BWW Blog: Bob Marks - What to Expect at Your First Singing Lesson

By: Feb. 29, 2016

Although every teacher is slightly different, any good teacher structures the first lesson around the needs of their clients. This is a time for me to get to know you better, and start getting a sense of what sort of short and long-term goals you might have. It's very helpful if in the days before an initial session, you come up with a short mental (or written) list of concrete things you want to accomplish; don't worry, these will change over time, but in the beginning they offer a good launching point.

Some studios do require audition for entrance, or specialize in catering to the needs of particular populations, like working Broadway professionals or child singers. A quick phone call prior to scheduling your first session will clarify the teacher's policies on this. However, unless the teacher states otherwise, we expect that all singers "come as they are," whether or not they have had any prior training or experience.

Expect a good amount of talking that first day, as I will be looking for clues in your speaking voice and personality as to how to best work with you. It's not really that different from a job interview, where the interviewer is trying to get a "big picture" sense of the interviewee, only in this case your goal should not be to impress me. Be as honest and authentic as you can be in your responses to my questions.

If there are any specific materials I asked you to bring to the first day like a recorder or songs from your repertoire, please bring those items with you. If you're not sure what I mean by a certain instruction or you don't have access to something, just let me know. It's fine if you'd like to record the session, although I like to be made aware of it.

Every session I do is structured around the specific needs of my clients. We usually begin with vocal warm-up exercises, for assessment as much as anything else. If these warm-ups reveal technique issues, I might go to some specific exercises that explore those, and ask for some small adjustments to see how they affect the sound.

As far as repertoire, I like to hear a new client sing a song or two from his or her existing repertoire. To know where you're going, it helps to know where you've been. Obviously, if you have specific music to learn for an upcoming audition, that will be a priority.

Moving forward, sessions often include new repertoire for you to learn, technical voice issues, reviewing songs, and working on new arrangements or audition cuts. The main thing is for you to feel more confident and in control of your singing.

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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