This week’s guest is Shannon Coates.

This is part I of my interview with Dr Shannon Coates, who is an acclaimed voice teacher, international presenter and creator of the The Vocal Instrument 101 Online Course. This is a candid interview with Shannon as she begins by sharing her earliest memories of how she discovered the joy of singing as part of a musical family and the journey that led her to a highly successful teaching career. Shannon tells us that she began her teaching career, as an independent studio voice teacher where she worked with a broad range of students. Shannon explains that her own professional and teaching experiences, inspired her to create training programs and resources for teachers outside of academia to equip them with the skills and knowledge that are most useful for them. Shannon had discovered that all the classical tuition received did not give her the tools she needed for contemporary singing. The other realisation for Shannon was that the majority of voice pedagogy classes were being taught by classical voice teachers who had never owned or operated an independent voice studio themselves. Furthermore, she believed that independent studio teachers, were unable to access the training they required without sacrificing time away from the studios, and losing income. In this episode Shannon also shares with us the qualities that she believes that a good teacher should possess, the core components of her training programs and how these are relevant and beneficial to the teaching voice community. Remember this is part 1 of a 2 part interview with Dr Shannon Coates and part 2 will be released next week.

Online Course:

In this episode

04:00 – Getting to know Dr. Shannon Coates

07:15 – Earliest memories of singing

12:12 – Musical education history

14:12 – Dr. Shannon’s work experience

15:42 – Being a Worship Leader

17:36 – Say ‘Yes’ and figure it out

19:48 – Choosing not to teach

20:46 – First teaching gig

23:09 – Obtaining a Classical Voice Degree

25:31 – Transitioning from Traditional to Online voice lessons

28:48 – Creating resources and working with Voice Teachers

30:39 – The Vocal Instrument 101

40:55 – Finding independent studio teachers

45:27 – Important things a Voice Teacher should know


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:00

Hi it’s Marisa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include health care practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialized fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for A Voice and Beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  01:15

This week, we share part one of a two part interview series with Dr. Shannon Coates, who is an acclaimed voice teacher, international presenter and creator of the vocal instrument 101 on blind course. This is a candid interview with Shannon as she begins by sharing her earliest memories of how she discovered the joy of singing as part of a musical family and the journey that led her to a highly successful teaching career. She tells us that she began her teaching career as an independent studio voice teacher where she worked with a broad range of students. Shannon explains that her own professional and teaching experiences inspired her to create training programs and resources for teachers outside of academia in order to equip them with the skills and knowledge are most useful for them. Shannon tells us that she had discovered along her journey that all the classical tuition she had received did not give her the tools she needed for contemporary singing. The other realization for Shannon was that the majority of voice pedagogy classes were being taught by classical voice teachers who had never owned or operated an independent voice studio themselves. Furthermore, Shannon discovered that independent voice studio teachers were unable to access the training they required without sacrificing time away from their studios and losing income. In this episode, Shannon also shares with us the qualities that she believes a good singing teacher should possess the core components of her training programs, and how these are relevant and most beneficial to the teaching voice community. Remember, this is part one of a brilliant interview with Shannon coats, and we will release Part Two next week. So swithout further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:46

Welcome to A Voice and Beyond, Shannon Coates I’m so excited to have you on the show. You are here. Thank you. You’re in Canada. And you are a voice teacher, an international speaker, a presenter the creator of the Vocal Instrument 101 Online Course amongst millions of things that I see that you do, you wear so many caps. And if you were to describe yourself though, who are you as a professional?

