PLAINSONG STUDIOS HAS CEASED OPERATIONS. THANKS FOR YOUR PATRONAGE!
What ages do you teach?
Male and female (and other) singers 13 years old to adult only. Children under this age are not accepted into the program unless they are professional stage performers. I work with people who want a career in music performance, and/or who want to improve their skills for a specific singing purpose, such as Church Choir leader, or amateur musical theatre.
What styles of music do you teach?
Musical Theatre, Jazz, Pop, and Classical. Most of my students want to sing Musical Theatre with some Jazz and Pop thrown in, and some singers enjoy Classical styles.
What should I bring to my first lesson?
You should bring two well-prepared and memorised contrasting songs, for example an up tempo song and a ballad, preferably from different genres or eras (for musical theatre this means one song from the period before 1960, and one song after that time). You should bring all of your current songs, songbooks and materials so that I know what you have in your library. Do not bring backing tracks. You should bring me an excellent copy of your music, or the original work, and have all the cuts clearly marked (if there are any). I will accompany you.
What should I bring to every lesson?
ALWAYS COME PREPARED! You should bring 2 copies of your current songs, either in a musical anthology score or neatly placed in a display folder, so that I can play them while you sing. You should also bring a fun song (one you’ve not worked on), so we can have some fun at the end of the lesson. You should bring a pencil and eraser and note pad so you can make notes or mark your score. You should bring a smart phone or iPad/tablet so that you can record your lesson (not to be shared at any time online or other as this is against my permission – you can show your folks, of course!). And, of course, WATER!
Do you teach rock songs?
Not to children under 15. I teach rock songs appearing in Musical Theatre shows or ones required for auditions.
Do you teach R’n’B, hip hop and songs by rap artists?
Modern R’n’B, hip hop and rap songs are rhythmic styles outside my area of expertise. There are many fine contemporary teachers specialising in modern styles who can better meet your needs.
How long does it take to build a voice?
Depends on the singer!
It is rare that voices change immediately and permanently with just one lesson. In fact, it’s not generally possible to effect permanent change that fast, because we are dealing with long-term physical habituation. Most of the students who come to me tend to stay for several years, because they recognise the value in long-term development of the voice.
Do you work with voice health and well-being professionals?
I work with a range of health care professionals and well-being providers. If a student shows signs of vocal pathology prior to commencing lessons I always recommend seeing a health care professional to determine the problem. I maintain close monitoring of all students to manage their vocal health. Good vocal hygiene is vital for the well-being of the singer’s voice.
I recommend all students take fitness classes including Pilates and gym or dance classes. For those needing work on postural alignment I recommend Feldenkrais or Alexander Technique practitioners.
If a student presents with jaw jut, tight tongue, a lisp or other speech issue I work with a fine speech pathologist called Dr Ron Morris, who works part-time at the QLD Conservatorium and the remaining time in private practice. He is also a singer and understands the singing voice very well. He is a world leader in vocal rehabilitation for singers. I also recommend Pondera for rehabilitation of voices and vocal loading.
If a student has ongoing issues with “breathiness”, vocal loading, soreness of voice, vocal fatigue or hoarseness that seems chronic then I recommend seeing an ENT for a laryngoscopy. The best ENT for singers is Dr Matthew Broadhurst. I have recommended him on many occasions to my students and have had great success in managing many minor complaints such as gastric reflux or muscular tightness in the neck.
While I do not rehabilitate damaged voices (I leave that to the speechies) I assist in developing safe, healthy vocal habits in singing students.
What styles do you sing?
I sing most styles including Country, Pop, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Classical. I was trained in Classical singing and it’s my favourite music style, followed by Musical Theatre and Jazz.
Do you teach other instruments?
Do you teach music theory?
No, although I do help prepare students for this requirement in AMEB exams.
Can you recommend a local piano teacher?
I suggest you call the Queensland Conservatorium for information about piano teachers, or look on the MTAQ website for information about instrumental teachers in your area.
Do you prepare students for singing exams?
We follow the AMEB system and I recommend all my singers do at least one exam. This is to experience the rigors of singing under stress and to develop essential performance and musicianship skills. We usually book our exams in the November period. We do not follow the Trinity system or any other examination process. Please see more information below regarding books and materials for use in these exams.
Do you prepare students for auditions and competitions?
Provided I have adequate notice. I usually recommend ongoing lessons rather than one-off lessons for all but my adult students, because we are building a culture of understanding about singing and performance that cannot usually be taught in 1 or 2 lessons.
I can’t attend my lesson today – do I still have to pay for the lesson?
