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Independent Voices

NATS gives special emphasis toward advancing the work of our independent studio teachers, who comprise more than half of the NATS family of members. A key resource for studio voice professionals are the “Independent Voices” articles, which appear in the semi-annual Inter Nos e-newsletter. We invite you to read our recent articles, offering practical solutions for non-university, independent studios and inspiring success stories of our entrepreneurial members. 

Have questions about running your voice studio or tips you'd like to share?
Our "Independent Voices" Associate Editor Cynthia Vaughn would love to hear from you. 

Call for Submissions
Short articles on relevant topics are being accepted for inclusion in the "Independent Voices" section of Inter Nos, as well as on this web page. Submissions should be sent by email to .

 Click HERE for more about NATS newsletters.

Spring 2021 Fall 2020 Spring 2020 Fall 2019 Spring 2019 Fall 2018 Spring 2018 Fall 2017  

Spring 2017 Fall 2016  Spring 2016  Fall 2015  Spring 2015  Fall 2014

Spring 2021

Art Sticks Better to Dirty Windows

by Cynthia Vaughn
Inspiration comes when and how you least expect it. Last December, I learned a great life and business lesson from a local window sign painter. I had seen artist Alicia Michaliszyn’s handiwork on some other small business windows around town and admired her skill, colors, and bold designs. With our studio parking lot empty due to COVID business restrictions, our commercial building looked closed even though we were open for online lessons. So, I hired Alicia to paint the studio’s large arched picture windows that face a busy intersection. READ MORE

Grand Rapids Voice Collective: A New Model for Collaborative Multi-Teacher Studios

by Cynthia Vaughn
NATS members Elizabeth Barry and Corie Auger began collaborating as teachers in 2018 before officially founding Grand Rapids Voice Collective in 2020. They had a vision to create “an inclusive vocal community for singers where their voices are always heard and encouraged.” By combining their skill sets Auger and Barry created something together greater than they ever imagined as individuals. READ MORE

Braving the Belt: My Journey from Classically Trained Teacher to Musical Theatre Pedagogue

by Rita N. Gentile
I come from a pretty stereotypical big Italian family. We grew up thinking there was only one “right way” to do things and were always under the protective watchful eye of an adult. There was a series of bushes about four houses down from ours, which served as the boundary line we were not allowed to cross when venturing outside on bikes or to play. My brother and I would meet new friends at school and be floored if they didn’t see their grandparents every day, or have an elaborate buffet packed in their lunch boxes. What do you mean you don’t go to Catholic mass every Sunday? It was even more shocking when we hit our teen years and discovered that not every family listens to Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, or “Ave Maria” on repeat while driving in the car. READ MORE

On the Horizon: A Look Ahead for One Independent Studio

by Dana Lentini
NATS member Dana Lentini was a panelist for the February 25, 2021 NATS YouTube webinar — On the Horizon: A Look Ahead for Independent Studios in the Second Half of 2021. In addition to her live comments in the panel discussion, she shared these personal thoughts with Inter Nos. READ MORE

Fall 2020

TRANSITIONS: More Than Music: An Interview with Deanna Maio

by Cynthia Vaughn
Adaptability takes many different forms and we are all in this together but not the same. As the reality of the COVID-19 crisis set in in March, some voice teachers turned to technology. Some turned to creating content — writing, researching, updating websites and resumes. Some voice teachers turned on the TV and baked sourdough bread to wait out the pandemic. (We’re still waiting.) Some voice teachers turned into caregivers or turned to self-care. Sadly, some independent voice studio owners, turned the lights off and walked away. Still other voice teachers made a decision early on that they would find creative ways to thrive during a pandemic, not just survive. NATS Independent Voices editor Cynthia Vaughn recently interviewed Deanna Maio, owner and director of Confident Voice Studio in Portland, Oregon. READ MORE

