Q. What are the services that you offer to your clients? Do you plan your lessons according to their goals and needs?
A. Voice Instruction (projecting with ease a rich, soft to powerful voice throughout a wide range), Singing Accurately on Pitch, Optional: Sight Reading Music, Tutoring in Basic Musical Skills, Harmony, and Improvisation.
Q. What are some of the major challenges that you have met, and successfully resolved?
A. One student had been prescribed pills for pain in his throat that he had been taking for nine years before beginning lessons! He is now off the pills and even speaks with a deeper, more resonant, much nicer sounding voice than he ever dreamed he had.
Helped beginning students with trouble even matching a pitch, but who now sing accurately in tune with confidence, a vastly improved range, and a beautifully rich and full voice. Also greatly improved the pitch accuracy in advanced students who had mild problems with singing accurately in tune.
Helped develop solidity and richness in the lower range that was previously breathy rather than solid, smooth, and full. Improved ease so singing became relatively effortless. Have trained students ranging from beginning children to adult professionals who have sung with major ensembles in Europe, Latin America, and the United States.
Q. What advice do you have for anyone looking for a good voice teacher?
A. Make sure the teacher under consideration understands vocal function and anatomy well enough to effectively address whatever specific problems a student may be having. Ensure the teacher can understand what a voice is doing physically from the sound it produces. You can't see inside the voice, but you can learn to hear what's off and needs correction. On hearing a student sing, without making a sound Robert feels in his own voice what the student is doing inside physically, whether it’s a problem or what's physically correct inside and needs positive reinforcement. Although it is desirable but not necessary that the student understand the technical details of good vocal function intellectually, a skilled voice teacher absolutely must!
Musicians who simply teach songs can't do this and shouldn't be teaching voice. Merely teaching songs is not teaching voice. Neither does simply being an active performer necessarily mean a professional singer, including any who sing extremely well, truly understands how his/her voice is functioning or how to teach others to do the same.
Many voice teachers build their careers on talented students who have such strong intuition and physical empathy that after years of study they’ve finally learned to copy what the teacher is doing. Such people are the very easiest to teach, however. The unfortunate result is that neither the teacher nor the student ultimately knows what they’re doing. This is very fragile, easily lost knowledge that is often corrupted over time by grueling performance demands.
Real teaching skill comes from experience with the most challenging students. A truly skilled voice teacher learns much more from the challenging students than from the most talented ones. When such a teacher then applies this experience to highly gifted students, they progress with amazing speed. A teacher who has the skills to train even the most challenging students doesn’t need to build a reputation based on exceptional student talent.
A good teacher knows how to listen for healthy, efficient vocal function and not just go for a "nice sound". The goal should be to optimize functionally the interface between vocal anatomy and the laws of aerodynamics and acoustics that govern the generation and propagation of sound from the larynx out into the hall. When the best vocal traditions and modern voice science are correctly understood, they illuminate and reinforce each other. The student doesn't necessarily have to understand all the technical details, but the best teachers certainly do!
Q. Is there anything specific that is special or unique about your approach to teaching voice?
A. Correct habits naturally generate ease, comfort, feel good to the body and sound good to the ear. Mr. Wendell addresses bad habits such as wasting effort on the wrong muscles or using muscles that directly interfere with good singing. He often has the student do something very specific that is physically incompatible with the negative habit. This reliably reveals to the student’s direct experience new possibilities for ease, comfort, and vocal beauty that the student never knew were possible.
Robert also uses specific patterns of vocal function that productively constrain the voice toward an optimum adjustment. This leads the student into a close enough ballpark around the ideal so that the student notices how good it feels to sing well and spontaneously starts to make even finer adjustments.
Students are encouraged to quit worrying about trying to make their voices sound good. Instead the student learns to focus on enjoying what happens when s/he innocently follows clear instructions. The result sounds good to the ear and feels good to the body. Enjoying what’s already working much better naturally gravitates toward what is still better and away from what is worse.
The better it gets, the closer the ideal and the more spontaneously attractive it naturally becomes. We call this the principle of increasing charm. This principle leads spontaneously to much finer coordination than any intellectual understanding alone could ever duplicate. It is this subtle human element that makes the art of singing truly artful!