Ideal Client in Voice Business (aka My Ideal Voice Student)

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A frequently asked question in business is “who is your ideal client?” This is also a relevant question in the business of voice teaching. Although some voice teachers have begun referring to their students as clients in order to promote the fact that this is a legitimate business, I will continue to use the term “student.” After degrees, lessons, certificates, and performing experience, I am a confident and competent teacher with a thorough understanding of the human voice, and I have success each day in facilitating better singing from my students. My teaching draws on science to inform what is going on in the body, empathy to understand how I can help each student overcome barriers, and art to help students use their voice as an expressive instrument.

My ideal voice student does not have a specific age, genre, goal, or level of “talent” or experience. 

  • I enjoy teaching students of a variety of ages, and they typically range from age 15-65. I have had older students, as well as younger students. High school students who are auditioning for school musicals or for college auditions have an infections level of energy. College students or graduates who are preparing for a career in voice require a level of expertise and artistry that is a fulfilling challenge. Purely avocational amateurs who sing for the love of it are also a joy to work with.
  • The human voice is a remarkable instrument, capable of an infinite variety of expressive sounds. My goal is for each student to understand how their voice works and how to use it in sustainable ways for the longevity of their instrument. A voice can function well in nearly any style of music.
  • In all areas of life, people are motivated by different factors. A singer must be self-motivated. Whether a student wants to be better in church choir, have the confidence to sing “Happy Birthday” to their friend, or pursue a career in singing, I am happy to help them reach their goals and possibly discover new ones along the way!
  • To borrow from a book title, “Talent is Overrated.” I haven’t read the book, but I know this to be true. If you have a desire to be a better singer, and you have an expert to guide you, you can be a better singer. PERIOD. If you don’t like the sound of your voice, or if a cruel, misinformed music teacher in 3rd grade told you not to sing, those are psychological and emotional hurdles to overcome. There is probably nothing physically wrong with your voice, and even if there is, it can probably be improved, if not completely fixed. Being able to sing doesn’t mean that people will pay you. It just means trusting and understanding that you are capable of making good sounds.
  • If you’re already a great singer, what is the point of lessons? Honestly, we can always continue learning, and it helps to have feedback from an informed listener. If you think you’re terrible, that should not stop you. There is HOPE, and YOU CAN GET BETTER!

To sum it up, my ideal students want to understand their voice and use it well. They have an open mind and are willing to “mess up.” They have patience (mostly with themselves). We all get frustrated when things don’t come out right the first time, but we breathe and try again. Ideally, students understand that practice is essential to improvement. Becoming a better singer takes time–months & years, not days & weeks–and the outcome is so gratifying for the singer and the listener!

If you are interested in lessons, please contact me via the form on my website. I am happy to talk with you to discuss your interests and goals, and if we are not a great fit for each other, then I can help you find someone who might be a better fit.

5 Reasons To Study Singing

I’ll be honest from the beginning. I’m writing this blog post because I have some openings in my voice studio that I would like to fill with a few people who are willing to commit to studying voice. To put it simply, if you want to be a better singer and are willing to put in some work, then maybe you should consider lessons. Some people are good at a lot of things when it comes to singing, but most people have some things to work on, which takes time. These things often involve releasing some tension (in places you didn’t know you had tension) or strengthening something (muscles you didn’t know you had), and this work takes time and patience.

Please visit www.jonathanpilkington.net to read more about me and to contact me about lessons.

  1. You feel stuck in life–More than one student has recently told me that as a result of studying voice with me, they are seeing the world in a different way, or they’re figuring things out in life that they’ve been working on. I don’t claim to have any magic where that is concerned, but I do believe that singing can have positive side-effects that are similar to meditation. Singing requires a certain amount of vulnerability, which, as a result, might allow you to deal with some other parts of your life.
  2. You think you can’t sing–So many people seem to think that voice lessons are for people who sing well. Think about that for a minute!! What would be the point? Voice lessons are for people who want to sing better. One of my #1 goals in life is to help people realize that they can sing. Being able to sing doesn’t mean that you have a career in singing. To me, it simply means that your voice functions well enough that you can sing for your own enjoyment, or you feel comfortable singing “Happy Birthday” to your friend.
  3. You can sing, but you want to be better–Many people know that they can “carry a tune” but know that their voice can sound better. I hear things like, “I want to sing higher notes,” “I want to be able to hold notes longer,” or “There’s one part of my voice that gives me problems.” These are all common problems that can be fixed with some patient, expert guidance!
  4. You used to sing well, but something happened–Just like any part of the body, things change with age. A lot of people could naturally sing in a certain way early in life, and then as they got older, it got more difficult. Also, some times “life happens,” and people stop singing for a while. When they try to start singing again, the voice doesn’t work like it used to work. Any number of things can happen to make singing more difficult, or to effect the way the voice sounds, and these things can be improved with voice lessons.
  5. It’s good for you–These days, “mindfulness” and “self care” are big business, and there are very good reasons for that. This is related to “you feel stuck in life,” but I think even if you don’t feel stuck, there are health and wellness benefits that come from singing. Focusing on your breath is good for you. It is relaxing, it can improve your lung capacity, and it can carry over into other areas of your life (mental alertness, exercise, etc). Voice lessons involve body awareness, and that focus often helps to improve posture/alignment, which can make feel and look better! Singing can release endorphins, which help relieve pain and make you a happier person. Emotional connection to a song can help you to release emotions. Also, there are many social benefits to singing. The list goes on and on!