Spring 2020

How I Met My Mentor: Meribeth (Bunch) Dayme
(April 20, 1938 – October 28, 2019)

by Cynthia Vaughn
I don’t recall exactly when I first met the esteemed voice pioneer Meribeth Bunch online in the 1990s, but it was in the early days of the VocaList Listserv, a dedicated electronic mailing list for classical singers that was a forerunner of today’s forums. In VocaList I recognized the name of Meribeth Bunch, PhD from my graduate school pedagogy text, Dynamics of The Singing VoiceREAD MORE

Sing for Your Lives

by Graham Anduri and Stefanie Kavas Anduri
As musicians, we constantly seek answers to questions about our place in society. Why do we make music? What do we contribute to the world? Why is music important? How do we advocate for music education? What is the purpose of music in our lives, and in our society? As professional singers and professors of voice, we both have known somewhere deep in our souls that music held great importance for us, and for the world, but verbalizing how and why was another matter. It has taken us a long time to identify just why music is so crucial. READ MORE

Fall 2019

What We’re Talking About: Facebook Groups
Just Between You, Me and 9,000 People

by Cynthia Vaughn, Associate Editor, “Independent Voices"
There is an interesting and inevitable shift happening in Social Media. Have you noticed that while Facebook groups for voice teachers and voice professionals continue to grow and proliferate, our teen and young adult voice students have mostly abandoned Facebook for Instagram. Marketing experts agree that Instagram attracts younger users because it is more mobile friendly, has better discovery through unlimited hashtags, and is generally considered a much more positive place than Facebook.  READ MORE

TRANSITIONS: Jonathan Pilkington—A Tenor Travels

by Jonathan Pilkington
NATS member Jonathan Pilkington’s life-long love of travel and singing inspired him to start his own business as a travel advisor, Pilkington Travel, LLC, with an emphasis on travel for musicians and music lovers. READ MORE

Space for Sound: Applying Vocal Music Pedagogy to Performance Art Practice

by Jocelyn Beausire
Similar to many children, my first experiences with the voice came in the form of free play, vocalizing and mimicry. My voice was a tool in its purest (and least polished) form, and it had wide applications beyond genre, style, and even the definition of “music.” For example, I vividly remember imitating (with the same dedication) my mother’s singing voice, the chirping and screaming of the great apes on Animal Planet, and the instruments in the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” without recognizing any difference between the relative musicality of the sources. READ MORE

Looking Both Ways and Crossing at The Light (Or How I Fell in Love with Traffic Light Man)

by Cynthia Vaughn
One of the unexpected delights of the Summer 2019 Inaugural NATS Transatlantic Vocal Pedagogy Exchange Trip to Germany was the discovery of East Germany’s iconic Ampelmann (traffic light man). Ampelmann (also known as the diminutive Ampelmänchen—little traffic light man) was designed in 1961 by traffic psychologist (yes, that’s a career) Karl Peglau to have different shapes so that pedestrians with red/green color blindness could safely cross roads. READ MORE

International Ambassador in South Korea: Observations and Reflections

by Laurissa Backlin, DMA
South Korea has a rich musical culture and history. Many of its classical musicians have won prestigious international competitions, and K-pop (Korean pop) groups have become household icons all over the world. Additionally, traditional Kugak music has roots from well before the 20th century. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that South Korea has several excellent university music departments. READ MORE

A High Tide Raises All Boats: Creating Collaborative Opportunities Between Independent Studios in Your Neighborhood

by Carol Perry, with Dana Lentini and Jessica Fielderby Deanna Maio
When I logged onto my very first NATS Chat in February 2018, I had no idea what to expect. The evening’s subject was Independent Studio Teachers, which intrigued me for two reasons: first, I was pleased to see NATS engaging with my particular demographic, and second, since this was specific to my Michigan district, I wanted to make friends. READ MORE

Spring 2019

Transitions: Are You Ready for a Virtual Assistant? 10 ways studio owners and voice teachers can benefit from a VA

by Deanna Maio
Let’s face it. If you are an independent teacher or studio owner, your time and money are worth more when you are able to concentrate on what you do best. But when it’s just you, you’ve got to do it all. READ MORE

