Whether you specialize in teaching youth or are totally terrified to take on their young and ever-changing voices (and hormones!), our own Becca Marie Denli will help us learn more about the best ways to teach them in her IVACON…
Today we are continuing our meet the Founding Members series, with Jeffrey Skouson, our newly elected CEO and Master Teacher:
What’s your musical background?
I had a pretty solid music education as a child. Music is part of my family’s heritage, and my parents were driven to produce musicians. 4 of the 7 children in my home became either professional or highly-involved musicians. Every morning we woke up to Brahms, Bach, Beethoven or Handel being played on the old Sears stereo in the living room. That’s probably why I didn't gravitate towards classical music as a singer!!
Any other musical training aside from voice?
We had two pianos in the house and they were going all the time. Both of my parents loved good music, and my father had a beautiful lyric tenor voice. I began performing quite young, and traveled a lot in my teens. It wasn't until I was about 19 years old that it finally dawned on me that I was a musician.
Each of us was required to study piano in my home. I was horrible at it, and could not play to save my life. When I became a voice teacher about 25 years ago, I had to learn all over again. I'm not a great pianist, nonetheless I'm a pretty functional accompanist, and can sight -read pretty well. One of my brothers went on to conduct on Broadway.... he’s the real pianist.
I played clarinet in the band in school for about 10 years. Group singing was a big part of our lives growing up. Learning to read parts and take music apart was part of my upbringing. Getting involved in pop music was frustrating for me because so few pop singers read or play. That was my foundation. In the Musical Theater world, you learned to read music.
Do you only teach voice lessons?
I only teach voice lessons now. I have taught piano in the past, but didn't feel it was my gift.
Where have you taught?
I have taught all over the world with many opportunities to work with marvelous musicians in many countries. Mostly I teach in my studio in Las Vegas. About 60 percent of my students are online.
What's your favorite part of being a voice teacher?
My favorite part of being a voice teacher is the challenge that each new voice brings to me. A very good friend of mine told me years ago that he wanted to teach 1,000 different voices that year. At the time I thought he was crazy. Now I see the wisdom. Dealing with so many vocal issues is the only way to become successful as a voice teacher. While it’s impossible to be all things to all singers in all situations, the great voice teachers never stop learning. This has been a very powerful tool for me over the years. I'm still collecting new ways to solve old problems. I hope I will never have all the answers.
What is your vision for IVA as CEO?
My vision for IVA is simple. I want each of our teachers to feel welcomed and powerful in this new organization, and, to know that they matter...that they count. I want this organization to not simply be inclusive...which is a dangerous principle.... but to be open. The word “Institute” is a very powerful word. In its simplest form it means an organization that has a particular objective. Our organization has the objective to produce the best voice teachers in the world. To do so takes great amounts of effort on the parts of our teachers. Some will be successful, and some will fail. If a teacher is willing to listen and learn, they will be successful. Humility on all our parts is part of that process. We encourage all to join us in this prospect, but we highly encourage each to come with a heart set on learning and adding to that which they may already possess.
Any words of wisdom for budding singing teachers out there?
My advice to new young teachers is simply to TEACH!! Start today...get going. It will NEVER be easier than it is today. Find joy in the journey. Make lots of mistakes...and OWN them!! Revel in the fact that you're not supposed to know the answers. Let those that have gone before you help you. Be humble and teachable yourselves. The best teachers are still learning!
Although this was not a question, let me say a word or two about this marvelous team that we have put together. These are some of the finest teachers I know. More importantly, they are some of the finest PEOPLE I know. Smart, dedicated and driven to excellence--they have pushed me to work harder, and if you allow them they will push you as well. It is an honor to call this team my friends. We have a mountain of work ahead of us as we start this journey. I'm comfortable that we have put together the best team in the world. Let’s get going!!!
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