Dr Shannon Coates  04:23

That’s a great question. Well, my tagline is Singer, Educator, and Maximizer. And I think where I take those things from obviously, I feel that I’m a singer, perhaps first, but then singing and the joy of singing and music informs so much of what I do and I think all voice teachers perhaps maybe I shouldn’t assume but perhaps always teachers, most of us. So that’s the first thing educator. I’ve sort of come to this place where I love teaching voice certainly And at the same time I am developing resources for voice teachers so that you know, all of these things that I have done, can kind of come together in a way that they can be accessible to so many other people. And in a way, then, you know, I’m not just teaching my own students, then then there’s a sort of influence throughout the whole community through voice teachers, and then their students. And then Maximizer. Maximizer is actually one of my sort of, if you know, Clifton Strengths. maximizer is one of my Clifton Strengths. So sort of like a personality described. Okay, yeah. And maximizing has to do with seeing where things are good. And seeing and working toward making things. Excellent. So it’s not just at the sort of development level, certainly at that level, as well as some other strengths in there that are all about development. But it’s almost even beyond the development level where we’re not just looking at things for wow, that’s really good, great, let’s, you know, I’m looking at things and going, Okay, this is already going well, here in this part of the universe, industry, our community voice teaching the voice teachers, and how can we just get that to the next level? How can I kind of maximize what we’re doing to make this, you know, this next level, so that’s, I think those that tagline really speaks to who I am, of course, and then, in general, I develop resources for voice teachers, specifically for independent voice teachers, and educators who are perhaps outside of academia. So I’ve worked with lots of academic teachers as well, but for the most part outside of academia, so lots of choral directors, classroom educators, as well as independent voice studio teachers. So oh, that’s, that’s who I work with, and what I do, you know, wow, maximizing all about there.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:00

And we’re going to unpack some of your maximizing things that you do. As I said, there’s so many. But your background, I’d like to hear about how you got to this point. So what are your earliest memories of you singing? And when did you discover you could sing? Or did you? Were you one of those children? Who were who was a diva, just as I was just thought I was fabulous anyway.

Dr Shannon Coates  07:27

I feel that we have many similarities, friend. I feel like there’s a little bit of a kindred spirit there.

Dr Shannon Coates  07:36

Absolutely. I sing young. And you know, everybody says, Well, I sang very young, and of course we all sang young. I hope we sang young, right? And I was also encouraged to sing and to sort of step onto the stage, I loved being on stage. You know, as soon as I figured out that, that was a thing. And I was involved in worship teams at my church as I was growing up, and I lead worship at my church, you know, well up actually into into later in life as well. And so that, that live sort of singing and music have two sides of my family, the one side of my family, my paternal side, there’s the strong, both education and music bent and a formal music. There’s a real love for sort of formal music education. My grandmother was a piano teacher, right? You know, my, my dad’s siblings, and my dad all learn to play guitar and sing, and they had to do trios, and they, you know, they, so And there’s lots of music on that side of the family, especially in a more formal sense, especially through church and lots of my, I think six, I think out of the 10 of my cousins on that side of the family, including my own sister have formal music degrees. I mean, we’re allowed me it’s quite musical. And then the last one

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  09:01

That is. You could have, you could have your own concert and go for three days.

Dr Shannon Coates  09:09

And 9 out of the 10 of us play music or are involved in music to a level where we play in bands, or, you know, we’re in church music or that kind of thing. I mean, it’s not just there’s also the formal but there’s also you know, this love of music. And then on the other side of the family, there is a real joy in music and joy in the community of music, making a less sense of formal studying my mom’s side of the family, there’s a more sense of, we get together and we all sing and my you know, my cousin plays and you know, plays by ear and not that that couldn’t happen on the other side of the family. But there’s just a difference in terms of how we look at the music and how we say yes to streams really kind of came down into to buy my sister, my sister and brother and I, both three of us are musicians, my sister is also a professional musician. My brother is not a professional, but he could be, but he has that. So, you know, that kind of love of music and love of singing kind of came down and was part of our family and church and all of that. And then as I moved in through high school, I started to, you know, I have the kind of facial structure for classical singing, and I had western classical singing. And at that time, when I wanted to take voice lessons, the only kind of voice lessons you could take, were western classical voice lessons. And yes, you know, I started taking voice lessons when I was 13. And my teacher at the time, I mean, she was the only voice teacher in my little town. And so and she was very full. And she did not take, she normally didn’t take students until they were like 15 or 16, right, because back in the day, you didn’t teach children. And so I got in there because my voice kind of matured quite early, and I had a very sort of adult sounding voice in a very sort of classical sounding voice quite early and I couldn’t really do a lot with my voice other than that sound more because of what I sort of grown up with and the kind of thing that I was encouraged to do so giusti that was, you know, it kind of like I snuck in I think I had like a nine o’clock on a Saturday morning time slot. So you can imagine, imagine how how much she wanted me to be in her studio because she was so full that the only time that was like, first thing Saturday morning, if you’re gonna–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:40

Well, I’m glad you clarified that because when you said she normally didn’t take people to there were 15. And she was having you first thing in the morning. I was wondering if it was because no one else could see you there. And maybe was she sneaking you in through the back door? Through a tradesman insurance?