What We’re Talking About: Social Media Groups—Do I Go or Do I Stay? The 12 Groups Rule

by Cynthia Vaughn
Social media groups for voice teachers are a blessing and a curse. On one hand, closed voice teacher groups allow a mostly open forum for a wide variety of voice- related topics. READ MORE

Studio Management: Drop-in Lesson Sharing for Cancellations

by Cynthia Vaughn
One of the biggest challenges for independent studio teachers, especially during cold and flu season, is how to avoid cancellations while keeping sickness out of your studio. READ MORE

Rethinking NATS Chapter Events as Business Travel Professional Development

by Cynthia Vaughn
Stop thinking of your NATS Chapter as “local.” Unlike my local MTNA chapter that meets monthly in my neighborhood, just five minutes from my studio, my NATS Chapter is not local. In fact, my NATS Chapter moves from location to location from event to event. It’s not local or convenient at all. And that is a very good thing for professional development. READ MORE

Fall 2018

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor - The Joy of Not Doing It All

by Cynthia Vaughn
Happy New Year! No, I haven’t got the wrong calendar page. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that September is really the start of a new year. As we say goodbye to a summer that hopefully included some rest and recreation, we reboot our studios and reimagine our goals. READ MORE

TRANSITIONS: Re-evaluating Risk and Readiness

by Christin Coffee Rondeau
When are you ready–really ready–to begin your life’s work? To take the step that you don’t think you’re ready to take right now because you think you don’t have enough degrees, certifications, or experience? READ MORE

Eyes on the Horizon

by Brian Manternach
Since winters in the mountain west can be long, I try to take every opportunity possible to get out in the warm air and sunshine once summer arrives. With numerous lakes and reservoirs nearby, I have recently taken up kayaking as a way to clear my mind while enjoying nature and the outdoors. READ MORE

Getting the Most Out of Your NATS Membership

by Nancy Bos
What is the role that NATS plays in your life? Could it do more? We are all equal and important parts of the NATS family, but do we all get the same benefit? We have all invested the income from a few hours of work to pay annual
dues, and filled out the application forms at the beginning of our membership. For some that is the extent of their commitment to NATS. For others that is the tiny tip of the iceberg of what they give to and receive from NATS. But no matter where we fall on that spectrum, the benefits and opportunities of membership are all available to all of us. Those benefits are so numerous it is hard for anyone to be aware of them all! READ MORE

What We’re Talking About: Student Performance Venues

by Cynthia Vaughn
One of the biggest challenges for most independent voice studios is the lack of a dedicated performing space for student concerts. When I had my first home studio, my solution was simply not to hold student recitals. After all, I rationalized, my students already had plenty of performing opportunities at school, church, community theater, and NATS Student Auditions. Right? And it takes a lot of time, money, and organization to coordinate a student recital, and who has time to bake cookies for the reception? Over the years, I have realized the importance and value of planning regular student recitals: READ MORE

Spring 2018

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor - Running on Empty: 12 Tiny Changes

by Cynthia Vaughn
I recently purchased a new car and was amazed at all of the bells, whistles, and safety features that come standard. One of my favorite high-tech features is the FUEL RANGE INDICATOR that tells me how much farther I can go before I roll to a stop.... It would be very helpful to have a FUEL RANGE INDICATOR for my life. Like many of my colleagues I often keep going and going until I run out of mental and physical fuel. READ MORE

‘A Spectrum of Voices’: Then and now

by Cynthia Vaughn
In an interview article, longtime NATS member Elizabeth L. Blades talks about her much-anticipated update to the classic A Spectrum of Voices: Prominent American Voice Teachers Discuss the Teaching of
Singing. “It’s the best advice from some of the best teachers” of today and previous generations. The second edition was released in 2017. READ MORE

Diversity and inclusion in the independent studio: Welcoming all voices

by S. Rebeqa Rivers
S. Rebeqa Rivers is a Seattle-based educator and researcher specializing in the contemporary music industry and the intersections of student identity and arts education. She states, “Voice teachers encounter an incredibly broad spectrum of students. We are responsible to welcome students with whom we don’t have much in common -- or at the very least, to respect their goals and refer them accordingly.”  READ MORE

