BWW Blog: Bob Marks - Find the Right Teaching Professionals to Meet Your Goals

By: Feb. 16, 2016

In order to grow as a singer, you need to know what you know, and know what you don't know. But the main thing you have to deal with is what you don't know you don't know; to get you through it, the guidance of an experienced professional is invaluable.

One role of a coach or a teacher is to get to know you, and inform you of your weaknesses in useful, solution-oriented ways. New students are often afraid that a teacher or coach will tear them apart in the cheeky manner of some recent reality singing shows. Just like any other professional, you will find some who are ego-driven (and possibly in the wrong area of work), some who are very sweet people but lacking in the know-how to help their clients achieve their goals, and hopefully, some who are just right for your needs.

In order to achieve your true potential as a singer, you need to find knowledgeable coaches and/or teachers that you trust, and listen to their advice. Even the best professionals can't know exactly what will happen at each audition, but their years of experience in the industry will offer a good vantage point, and help you deal with the unexpected. For example, my audition advice is often correct not because I'm especially smart, but because I've been doing this for so long.

It's important to note that the relationship between different teachers and students is highly variable. Just as a patient who is looking for counseling might fare better with a psychiatrist than a psychologist, or a client looking to get in shape might do better with an aggressive, "push-you-to-the-limit" kind of trainer rather than a feelings-oriented life coach, you need to make an honest assessment of your needs when working with someone new.

When working with someone new, ask yourself:

Does this teacher/coach use language that I understand?

Does their advice make sense to me, and have they given me "homework" that I can successfully do on my own?

Do they understand the type of sounds I want to make?

How do I feel when I work with this person? Even if I'm nervous (very natural, especially at the beginning), do I feel respected, and that the teacher genuinely wants to help me?

Do I sense that they are really listening to me and watching me? Are they asking for adjustments that make sense?

As we discussed earlier, teachers and coaches now often have overlapping skill sets. Ask yourself what your individual needs are.

For example:

Are you a brand new singer, or have significant vocal problems? Then you probably want to find someone with advanced technical chops to help you strengthen and repair the instrument.

Are you a strong music reader, or do you play the piano? If not, you'll want to see someone who is also an accompanist, so they can better prepare you for auditions.

Are you trying to get work in a specific kind of genre, such as rock musicals? Consider finding specialists in specific areas who are familiar with specific vocal and musical styles.


Noted vocal coach Bob Marks specializes in helping singers showcase their talents to their best possible advantage. He is in the process of writing a new book (with Elizabeth Gerbi) about auditioning for musical theatre. Until the book is published, is pleased to offer weekly bits of audition advice. Please feel free to submit any specific questions you'd like to have answered in these blogs.

Bob Marks maintains a busy vocal studio in New York City, working with performers of all ages and levels of experience. He also teaches performance workshops throughout the US and Europe. He was a pianist with the original Broadway production of Annie, and spent two seasons as the Associate Conductor of the St. Louis Muny Opera. For several years, he was the host and musical director of the acclaimed Youngstars performances of professional children in New York City. His well-known clients have included cast members of almost every current musical on Broadway, and stars such as Ariana Grande, Lea Michele, Natalie Portman, Laura Bell Bundy, Constantine Maroules, Britney Spears, Ashley Tisdale, Debbie Gibson, and Sarah Jessica Parker. He holds a degree in speech pathology, and has taught at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, the Professional Development Program for the New York Singing Teachers' Association, and at Nashville's Belmont University as a special guest artist. As a vocal coach, his clientele ranges from beginners to Broadway cast members, as well as singers of cabaret and pop music. He is an expert in helping performers present themselves to their best advantage in auditions and onstage.

Elizabeth Gerbi, Assistant Professor of Music Theater at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is well known across the Northeast as a singing teacher, voice coach, choral conductor, and music director/pianist (150+ productions). As a singer-actor, she has appeared in regional productions ranging from Annie Get Your Gun to I Pagliacci to The Kenny Rogers Christmas Tour. Recent projects include musical directing The Chris Betz Show at Rose's Turn and The Sage Theatre in NYC, Side Show and Tommy at Westchester Broadway Theatre, The Sound of Music at the Wagon Wheel Theatre of Warsaw, Indiana, conducting Dreamgirls and Seussical at Debaun Auditorium in Hoboken, NJ, adapting Starmites 2000 with Broadway composer Barry Keating, and accompanying master classes for Broadway veterans Ken Jennings, Lindsay Mendez, and Lisa Howard. She is also a former consultant for the Rodgers and Hammerstein Music Library, and currently serves as a both New York State School Music Association Solo Adjudicator and a respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She attended Ithaca College (Bachelor's of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education) is a Level-III graduate in Somatic Voicework: The LoVetri Method™, and completed a Master's in Music Education from Boston University.


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