Dr Shannon Coates  12:03

Do you have long passed on? So it’s entirely possible? Unfortunately, I can’t ask him to I don’t think so. I think it was it was really just that was the only space she had available. And I you know, I did musicals. When I was in high school, I auditioned for the Jazz Choir and was basically laughed out because I couldn’t make contemporary sounds like I really could not I did not know how, and I had no, my voice teachers. I had several through high school where I mean, the closest I got was like John Denver duets, like it was like, there was no class, like in Disney thumbs, right? Like the Disney and back in the day, you know, those Disney songs were not rock pop. They were–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:43

No, no, no, they certainly were not. Yeah.

Dr Shannon Coates  12:48

No. So that was, and, you know, the only I felt like, the only thing that I could do with my voice was the only thing I wanted to do. But it was the only thing that I could do was to go into singing, right. So I did an undergraduate degree in in vocal performance and western classical singing. And yeah, and I had a wonderful undergraduate experience. It was a wonderful experience. And it still is a wonderful program. And my teacher who I love, and who was also passed on now.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:20

What do you do to these teachers?

Dr Shannon Coates  13:24

It was long time ago, you know.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:26

I was gonna say, I’m not teaching you. I fear for my life. 

Dr Shannon Coates  13:34

It was a long time ago. So, yeah. No, she just didn’t have the tools to teach me in a way that that gave me the tools and techniques that I needed. And I wasn’t, I mean, I know now, I also didn’t have the tools I needed to learn well, as well for myself. So like, you know, I fit into the academic system, but I also know now that at likely have ADHD and so there are a lot of things that that means in terms of regular practice and in terms of so many things. Yes, yeah. So yeah, so I when I came out of school, I did a little bit of singing then. And then I sort of thought, you know, this, I’m not sure that this is the right thing for me. I don’t know. And I didn’t really have the tools to figure out and yes, it seemed like the right thing for me. So um, so I did a whole bunch of things. I worked. I was a personal assistant for film director for a while I did commercials I did like I just did a whole bunch of things. Yes, I actually landed working in a marketing division for a finance company. Oh my gosh, I know and it was so boring. Like it was brutal.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  14:52

I think I would rather stick pins in my eyes and have the job.

Dr Shannon Coates  14:56

I mean, I loved it for the first three months when I was little Learning how to do it right. So like the first three months, and then once I knew how to do it, I was like, Oh, this is I can’t do this without someone. Yes, I started in admin, I started as an admin assistant, I came in and, you know, replaced a whole bunch of people. And then after like three or four months, I was like, I can’t, I went to someone. So I can’t do something like, Okay, well, let’s see what how you do, like over in marketing, and then I had to take exams and do Oh, financial stuff. And it was it just did not fit. What? That’s not for me.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:32

How old are you at this stage?

Dr Shannon Coates  15:34

I mean, I’m in my mid 20s. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:36

Okay, and you still, so you still weren’t doing anything with your singing?

Dr Shannon Coates  15:41

So, I did some what I was doing at the time, was actually interesting at the time, my parents were doing some my parents had associations with churches in Europe with several churches in Europe. Yeah, they used to be pastored. They’re not anymore, but and so at the time, I would go with them to various churches. And so I had started to figure out by this time how to make contemporary sounds just like that, I’m sure. And if I use myself, by myself, because I was teaching, I was leading worship, I was leading contemporary worship, and you know, opera doesn’t sound good and contemporary worship, you know? Yes. And Patti. Yes. Who wants to be Sandi Patty nowadays? I don’t know. If I’m making references that that makes sense. But anybody knows. She grew up in there in the 80s. In the evangelical church in North America, what I mean by Sandy, but yeah, so I, I would go with them. And I would lead worship in German, French, like I would lead worship in other languages, because my classical training meant that I knew how to say the words. And if I knew how to say the words, and I knew how to tune wind, yes, I knew what it English Yeah. So I can read it in, you know, in German, and lead worship in the language that people you know, of the people. So my parents loved that. And I love that I enjoy that. And it was it was wonderfully fulfilling, and in a weird way to use my degree. Not the way it was intended, but whatever. So yeah, like I caught it through and, and folks had asked me to teach all the way kind of through my mid 20s. You know, people like, Oh, you’re such a great singer are both well, like, you know, can you teach, and I never, I never wanted to teach because it felt to me. I mean, I did an undergraduate voice pad class, when in my undergraduate degree, the class actually that I teach now, and but I had never felt it felt like I’m a performer. I don’t teach like, really like that. Yeah, yes. What it really should have felt like was, I’m not sure I have the skills to do this. But that’s not my personality. My personality is yet let’s try it. Let’s see if I’m awesome at him. I’m probably awesome. So let’s try it like–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:14

Yes. No, I get it. I totally get it. You say yes and then you go figure it out? 

