Are you thinking of becoming a singing teacher? Here is some wise advice from David Valks, who started a teaching studio 18 months ago.
Over the past few years, David Valks has been on quite a journey – from working in an office to running his own studio.
He recently spoke to the Singing Teachers Talk podcast about how he transformed his life and reconnected with his first love: singing.
Drawing on his performance experience
David spent his 20s performing in West End musicals before touring the world and settling down in Australia. At the age of 30, he stepped back from performing and forged a successful career in recruitment. But over time, a niggling desire to get back to doing something he was passionate about grew and grew. After talking to a singing teacher, David wondered if he, too, could teach.
“I thought that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to inspire other people and do something that I love,” he says.
But just because you can sing doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach so David turned to BAST Training to learn the skills that he needed to start a vocal coaching studio.
“I did the five-day course, and I found it was just everything I needed,” he says. “Since I trained as a singer, the science and the research have advanced so much. It blew me away how much more we know today than we did 20 odd years ago.
“The great thing was that it wasn’t just about the voice and how the voice works; the course also covered how to be a teacher and how to run a lesson. When you’re a singing teacher, you’re on your own, so it’s hard to know if you’re on the right track. BAST gave me that kind of foundation and direction and all the fundamentals to get started.”
Eighteen months on, David’s schedule is busy – he has about 30 students on his books – and he’s also launched a podcast.
Here’s his advice for beginner singing teachers.
Decide your mission statement
You don’t need to have every minor detail of your business figured out before starting (no one could do that anyway), but it’s good to have a clear mission statement. This will guide you as you go and keep you motivated when you’re having a tough day.
David was very much influenced by his own musical experiences growing up in Scotland, where he had some fabulous teachers. “One of the main things for me, and I always go back to this, is to bring the joy into it,” he says. “Some people might want a very strict, formal teacher, but that’s just not me. I want it to be fun and for people to learn through having fun. I want my lessons to be a positive experience.”
Be prepared to surprise yourself
While it’s great to have an ethos that keeps you moving forward, don’t be surprised if your teaching career takes you in an unexpected direction or you discover a specialism that you’d never considered before.
When David started his singing school, he anticipated that most of his students would be adults. “But what’s interesting is that it’s flipped over time, and I would say now 60% of the time I’m teaching kids and 40% of the time it’s adults,” he says.
“And I’m really enjoying teaching the kids. I get different things from the different demographics, but teaching kids is great. You see this spark growing within them – you know that you’re setting them off on a journey that will impact their life.”
Never stop learning
When you run your own business, it’s easy to be consumed by all the challenges and admin that goes along with it. But David has found it incredibly useful to dedicate time to Continuing Professional Development.
“Some of my students have been coming to me from the beginning – that’s once or twice a week, for 18 months,” he says. “I’m always looking for ways to increase my knowledge and keep it fresh for them – I can’t do the same stuff for 18 months.
“I find I’m constantly growing and learning, and there’s definitely room for me to grow more. I think there’s an endless pool of knowledge that I can keep drawing from. Also, I learn so much from my students. Even though I’m the teacher, I get so much back from them.”