TRANSITIONS: Alter Egos—Secret Lives of Singers

by Cynthia Vaughn
It is not uncommon for singers and voice teachers to have “side hustles” in other fields or music-related jobs such as choir director and music director. More surprising is when colleagues who are well-known for vocal performance and pedagogy, become equally prominent in an unrelated tandem career. READ MORE

What We’re Talking About: Boundaries and Lesson Rates

by Cynthia Vaughn
Type the word “boundaries” in the search feature of any of the social media forums for independent voice teachers and you will find more results than you could possibly read in an evening…. If you teach long enough, you will have encountered most of these issues and many more…. It is up to YOU, however, the teacher and business owner, to establish your own ground rules. Here are some comments from popular forums. READ MORE

Fall 2017

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor - Who’s on First? What’s on Second?

by Cynthia Vaughn
When I lead workshops on the logistics of starting an independent voice studio, many future teachers want to start with “Where?” I suggest, like the famous Abbot and Costello comic skit “Who’s on First!” and “What’s on Second!” Before deciding on a location for teaching, first ask yourself who you want to teach and what you want to teach. READ MORE

TRANSITIONS: Learning to Fly

by Nancy Bos
"I’ve been teaching for over 20 years now - this is not exceptional. If one lives long enough and has career stability,
teaching for over 20 or 30 years is not so much a bragging right as it is a fact of life. One benefit of age is the chance to look back and see what my journey has been so far, and what I see is not, 'Gosh, I’ve been doing the SAME thing for over 20 years! - Ugh.' When I look back, I actually see a Modes of Transportation diagram." READ MORE

Don’t Call Them Seniors:The Joy of Teaching Older Adult Singers

by Cynthia Vaughn
"In our youth-centric society, it is good to remember that some of the most interesting people you will ever meet
were alive long before you were born.... I love working with older adult singers! I learn as much from them as they learn from me.While there is no typical older adult student, allow me to introduce you to a few." READ MORE

Energy in the Voice Studio

by Meribeth Dayme, Ph.D.
What do you want your students to feel and sense when they enter your teaching space? Have you set intent for, or dedicated your teaching space? What thoughts do you place there on a regular basis? How you answer these questions will set the tone of any space or area in which you teach. READ MORE 

Yes, They Are Ready: Teaching Very Young Singers
An interview with Nikki Loney, Founder of The Full Voice

NATS member Nikki Loney believes that young children of all abilities can greatly benefit from introductory vocal music lessons. Nikki’s mission (or “evil agenda”) is to encourage more teachers to open up their teaching studios to young singers. READ MORE

What We’re Talking About: Pets in the Voice Studio

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (APPA). So it stands to reason that a number of those pets live in homes that double as voice studios. NATS Inter Nos editor Cynthia Vaughn asked some NATS members via email and online forums to talk about the positives and negatives of musical pets. READ MORE

NATS Chat: Growing or Redefining Your Independent Voice Studio as a Small Business, Part 2
Sponsored by Inside View Press

As a follow-up to last Spring’s NATS Chat "Starting and Running Your Independent Voice Studio as a Small Business,” Cynthia Vaughn explores “What’s Next?”—ideas and alternate business models to expand, redefine, or refocus your studio. Cynthia is joined by NATS members Nate Plummer and Michelle Markwart Deveaux. WATCH VIDEO

Spring 2017

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor - Student Privacy in the Age of Oversharing

by Cynthia Vaughn
"Today’s technology makes it extremely easy to record and film, well… everything. While the technology is a boon for professional artists seeking an audience and marketing their music, it can be a dilemma in the voice studio." READ MORE

TRANSITIONS: From Retirement to Teaching Voice in the United Arab Emirates

by Dr. Sherri Weiler, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
"As the university’s website says, American University of Sharjah is “strategically placed between the Far East and the West, between Africa and Asia,” making this a great place to experience a quadrant of the world I’d only once visited briefly before accepting this position." READ MORE