Dr Shannon Coates  18:21


Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:22

That’s what I do. Yes. That’s what makes us employable.

Dr Shannon Coates  18:26

Yes, that too.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:28

Always have a job when you say yes. You go figure it out, you learn another skill, more money.

Dr Shannon Coates  18:36

When you love figuring it out, right? Like that again, I think that’s part of the personality, too, is just like, I enjoy the challenge of figuring something like that out. Yes. That wasn’t the reason I kind of said no, I was more saying no, just because it’s like, well, it’s, you know, it’s beneath me almost right? Like–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:54

Wow, and that’s not you.

Dr Shannon Coates  18:59

Well, at the time, because that was sort of the perception of, you know, teaching. And also that was very much the perception of folks coming through a performance degree at the time. So I went through I did my performance degree in the in the 90s. So coming through that in the 90s, the whole attitude around that, and that is changing. You know, I still teach undergraduate voicepeds, so, I see folks coming through. Very few folks now are saying, I’ll never teach I’m just going to perform the vast majority of folks who are taking my class now are saying, If I do perform, I’m also going to have a parallel track teaching as well. Like why didn’t I.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:40

Yes. So you kind– Yeah, you kind of have to as well.

Dr Shannon Coates  19:45

100% It’s so much more realistic now. And so I have that attitude that I would never teach. And then when my daughter was born in 2003, I we have your long Parental Leave, it’s actually longer now. But at the time we’re here long parental leave in Canada. Yeah. And at this, so I said, you know, these people, and I was still working in finance as I’m bored out of my school. I didn’t want to go back. Although if I got back, why would I be making a lot of money right now? I feel like I’d be making a lot of money anyway. That’s– 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  20:20

Yes, it’s not about the money. It’s that’s about the love. 

Dr Shannon Coates  20:25

Yes. And wanting to do something with your life that you enjoy, right? 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  20:28

Yes. It’s something. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. 

Dr Shannon Coates  20:32

So I took a few students on just to try it on for size and see whether I actually, like liked it or not, and to see whether it would be something viable, and I loved it. I loved it. So I had no idea that I would love teaching like I don’t, I just didn’t realize it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  20:46

Where was this job? What was your first teaching gig?

Dr Shannon Coates  20:50

Just some friends of the family who asked if I would teach. And so I did. And I drove an hour up to a different town. And I started to teach a few other people. And people sort of heard that I was and so this kind of little snowball happened. And then I started to, we actually moved to the town that I was teaching him. And then I start I applied to teach at an at a music school. So my first my first real sort of like, Job was teaching at a music school. I mean, I taught, like I said, I taught for a little bit on my own. And I taught, I did teach a few classes or worship school as well. But But I, my first sort of independent voice teaching kind of thing was at a music school. Yes. And, you know, again, same thing, I just felt like, This is amazing. I love this so much. And the excitement of it. I loved the you know, and I was good at it, except that I also realized I really didn’t know what I was doing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:55

You know, like, Yes, I know. Yes, I know. That was me. Yeah, yeah. I taught for about 25 years before I went and studied vocal pedagogy. But fortunately, I didn’t damage anybody. And I had so many success stories. But anyway, that’s a whole other story. Yeah.

Dr Shannon Coates  22:18

I mean, that’s the thing. It wasn’t that there certainly were folks that I wish that I could go back and teach again, certainly, I think we could have got a lot farther, a lot faster. And I knew a lot more things. I know, a lot more ways to teach now. But I also think that when you’re a beginning teacher, I think this I think this actually for all teachers, but I think that we do attract the folks who we are going to work well with. And I think that I think we do attract that if we are open and curious and realistic about our own teaching skills as well. You know, like, I think that’s part of it, too. Yeah. So yeah, so there was a master’s program starting at the University of Toronto, which is, you know, 45 minutes from where I am. And so I got my singing chops back in shape, took some classes, because it’s a classical, so it’s a classical voice degree, and some performance degree, specializing in voice pedagogy. So you do all of the same things that the performance folks do, plus you do the voice pedagogy. So I’m not sure that if I had been auditioning for a straight performance program that my singing was at the level that needed to have been at in order to pass that audition show, however, it was good enough at the time for them to say yes, and, and also, you know, I was working with a voice teacher there. And so and she knew my potential as well. And also, they really did, it was very close to the beginning of that program. So they wanted folks in there who would benefit from the program, right, who would actually, you know, be able to use this voice pedagogy information in real life. So yeah, so I did a two year master’s. My kids were two and four when I started school, and then I did appears to do my doctorate right afterwards.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:20

Yes. See? That’s a lot. That is a lot of work. Yeah.

