It wasn’t until actor and singer Jay Bryce studied with BAST Training that he stopped feeling like an imposter as a singing teacher.
Jay, who has performed on the West End in Les Miserables, Oliver! and Carousel and internationally with Mamma Mia, spoke to BAST about the joys of combining teaching with a professional singing career.
Why did you seek out singing teacher training?
I had done some singing teaching and loved it, but I sometimes lacked confidence and suffered a bit from ‘imposter syndrome’. I wanted to have more of an understanding of the vocal science of singing and of the voice.
How did studying with BAST in 2017 change your career?
I found the course invaluable; it gave me the confidence to call myself a singing teacher – something I couldn’t do before.
I now have the knowledge to diagnose vocal issues, and when I give an exercise to a student, I can explain why we are doing that exercise.
BAST also helped me to understand the female voice. I feel confident teaching a female who defines herself as ‘soprano’ or ‘alto’ and helping them to discover other parts of their voice.
What have you done career-wise since studying with BAST?
While still working as an actor and singer, I now also work as a singing instructor with a private practice and take group classes for adults wanting to learn to sing.
How do you juggle teaching and performing commitments?
I find that being a working actor and singer has helped me to be a better singing coach. I know what it’s like performing and can relate to the nerves and anxiety that can come with performing and auditioning and how these issues can affect your voice.
My favourite type of day is one where I’ve been teaching and then get to perform in the evening. I find that my voice is in a good place after teaching, and I’m able to do some of my most free and easy singing.
What is your biggest challenge as a singing teacher?
In the past, I have tended to do a lot of demonstrating as it has helped me to understand what a client may be doing to cause a certain issue (tongue may be retracting or larynx may be too high, for example).
Though this is effective and sometimes necessary in helping me diagnose a vocal problem, it can be draining (particularly working on Zoom as I think singing teachers will agree that we sometimes find ourselves working harder over Zoom than we would in the studio).
I have started to be aware of when I need to demonstrate and when I don’t. I’ve learnt to ask my clients more questions about what is happening to their voices and if they are finding a certain passage or even a specific word an issue.
Sometimes they are almost able to diagnose problems themselves and work out what they need to do to help fix a certain problem area or word in a song.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love working with people on a one-to-one basis and helping them to have those ‘lightbulb’ moments when they learn about their voice and find something that clicks with them.
Some of my clients love to learn about vocal science, and some just want to sing and not worry about the science side – both are totally fine. I always say we want to get to a place with our singing where we can be in the moment and just enjoy expressing ourselves through our voice.
What advice would you give someone studying with BAST Training?
Stay on top of the work you are learning each week. It can be a bit overwhelming when being introduced to new terms like the “thyroarytenoid muscle” and “semi-occluded vocal tract exercises”, but it is fascinating and so helpful later down the line.
What’s next for you professionally?
I am still doing a lot of online singing teaching with my current client base. Much of my work as a musical theatre actor has been put on hold during the pandemic. I’ve been so grateful for my teaching work and being able to continue working online.