What We’re Talking About: Self Care for Studio Teachers

by Cynthia Vaughn
As a follow up to Kate Butler’s research article in the Journal of Singing “Mindful Voice” column, NATS Inter Nos editor Cynthia Vaughn asked the voice teacher social media forums about self-care. READ MORE

Transitions: A Singer’s Journey to Health - The Mirrored Wall

by Shauna Fallihee
Shauna Fallihee is a soprano and voice teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and was a participant in the 2012 NATS Intern Program. As we define ourselves as singers, teachers and musicians, Shauna explores how true identity is found in the motivation behind our actions: the why behind the what. READ MORE

NATS Chat: Starting and Running Your Independent Voice Studio as a Small Busines, Part 1
Sponsored by Inside View Press

NATS Chat guest Cynthia Vaughn led the topic "Starting and Running Your Independent Voice Studio as a Small Business," while addressing dozens of questions and comments from participants. Cynthia serves as the "Independent Voices" associate editor of NATS' "Inter Nos" newsletter. NATS Chat sessions are free, thanks to sponsorship by Inside View Press, and hosted by Dr. Kari Ragan. WATCH VIDEO 

Fall 2016

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor

New associate editor for independent teachers, Cynthia Vaughn, is excited and honored to continue the vision of her predecessor, Nancy Bos. In this column she introduces a new series of articles, "Transitions," which will spotlight the variety of challenges that voice professionals encounter in their own career transitions. READ MORE

Transitions: From Private Studio to Community Music School

by Sharon Szymanski, Chapel Hill School of Musical Arts
Read about the journey of a teacher whose "labor of love" now instructs more than 400 students. READ MORE

Transitions: From the Big City to the Suburbs - Goodbye Broadway, Hello Charleston

An interview with master teacher Stephanie Samaras
In 2015 Stephanie traded a successful voice studio in Manhattan's historic Upper West Side for a private voice studio over her garage in the suburbs of Charleston, South Carolina. READ MORE

Finding My Tribe

by Sheila Townsend, 2016 Joan Frey Boytim Independent Teacher Award Recipient
Reflecting on her experiences at the NATS 2016 national conference, Sheila is proud of the programs she is developing as an independent teacher and likes being a resource to other teachers. READ MORE

The Four Agreements for Independent Voice Teachers

by Cynthia Vaughn, Inter Nos Associate Editor
Stories of bad behavior abound among voice teachers. To counter the negative energy, it is part of a teacher's job to educate parents, students and colleagues in business etiquette, as well as to set expectations. READ MORE

Spring 2016

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor

by Nancy Bos, Independent Teacher Associate Editor 
Nancy talks about the benefits gained from taking the initiative to create community among your local voice teachers. READ MORE

Vocal Retraining of Problem Voices

by Arlene McIntyre
Based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Arlene has worked successfully with singers who have problem voices. READ MORE

Training the Transgender Singer: Finding the Voice Inside

by Shelagh Davies
Many singing teachers are now meeting a relatively new but rapidly expanding group of voice students - those who are transgender. READ MORE

Perspectives from a Teen Singer

by Akemi Takahashi
Music educators recognize that the power and influence of music can have a profound impact on people of all ages. However, a common topic of controversy among voice teachers is the age at which a child should be accepted into the studio as a student. READ MORE

Fall 2015

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor

by Nancy Bos, Independent Teacher Associate Editor 
For the Independent Teacher, the internet makes nearly every task we do, aside from working with students, outsourceable with a few clicks, from scheduling and billing to answering emails. READ MORE

Staying on Track: Vocal Use Points Tracker

by Theresa Brancaccio
As a voice teacher at the university level, I have become acutely aware of how balancing the demands of elite vocal training, academics, and life in general is a challenge and an acquired skill... It is easy to forget that the singer’s voice does double duty as a utilitarian tool of communication and as a highly refined musical instrument capable of deep artistic expression. READ MORE

Should I Post My Rates on My Website?

