these kind of changes in your teaching and you see those benefits in your students and I’m glad you’re excited about that, because I am. I’ve seen your students grow and they have had a lot of growth over the last year and I’m really excited about that, seeing that too. What about personal growth? Have you felt like you’ve grown as an individual?
Olivia: Yeah, I mean Sage happened, like I started working here at an interesting time in my life because it was like a month before I was getting married. So that was just a huge change anyway, but it was also…it’s hard to love music and have music be your life and to try to also have a home base. I think a lot of people [musicians] travel so much and there’s so many different ways to make it work. There’s a freedom to that, but there’s also a realism that you have to have. And Sage for me has been the way that I can feel like I’m doing something important. I can feel like I’m connecting to students and I can feel like I having time to grow myself, but I don’t feel like I’m stretched too thin. You know, I, I feel like I’m at a place where I’m appreciated. I feel like I’m at a place where I’m doing something I love, but I also don’t feel like I’m traveling eight months of the year and not having time to have a personal life. So I think it, for me, this was just been a whole new world.I’m so grateful for this. And also when I think you get a chance to work with students that are here because they want to be not just because they were signed up for it or because it would look good on an extracurricular, but everyone here is here because they want something. That’s a very different teaching gig than you can otherwise get. So I’m really grateful for it.
Jason: Well, good. I’m glad. So I do want to challenge you on one thing.
Jason: Don’t look so afraid! You said you feel like you’re doing good things and, and I disagree. I think you are doing good things. It’s not just feeling, we see it.
Olivia: I know, but I’m a mezzo soprano so I’m supposed to be very humble about that kind of stuff. If I was a soprano I would just be “I’m amazing!”.
Jason: Uh, that’s funny. I’ll ponder that for a moment, for a moment. Tell me, do you find that there’s one bit of advice or one thing you’ve asked your students to do that is above all the others, that has really resulted in students achieving more?
Olivia: Well, the biggest thing is asking them “how do you know that this exercise has been successful or not?”, which is a really simple question and it doesn’t sound super exciting. But people often when they go through vocalises, you need a voice teacher and they’ll run you through like 15 exercises and then you sing a song…and I don’t think there’s a lot of growth in that. It feels good because it feels good to stretch and it feels good to sing, but I don’t know that you’re really moving forward in that. So just asking them “what is it that this exercise is designed to do and how do you know if you’ve done it?” is so simple and it’s a huge game changer because it changes the way that they think about the simple exercise to “oh, I’m working on this thing and I know if I’ve done it [when] I’ve accomplished these five things.” So that question I think is the biggest one that I’ve been really focused on, at least in, in both, like our teacher training and in what I’ve noticed from students. They move forward faster when they’re aware of all of those steps. The other question, probably a more fun, one that I’ve been asking students particularly when when they’re performing is “what are you performing for?” and helping people find those little motivations to get up, particularly when they have either an anxiety because it’s the first time or they have family coming. Learning what is it that you’re up there to do. And then us figuring out how they can get that. I had a student who was singing because she wanted her son to be proud of her, which was so sweet. And he came and he was proud of her. And whenever she felt a little bit like “oh, I don’t know if I can do this,” I just reminded her that ‘you want to do this’. And that got her up there on the performance. And then she had this amazing experience and she’s gonna be up again in January. So that was really cool.
Jason: That is cool. Yeah, that’s cool. Regarding, the students thinking about the outcomes, the difference there is essentially that instead of the student being dependent upon the teacher, you’re actually helping them be self evaluators. And this is one of the things that we always know about teaching is that when students have the ability to evaluate themselves, when they feel more confident because they’re doing it themselves. We have [as teachers] just given them the tools to do it. In this case they’re really growing as musicians, as people. And of course then we get to deal with more and more complicated things and sophisticated ideas once we get those base level things. And that growth to me is just awesome.
Olivia: Well, I think a big part of voice study is that it’s not just like teaching a student how to play the piano, it’s teaching them how to build the piano and they have to know how to build that piano every day from different tools. For the voice, its that maybe they slept, maybe they didn’t sleep enough, maybe they had dairy and that affected their voice. Maybe they had a really vinegary salad, maybe they talked too much, maybe they went to a game. Now before we even talk about how to play it, to sing music, I need them to be able to put their voice together, which means understanding the science of singing, understanding the anatomy of singing, understanding that by having a repetitive enough practice to check in with themselves and say to themselves “This is feeling different. Why?” So they need to have that key. It’s not enough that they go to a teacher and the teacher can diagnose them. But I want them to be able in the moment, for example, to say to themselves “I have to sing a song in this register. I didn’t get enough sleep. Here’s the steps that I know that I can go through to still perform successfully.” So the biggest thing that I keep trying to drive home to my students is: I want you to have the tools in your toolbox. And I feel like I’ve been successful when you don’t need me. When you have to do something, you understand what needs to be done, do you understand how to do it? And you have enough little tools in there that you can go, okay, I’m going to do this and that and then it works.
Jason: That’s it. That’s building competency and that’s awesome.
Olivia: Yeah, it’s really fun.
Jason: Well, good. Again, I’m so excited to have you here now for a whole year and I’m looking forward to many, many more to come and thanks so much for joining.
Olivia: Thanks Jason. Bye everybody.
Jason: See ya’ll folks.