Dr Shannon Coates  24:26

Yeah. It’s a whole thing, isn’t it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:28

Yes, and there’s so much to unpack there. And we’re going to do it as we go along. Yeah. And I love when you were describing your voice studio, because your website is very quirky, and I love it. It is not the usual kind of website. I love that you actually have a bit of a laugh at yourself, but in a kind way, not a demeaning way, but your voice studio you say is on the other side of the street. And I’ve taught my face off there. for over 15 years I’ve worked with all the singers you have Pinky swear, I hashtag Pinky swear. Yeah, the six year old who practice more than the rest of your students put together, Elvis impersonators, singer songwriters whose poetry make you cry leaders of rock bands, trying to figure out how not to shred their voices every time they get on stage and teen teenagers who rarely practiced. I mean, that was your voice studio. Are you still doing that now?

Dr Shannon Coates  25:36

I am not. No, I’m not. So I had both that kind of traditional or typical independent voice studio. I live in a town where, you know, I have guests walk home from public school and take their voice lesson and then, you know, continue on walking home or bike over for their voice lessons. So that very typical, you know, suburban, yes, voice studio, and I also taught in Toronto, so I had a sort of less typical independent voice studio, but one where you know, rock stars, but also lots of folks auditioning for master’s programs and folks and you know, professionals, music theater singers coming in to fix like one thing because something isn’t working or, and, you know, lifelong avocational, choral singers who sing for just the pure joy of it and who want to take voice lessons because they love singing, but they also still want to, you know, sing healthfully, and be able to have the endurance to sing until they don’t want to anymore, right, which will may never be a thing, they may always want to sing until the day they can no longer until they take their last breath. So all of those students, you know, I do feel that very strongly that I’ve worked with all of the same students that you know, that independent voice studio teacher works with a typical and also perhaps a little atypical as well, which, well, I February 2020, though, two weeks before the pandemic shut everything down here anyway, we shut down on the 13th of March, at the end of February was when I released my last few, sort of traditional or typical voice students, you know, my little sort of seven year old, I think she was seven at the time, she might have been eight, released her over, she was just getting an agent when I you know, like little Uber performance released her into for another teacher in the area to work with a couple of teams who are finishing their last year with me, I release them into other studios in the area, you know, doing their final exams, like their their level eight or level nine exams with me, I’ve released them into so all of those students, because I had started to work more and more with voice teachers, and not only on a one on one basis, but I had start I also started the vocal instrument one on one. So I was working with voice teachers and doing voiceped consults, and I was doing, you know, like, I would drop in on a lesson and you know, we would we work together with the student or or I observed your teaching. And, you know, let’s talk about how we’re teaching what we’re doing in the teaching. And so I was doing more and more of that work and really enjoying that. And I had developed the vocal instrument one on one, the online course, I was doing a lot of live training as well. And so I wanted to just kind of transition more into that role and into having the time because if you’re teaching 15-20 hours a week, you don’t have time to do this other stuff. Yes. I mean, you know, unless you don’t sleep, right, you just do, you don’t have time for that. So I wanted to transition more intentionally into creating resources for voice teachers and courses and classes. And then of course, the pandemic hit. And so that kind of really normalized for all of us the idea of getting continuing education online and working online and meeting and groups online. I mean, it really normalized to that. And so it took, I mean, I had been teaching over zoom for a little bit before that, and I am before that on Skype.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:22

Yes, yes.

