Have you ever flirted with the idea of studying voice at post-grad level? Here are three reasons why you should do it.
If you want to deepen your understanding of the voice or explore an aspect of singing that fascinates you, then post-graduate studies could be just the ticket.
BAST spoke to Debbie Winter, director of the Voice Study Centre (VSC), about the challenges and rewards of going back to university.
How it started
Debbie is a lawyer-turned-jazz singer who started the VSC when she couldn’t find a study programme that met her needs. Speaking on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast, Debbie says: “I had two issues; I wanted to go into voice coaching and was also experiencing vocal issues – I was very breathy.
“I was hungry to learn more to put things right in my own voice and be a proper coach, but the training I was looking for just wasn’t there.”
The formidable Debbie took matters into her own hands and started the VSC, which runs an MA programme in Professional Practice specialising in Voice Pedagogy. The programme is accredited by and integrated with the University of Wales Trinity St David.
The benefits of academic study
Here are three reasons why taking the academic route can benefit you as a singing teacher.
Find your ‘thing’
A master’s can be a great way to help you find your specialism (many BAST students have gone on to study with the VSC). The MA Professional Practice includes six micro-projects and there is scope for students to design and implement their own projects (providing they meet academic standards). This means you can explore in-depth areas of interest.
“The course doesn’t run on a traditional curriculum, and that’s its magic,” Debbie says. “You choose as a practitioner what your needs are, and we [at the VSC] see the grassroots practice gaps and respond accordingly.”
VSC alumni have explored all manner of voice-related issues, including performance anxiety, singing for lung health and adolescent mental health.
A chance to make contacts
Studying for a master’s gives students a rationale for approaching practitioners within specialised fields and learning from them. For example, some VSC students have worked as part of interdisciplinary teams. (One student worked alongside other healthcare professionals at a stroke rehabilitation clinic.)
“The programme gets people on board,” says Debbie. “People love to participate in research; people love to come together as a community.”
Develop your critical thinking
It’s easy to be intimidated by academic language and so-called ‘voice experts’. Completing post-grad studies is a great way to sharpen your critical thinking – and your confidence in expressing yourself.
“People want to do it [study for a master’s] because they want to develop their own practice and be a master of their own learning,” she says. “They want to be able to read and form autonomous opinions, have the safe space to pull apart different research studies and methodologies, and build their own pedagogical pathway.”
Listen to the full interview – which also includes Debbie’s list of must-read voice journals – here. Debbie also explains how it’s possible to study with the VSC even if you don’t have a university degree.