by Wendy Stevens, M.M., MCTM
Though this is an important question that any independent voice teacher should ask, the answer to this question is unfortunately not an easy “Yes” or “No.” Posting or not posting are both good ideas, so examining the pros and cons of each way is important in deciding how best to attract the students that you desire. READ MORE

The Road from Voice Teacher to Producer

by Ron Browning
Somewhere in the beginning of this last decade or two of my career as a voice teacher, I ventured down an exciting path. The journey has brought me up to my next level as a teacher, and I now find myself wearing two new hats—vocal producer and record producer. READ MORE

Lessons In Congeniality

by Diana McCullough
All of us, whether in private studios, community music schools, colleges, universities, or conservatories, can give ourselves the gift of collegiality.” READ MORE

Spring 2015

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor

by Nancy Bos, Independent Teacher Associate Editor 
It’s time to start saving for the National conference.... This time it is going to be different. Here is my secret – have you seen this before? I can’t take credit for coming up with it, but I am super excited to share it. READ MORE

I’ve Got a Golden Ticket

by Vanessa Jump Nelson
Most days of the week, I have the shortest commute of anyone. I take a single step through the door from my house to my voice studio and am instantly ready to teach. On Fridays, however, my commute to teach is a bit more unusual. The drive to the airport is about 13 miles and takes 30 minutes. I do my pre-flight inspection, open my hangar doors, and push my yellow 1946 J-3 Cub into the sunshine. READ MORE

Sick and Singing

by Susan Andes Brizick
You have a full performance schedule and things are going great, la la la laaaah...oh boy, I’m sick. What do you do if you find yourself sick? Despite our best efforts to stay healthy, sometimes we do catch that cold. READ MORE

My Little Private Impostor Syndrome

by Martine Bron
When asked to describe my life journey, I inevitably get the same reactions. In short, “Whoa, you’re a singer, and a voice teacher, and you’ve been living in three different countries in the last 15 years… you must be good at what you do.” The shortcuts people take…  READ MORE

Vocal Cord Injuries and Identity Development in the Young Singer: The Role of a Mentor

by Katie Becker
In September of my senior year of high school, singing – once one of my greatest passions – became the source of the most intense identity crisis I experienced as a teenager. I was diagnosed with a vocal cord pseudo-cyst that effectively halted my once-zealous participation in voice lessons, choirs, and competitions...  READ MORE

Fall 2014

From the "Independent Voices" Associate Editor - NATS Family Legacy

by Nancy Bos, Independent Teacher Associate Editor
We are part of a family. In fact you and your studio are a branch on the family tree that grew from rootstock 70 years ago. Even before that, our legacy started as a subgroup of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) in 1906. READ MORE

A Listening Ear

by Sally Palmer
Last winter a student arrived at her lesson in tears. I asked her what was wrong and with a choked voice she said, “I didn’t want to come to piano lessons today but my mom told me I had to.” READ MORE

Success - By Whose Definition?

by Sharon Buck
As a teacher and performer from my own hard earned experience, looking through the narrow glass of success and failure is limiting thinking and will not serve us or our students. Our students’ lives are busier than ever and one has to ask “what’s it all for?” READ MORE

Time To Face The Music: Reality Check for Senior Singers & Their Teachers

by Sangeetha Rayapati
Slowly but surely, voice teachers across the globe are consistently turning their attention toward Senior Singers; those in retirement, generally over 60 years old. Baby boomers have “aged up” and are taking up new studies or continuing their study of singing. Choirs are forming that cater to the senior singer. READ MORE

Choir Hazards

by Kara Quello
I love choir! I started singing in Sunday School choir as early as I can remember and at age 10 I decided that I wanted to attend Pacific Lutheran University so I could sing in The Choir of the West, which I eventually did. READ MORE

My Summer With NATS: Intern Amanda Zasada

by Amanda Zasada
My time in the office began in June, a mere one month before the national conference. I jumped head first into the conference preparations, and soon the immense depth of work which goes into a conference was revealed to me. READ MORE