ROBIN COTTON-COBB

VOCAL COACH / INSTRUCTOR

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY HOME / PHILOSOPHY

My concept of teaching and learning is based in the philosophy that each voice is as unique and diverse as each individual student. I believe in a strong classical bel canto foundation for singing any vocal styles and genres. The same as Shakespeare strengthens contemporary theater and ballet is foundational for all types of dance. Just as there are multiple facets to each individual, the voice of each student is also multifaceted and a teacher must be able to figure out how each student learns and will assimilate. We all have different ways of learning and grasping concepts. I choose to not use a lot of vague imagery in my teaching (however if I feel it is the best way a student will learn a certain concept then I will use it) but I prefer to stick to concrete descriptions of musculature and the vocal apparatus. I try to stay away from very scientific vocal pedagogy since I am not a vocal scientist however I do have an MM in vocal pedagogy and I do believe in not only teaching singers to sing but also mentoring them to have at least a basic understanding of their instrument and how it functions so that they can become good teachers as well as singers. I feel that we all become better singers ourselves as we teach and relay what we do ourselves to our students.

I also believe that having an acute audio awareness of the correct sound is crucial; so in addition to being able to see what a singer is or is not doing one must also have an accurate ear and know how to identify and fix vocal problems accurately based on what we see and hear. I stay current by attending as many professional performances, teaching workshops and masterclasses in all genres of voice from opera and traditional musical theater to contemporary MT and contemporary Christian and CCM styles. I am very collaborative and I frankly learn from those with whom I collaborate with. I currently sing in all these styles myself after having taught them for the past 17 years as well as teach them.

My teaching philosophy as I have stated is unique to each voice and personality. I completely believe that the mind, body and voice are joined as one to produce not just good but great singers. Thus teaching the whole voice and understanding the whole person is essential. I have found this to be very crucial when teaching young collegiate level women in particular. There are some psychological barriers that plague our young people currently that I feel directly inhibits the correct use of the breath in singing. I have developed a unique approach by simply talking to them about their speaking voices and breathing for life habits; although some experts believe breathing for singing is very different than for singing I disagree. I believe the essence and use of free airflow inhalation and exhalation while speaking and singing is very similar. I will usually address the support system and breath first with a young singer getting a strong foundational grasp with simple breathing excersises and basic vocalizes that will facilitate future development of the voice.

My teaching method has been successful especially in producing a singer that basically can sing any genre. I believe very strongly that in order to be a professional singer these days one must be able to healthfully sing any genre. I am known as a "crossover" teacher and I whole heartedly believe in classical foundation for musical theater singers and that classical singers should have at least a basic understanding of how to sing musical theater and some contemporary styles correctly so that they don't just sound like an opera singer trying to sing musical theater. There are some very specific tools that a singer will need to develop to sing all genres and I believe that I give them those tools.

In conclusion I treat each voice individually and am not interested in helping to produce "cookie cutter" singers. I think that the audience wants to hear variety and each singer's voice can be different in color, timbre, size and projection. I simply cherish the uniqueness of each voice and help each singer find their own unique healthfully produced sound. I might coach a singer in many different ways in order for them to find that sound; and I feel as a teacher I am collaborative with each student and help them find THAT unique sound that is freely produced. I often ask the singer how does that sound feel because I want them to develop along with muscle memory an aesthetic hearing and feeling for that freely produced unique sound. I have been quite successful with these methods and my students continue to be working professionals and competition winners in both the classical and musical worlds and I am very proud of their successes.