Dr Shannon Coates  29:23

But that was, you know, like that was before that, but it wasn’t the primary thing that I did, but but I was working with teachers all over the world before the pandemic, you know, and that was the only way for them to, for me to work with them. But I have been thinking, you know, how will how will we create these sessions for voice teachers and how am I going to get, you know, 10 voice teachers into a hotel room in Toronto or whatever, like, I’m trying to think of all of these ways to kind of create a space for voice teachers to get together and work together. Yes. And then the pandemic hit and so that just, you know, like I said, is just more realized all of this work. So that’s that. I think it accelerated what I had already planned to do. But I really just accelerated it. I definitely first practicum. So I had a cohort of voice teachers working together for a month. And we met online. Obviously, we also did Markopolos, we did asynchronous work as well. I’m training and then teaching and training and eating June 2020. And so developing classes and courses as we went along. And so then that all kind of is culminating in the in the voice pedagogy degree, which will be coming in September. So October.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  30:39

Yes, some exciting work there. With the Vocal Instrument 101, which preceded what you’re doing now that you released that in 2018. So why did you feel the need for that? What did you feel was missing in the training that was out there? So it’s question number one. And where did you develop? Like, where did all the learning and the training come from that you package together to create this program?

Dr Shannon Coates  31:13

Yeah. So the first thing is that I felt strongly. I mean, I’ve been teaching undergraduate voice pin classes this whole time as well. So I’ve been teaching, I can’t remember when I first started, I think 2014, maybe I can’t remember now is when I first started to teach undergraduate voiceped classes, and those putting together that syllabus, putting together the information, what is the information that I think is most useful? For very beginning voice teachers? What what are the fundamental things you still need to know? Right? What are the things that are most useful? What do we need to know? What do I wish I had known when I first started teaching? And what do I wish I, you know, knew more about as I continue to teach, so those things all kind of came together. And also, so many of the things that were available to do either cost of bajillion dollars, or you had to stop, right or you had to stop your life and career put everything on hold, as you know, put everything on hold to go back to school, or it was made by academic teachers. And so the information that and it was a you know, it was it was made by people who had never taught a six year old in their lives are made by people who had never sung contemporary styles. And yes, and I don’t mean that they need to have a performance group. I mean, they actually need to know how to do it. And that I’ve experimented in the voice exactly, right?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  32:41

Yes, yeah. 

Dr Shannon Coates  32:42

So, and for folks who had never seen a musical, so like, so they didn’t have in the vast majority of our voiceped classes, especially in our western classical institutions and degrees are taught by folks who have been in an academia for a long time, which, that’s fine. I mean, it’s fine. But let’s just recognize then that probably what we’re doing in those classes is we’re not necessarily like, these are the things that you folks in academia think that we independent teachers need, so you’re telling me what I need, but it’s not exactly what I need. And he told me what I need, because I’ve actually done this.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:23

Yes, likewise. Yeah, likewise, yes. And I think one of the biggest differences too, which is I think we need to point out that most teachers in higher education, our teaching students who have auditioned for that program, and already have a certain high amount of skill level, whereas when you’re in independent teaching, you teach everybody you are in the trenches, and you’re dealing with many students who have never had a lesson don’t know anything about how the singing voice operates. And they want to sing what’s on the radio, they don’t want to sing in German. Yeah. It’s, it’s, like, almost like a different animal altogether.

Dr Shannon Coates  34:18

I absolutely agree. I mean, I and so I think that like part of what I was looking at with when I was creating the book vocal instrument 101 is a part of the reason that I decided to make it into an online course is that I was I was going around and giving the vocal instrument 101 like a three hour in some cases, 90 minutes, but usually a three hour session or intensive for requires and choral directors for church choirs. I was doing a request for a one on one I was doing it for you know do it for a group of voice teachers who would just like let’s all get together for for classroom educators. So I was doing, folks were asking me to come and do For this thing, sorry, let me just close that window a little. And folks were like, Okay, I did not know this information. I had no idea. This information, I did not know that, like pure vowels are not something that we you actually that that only pure battles, but then big quotes, yeah only applies to like western classical styles like the things that we do for pure vowels, like if you’re going for an oval shape, that’s not going to work in an upper belt sounds like it’s just not gonna work. So don’t ask, well, you know, like, so like so many things that folks just didn’t know that they didn’t know. And so, and there was nowhere else to kind of get that where I’m doing the I shouldn’t say there’s nowhere else there. Were there were other programs out there for sure. Yes, I think what I am doing specifically is making that’s unique to me is making a very clear delineation between, here’s what we learn in western classical singing. And here’s why we learn to do it that way. And here’s what you likely will have, you know, ingested if you will, because of what you learned. And here’s actually what is, and that’s terrific and all good. And here’s what is actually happening functionally in lots of other styles. And here’s why we can do these other styles. And here’s why we can do these things and these other styles. So there’s a sort of comparative there, which helps, I think, helps voice teachers to say, oh, that’s why my teacher always told me to do that thing. And that’s why I don’t need to do that with Oh, any of my students. Okay. Like, there’s so there’s this, you know, understanding of where we’ve come from, and what the western classical tradition kind of gives us as well as then there’s understanding of what’s going to actually be useful in an independent studio. And that wasn’t out there. I don’t think at least not in this kind of comprehensive accessible of Yes. When, when practical, and practical. Yeah. And useful and useful. Yeah. Immediately practical. Right. So that wasn’t out there. So that was–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:09