Restructuring the Empire: Why I Think NOW Is The Time To CHANGE

The time of COVID-19/Coronavirus/Rona/Pandemic has been such a catalyst for change in the world. I admit that at the beginning of it, I believed that it was a political ploy or that people were overreacting. I remembered SARS and the fact that it never became a big issue for the United States. Within a few weeks, I realized the severity of the pandemic, so I began to shelter-in-place like the rest of the world. This is change #1 for me. I went from being a skeptic to being an advocate for mask wearing. It’s ok admit you were wrong and change your ways!

Pre-pandemic, I was teaching over 30 voice lessons each week, while also aggressively pursuing a second career as a travel advisor. My mindset was that if I worked really hard for a while, things would eventually balance out. I might be temporarily crazed, but things would settle down eventually. I assumed that around August of 2020, I would say no to some of my teaching work, in order to teach certain students and devote time to the travel business.

That time came significantly early for me, in the form of a global pandemic. The extra time at home, as well as the major disruption to “normal” life, helped me to realize some things. I don’t mind teaching online. In fact, I mostly enjoy it. I don’t have to drive, it allows for greater flexibility with scheduling, and it actually works very well. However, what I quickly realized is who I want to teach. Some students show up to lessons ready to do the work and learn (a complete pleasure), while some show up and go through the motions (a drain). While I try to encourage them to just make the most of it, I believe in self-motivation and do not try to force people to like something. When the school year ended, that meant that I went from teaching over 30 lessons a week to teaching around 12 lessons a week. The students who were left were mostly students who were closer to my “ideal clients.”

This was change #2. It is best summed up in something I wrote to my students earlier today: “Moving forward, I intend to maintain a relatively small studio of students who value the work of developing a very solid technical foundation that will allow them to use the singing voice as a powerful and versatile instrument for communication. This will allow me give more thought, energy, and attention to each student, both during lessons and between lessons.”

About the travel business, I had worked hard to get the word out that I am a travel advisor, and it was beginning to pay off. I designed some beautiful, exciting itineraries for people to Hawaii, Italy, and places between. The way the travel industry works is that you typically get paid after the travel happens, which meant that I would have a nice income in the summer months from my clients’ trips. Well, all of that had to be canceled or rescheduled. It is common knowledge that the pandemic has been devastating for the travel industry. I have felt so horrible for everyone from cruise line crew members trying to get home to my contacts in Italy who were ready to welcome my clients.

This is change #3. Knowing that my work as a travel advisor would continue, I just accepted the temporary pause and figured out what I could do. That is why I started a podcast, which is called “Just Beautiful Experiences: Travel, Food, Music.” It had been on my mind for a while, but I hadn’t quite figured out my unique spin on a podcast that would bring all of my worlds together. In the midst of a pandemic, I figured out that if I did something to give other people a platform to tell their stories and tell about their businesses, that could help them, it would strengthen our relationships, and it would give us all greater exposure. Episode 6 was just released today, and they can all be heard on Apple Podcasts, or pretty much anywhere podcasts are available, as well as on my website (or the bottom of this post).

Other changes are brewing in my travel world (change #4), which I believe will involve focusing my specialties. I don’t know all of the details yet, but this will include music-based experiences, as well as European adventures and cruises. Along the lines of my podcast, I want to facilitate and curate experiences that help people to feel more alive and then discuss how to incorporate some elements from their experiences into every day life. I will focus less on hustling to book as many clients as possible, especially if it involves travel that might as well be booked online.