You have booked my time for the duration of the invoice and as my studio is very busy I cannot accept absences without being compensated for the financial loss to my business. I do give my students one “grace” lesson per term provided I have a minimum of 24 hours notice (or the morning of the day before). This usually gives me enough time to ring around and organise to fill the spot, or to arrange a swap with another student.
How much does it cost me to give you a “grace” lesson per term over the course of a year? Imagine 12 hours (my average studio hours per week) x 4 (an average of 4 invoices per student per year) x $90. This is $4,320 per year. Imagine then if you asked for 3 or four “grace” lessons per term? I would lose substantial income and it would not be worth my while to run the business.
I do ask that people be understanding of this substantial financial impost to my business. You are more than welcome to book one off lessons with me, provided I have a space.
I have a head cold and/ or a mild illness. Can I miss the lesson?
That is your choice, but you will be charged for the lesson if it is not your “grace” lesson and you have not given me 24 hours notice.
We can do plenty of other activities than singing. These include repertoire planning; breath and alignment work; aural and theory work; stage craft and character work; memorisation work; vocal health and hygiene work. We can also look at YouTube clips of the larynx or of singers we admire, and we can also do some essential musicianship work. There is plenty to keep us busy!
Sometimes a student will present to me almost too sick to stand. On those occasions I shorten the lesson to accommodate the student, however I don’t make up this time.
I take precautions such as disinfecting door handles and the like to prevent the spread of illness to others. If you are not bed-ridden, I recommend you come to your lesson.
I have a very sore throat/ laryngitis/ tonsillitis/ bronchitis/serious transmittable virus/ serious emergency/ food poisoning/ that developed overnight. Can I miss the lesson?
Sickness and emergency events are horrible for everyone and I can be understanding at these times! This will be considered your grace lesson if you have not already taken one. One grace lesson will be given for sickness or any other reason only.
We will be away for several weeks. Do I have to pay for these lessons?
You do not have to pay, providing you understand that your timeslot will be taken by other students on the waiting list. You will then be placed on the waiting list and your pre-paid lessons will be held over until I can find a new time for you.
How many weeks per year do you teach?
I teach up to 40 weeks per year but the average lesson amount for most students is about 35, because of “grace” lessons and my own absences.
Do you teach during school holidays?
I take the opportunity to attend conferences and professional development seminars during this time and my university teaching is usually ongoing through school holiday periods.
Do you teach on public holidays?
What is the timetable for this year?
Please see the Timetable Page for a frequently updated list of time slots, teaching weeks and planned absences. I teach to the rhythm of the Queensland State School Term Dates, but it varies considerably depending on my own commitments.
My 15 year old son can’t sing in tune or in rhythm. Will you help him?
I prefer that all students entering my studio have good pitch and rhythm skills before they start with me. Occasional slips are easy to fix, but I do not work with students requiring serious aural remedial work.
My 15 year old daughter wants to be a professional performer. What skills are required for this?
Dancing; singing and music; and acting, in that order.
Dance from an early age builds skills, discipline and a healthy body. I recommend all students wishing to become stage performers take Ballet, Jazz and Tap classes. Boys should definitely take these classes, although dance schools offer modern dance styles such as hip-hop which is also fine. There are many fine dance schools about – one nearby is Theatre and Dance in Coorparoo. Mad Dance is another offering open classes to those over 16 years old.
Music classes should also be considered: piano or guitar, and singing. Piano or guitar lessons build vital skills in chordal accompaniment and note reading, which is very important for singers. Check the MTAQ website for teachers in your area.
Acting can be done as a student gets older – stage craft can be learnt as the student performs, and developing characters and understanding texts will occur as the student matures. There are some good acting schools about, including Theatre and Dance in Coorparoo. For older teenagers I recommend QTC’s Youth program and for adult performers I recommend Peter Rasmussen. Voice coaching is also recommended. For this I cannot recommend highly enough the brilliant Dr Melissa Agnew.
Can you recommend any good musical theatre books?
Yes I can! I recommend many of the following books for male and female singers, from teenager to adult. They are all readily available on-line, but do check carefully when ordering, and keep your order copy handy as Amazon and The Book Depository are notorious for making errors in selection and are known to insert the wrong book in the pack. If the wrong book has been sent, let me know as I will often have another singer happy to buy it from you at cost.
There are many other excellent anthologies about: just get online and have a browse. There are also many good scores from musicals available, including even the most recent shows such as Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and the like.
When sitting an AMEB Musical Theatre exam, I recommend buying the following books to use, AND their accompanying piano accompaniments (useful for rehearsal only – they are not to be used in the exams themselves):
Any other FAQS? Write to me and I’ll answer your questions as best as I can!