Do you feel that’s still the way now? Or do you feel that since, I mean, there’s so many online courses now. Do you think that learning has become far more accessible?

Dr Shannon Coates  37:22

I do think so. Yeah, I do think so. I think there and I think there are far more independent voice teachers out there doing voice pedagogy that is accessible and relevant for independent voice teachers. So I actually literally made a post about this last week where, you know, I think it’s wonderful. There are so many just over the pandemic, right, there are so many courses now that are available online, where you can go to a university, and get university degrees and do online courses. And that is fantastic. And at the same time, I would love for folks to just take a look at who is deciding what material is in that court, like just take a look at how society, right? Because if the folks who are saying, here’s what you need to know, in order to teach more effectively, and literally only taught 18 to 24 year olds western classical seeing for their whole career, it may not actually be information that you need to teach in masse, yes, it isn’t. I’m just saying may not be. And so you might want to look at other folks who who are out there who have terrific courses. I mean, you’ve got Dr. Dan,  over in your part of the world and the results I mean–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:40

Yeah, we have Queensland Conservatorium to this. I’m sitting in on their classes. I did that program in 2008. And I’m actually sitting in those classes again and doing what vocal pedagogy, one, and pedagogy and practicum one, this trimester, and I’ve loved it so much just going back to basics, because voice science is always changing, and we’re discovering new things and–

Dr Shannon Coates  39:09

So you have a book, I mean, you have a book as well. I mean, like, right, so like, that’s what I mean, like, if you’re looking for that continuing education, consider where the source is. And also speaking of sources, so I based my, in the beginning, I based my voice pick classes and the vocal instrument 101 was based largely on information from like Scott McCoy, and you know, some of those sort of contemporary voice in texts and you know, I’m savvy enough and I thought enough to be able to say like, Okay, thanks that information is not super relevant for independent voice teachers like or for contemporary singing, like that’s very specific what you’re talking about very specific to western classical singing, okay, so I was able to always be able to kind of do that work to say, here’s this and here’s this part. But there is a there is now. I mean, this is part of the reason I want to, I’m actually retiring the vocal instrument 101 because there’s nothing I’m retiring at this at the end of this month, in fact, so if you’re listening in May, the end of May. So not because there’s anything wrong in that information, per se. But there’s so much more that I would love to, like I would love to include and things that I want to explain in different ways and resources that I want to include that weren’t around in 2017 2018 when I was making it, so no, there’s so many more resources now. Yes. So and there’s so many more courses, too. So. Yeah. And then I also wanted to go do the voice pedagogy degrees, because then I get the chance to make it a little bit more living.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  40:55

Yeah. Yeah. So, with the independent studio teachers, a lot of that, like, for example, let’s just use me as an example, that I went into teaching as something because I was asked to teach, I had no intention of teaching. But I was asked to teach because I had a very big performance career. I was very well known. I was high profile where I lived. So I was asked to teach at quite a high level performance school never taught before, there would be a lot of teachers and I know there are that who have never had any formal training, like I had none who start teaching. And by the way, I did say no, to start with, because I didn’t feel I knew what I was doing. But they kept pushing and pushing till I said, Yes. So I ended up creating my own little program. But a lot of those teachers don’t have formal training as well. One, because I know from my self, that it was intimidating. It was, in one way, I would be going to an institution and saying, Here I am. I’m a singing teacher, and I know nothing. And that is really confronting, but I must know something because all my students are doing so well. And that a lot of them have very successful careers now. But with those teachers, what, what how do you find those teachers? Like, I didn’t, I wouldn’t have known where to look? And how do you let them know that your program exists? And what do you think that the things that are really important that you feel they should know?

Dr Shannon Coates  42:46

So, but I think so I think that’s part of the crux of it, as well. Versus so even even the folks, you know, I’ve worked with a lot of folks who, who do have a degree, or who have, you know, or who have a degree maybe in jazz versus, you know, western classical, or who have, but even folks who had a degree in western classical singing, still have that same level of like, I’m pretty sure I don’t know what I’m doing here. But let’s do this thing. And also, and I mean, we talked about this a little bit in our conversation as well. The vast majority of folks who come into independent voice studio teaching, are folks like yourself, who are either asked to do it, or folks who are, you know, I just had some kids and so like, like I did, right, so I just had a kid and I don’t want to go back to my nine to five and I want to do something that’s going to like fit in with my family. So I can read–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  43:46

All my performance career, I don’t want to go back.

Dr Shannon Coates  43:50

Exactly, or I can fit it in with my performance career. So we, the vast majority of us come into this thing, not as sort of, we it almost as a side gig. And I think that is changing as we talked about, I think that’s changing the attitudes toward it are changing, but coming to this as like a side gig, where we’re not treating it as a real career or real business, right? We don’t we don’t treat it that way necessarily. So then we also come in and say like, Okay, well, I’m just gonna teach what I how I was taught, right? Or I’m just gonna you know, just try to figure it out. Or maybe I’ll read a voice head text or something. I don’t know. Right? So we come into that that’s like one of my favorite teachers to work with on in the whole wide world. Because those teachers are all of us honestly. But we but we have this you know, I love this thing. I love what I’m doing. I have a feeling I’m not so I’m not as good as at it as I could be or uh not serving my students as well as I could be right like You’re like my students are successful they’re doing I mean they’re not I’m not hurting anyone. You know, blah, blah, blah. But I think I’m maybe not as I’m not as efficient in teachings, I could be epic, maybe you know. So those those teachers I just love and one of the, you know, and I think we are also, so many of us walking this tightrope of like, I really want some validation here, because I’m not sure that I’m doing what I need to do. But at the same time, I’m pretty good at this actually, like, I must be on some level pretty good at this. So what are the things that I think are important? I think the very basic thing, and I think you maybe wouldn’t be–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:36

It’s okay, just, you can just say it all. It’s all good. I like controversy on my show. Everyone, everyone can have a voice on my show. No judgment, or biases are left atthe door.

Dr Shannon Coates  45:55

Love it. Well, and then folks who may not be as successful as they could be, or as efficient at teaching as they could be. I don’t–I hate you’re a good teacher or a bad teacher? It’s not good or bad. It’s how efficient are you? How successful do you feel you are by your parameters? What parameters are you using to judge success? And how successful are you by your parameters? Not by anybody else’s? You know, judgment of success? And and how does it feel for you? And how does it feel for your community or Studio Community? So that by those parameters, if you’re not feeling as successful as you could be, I think that the teachers who aren’t as successful as they could be those are the teachers who are not staying open and curious, and, you know, asking questions, and, and having basic philosophical, whether they’ve articulated or not, but how does basic philosophical idea that everyone can sing, and everyone can sing better, and everyone has the right to be heard, and everyone and I want to support folks, so they can be heard in whatever way I can, however I can. So I think that those teachers are going to be successful no matter what, yes, right. And I think those teachers will attract again, I think you’ll attract the students who you will work with best. Maybe not right at the beginning, when you’re like taking whoever walks through the door, because you need the money. So that’s fine. But once in a little while, you may then start to attract that you will likely then start to attract the students who you’re going to work best with. I think that every teacher has something to offer. I don’t think that there are good or bad teachers, right. And I don’t care whether you have a degree, I don’t care whether you play piano, I don’t care whether you have performance career, I don’t care. Like I couldn’t care less about any of those things. I really, fundamentally care that you care, and that you have a philosophy around supporting people to find their voice and to be heard. That is what that if you don’t have that, then I might say then you’re a bad teacher. In that case, I might say, Yeah, we’re not a good teacher. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:14

Yeah. Yes, well, not only not like, yep, fair enough. You are a bad teacher, but you’re a bad person. If you–shame on you. We all have a right to be heard.

Dr Shannon Coates  48:32

Agree, agree.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:33

You know, when you start silencing people, and this is a question I wanted to ask you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  48:43

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of A Voice and Beyond. I hope you enjoyed it, as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth, and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow, so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag #AVoiceAndBeyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple Podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway. Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of A Voice and Beyond.

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