Other changes will come as well, and there are some things I’m not sharing yet because they’re not ready to be shared. They’re exciting, though! Let’s call that change #5. 🙂

For some reason, Madonna comes to mind, and I’m sure that sounds strange at first. I remember that on the news or MTV, they would always talk about how she was reinventing herself. I’m sure that many people, including me, thought she was silly for doing that and doing it only for fame. Maybe she was just adjusting until she found the right fit, or restructuring her empire to stay relevant. Change can be scary, and sometimes the scariest part is wondering what other people will think. If you keep changing directions, you must be wishy washy or not really committed to what you’re doing.

I’ll end this with two ideas that helped recently. First: “multi-passionate.” I’m passionate about singing and teaching voice, and I’m passionate about the life-changing possibilities of travel experiences. I’ve feared that people would think I’m not as legitimate in either profession since I’m dividing my time between the two. Pushing through the last part of 2019 and 2020 until the pandemic hit was a crazy time, and the pandemic has helped me to better figure out how the pieces fit together as a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I have to thank Elise Besler for this, as well as introducing me to the work of Mike Michalowicz, which led me to the second idea.

Second idea: “the world’s best.” I watched this YouTube video, in which Mike Michalowicz speaks about finding authenticity, and we have to be “the world’s best” for our world–not someone else’s world. Rather than listening to what the world and everyone else says, “if you truly listen to the rule of your soul, that’s where your best is…if you serve into our authentic self, you’ll be serving the right world, and others will be attracted to it.”

To sum it all up, while the world is seeing a major upheaval and restructuring on a much grander and scarier scale, I believe that changes are necessary. Sometimes ugly and scary things, like rioting and plagues, have to happen in order for us to wake up and live our lives more fully, beautifully, and authentically. Hopefully some of these ideas will give someone the courage to make changes, whether they are small, internal changes or big life and career changes. Restructure the empire to be the world’s best!

Alex Ferri, founder of Palmaïa–The House of Aïa resort in Cancun Just Beautiful Experiences: Travel, Food, Music

On August 21-26, I visited four resorts in Cancun. They were all wonderful in their own way, and I really fell in love with Palmaïa—The House of Aïa, which is truly a luxury all-inclusive resort, but they have a focus on connecting with nature, ourselves, each other, etc. In this episode, I had the privilege to speak with Alex Ferri, the founder of Palmaïa about the concept of the resort and how it all came together. I am inspired by people who are passionate about what they do, and I hope you will enjoy our conversation. Please subscribe to the podcast, and be in touch when you are ready to visit Palmaïa. It pays to use a travel advisor!My WebsiteBlog About PalmaïaVideo About PalmaïaTravel InstagramPodcast InstagramYouTube Channel
  1. Alex Ferri, founder of Palmaïa–The House of Aïa resort in Cancun
  2. Nalini Mehta: Ayurveda, Doshas, Rasa, and Yoga Pops!
  3. Suprakash Nashipuri, Cellar Master and Sommelier on Norwegian Cruise Line
  4. John Ratledge on Music, Travel, and So Much More
  5. Cynthia Vaughn: Entrepreneurial Voice Teacher Adapting to 2020

UPDATE Sing at Sea 2020: Singing & Wellness Cruise

I am a travel advisor and voice teacher with almost 20 years of teaching experience (bio at the end of this post), so I am combining my passions into one fun and exciting opportunity!

SING AT SEA!

Come and commune, relax and revive, on land and at sea where your wellness will thrive!

If you enjoy singing, want to be a better singer, or think you can’t sing and want to try it out in a safe environment, then this cruise is for you! If you enjoy travel, then this cruise is for you! If you love food, fun, and community, then this cruise is for you! Contact me below.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, June 7-12, 2020

  • Fly to MIA (on your own, or I can arrange)
  • Cruise leaves from Miami
  • Pre-cruise hotel optional (and highly recommended). If you do this, we will have a pre-cruise dinner to get acquainted and get the party started! (I can bundle flight & hotel)
  • Embark on a 5-day cruise to Costa Maya, Mexico and Virgin’s FABULOUS “Ibiza Inspired” exclusive beach club in Bimini, The Bahamas
  • Enjoy all of the amenities of a brand new cruise ship, including meals, entertainment, and accommodations.
  • Participate in daily singing and wellness activities, including private lessons
  • Fly home a happier, healthier person because of the experience of singing, travel, wellness, and community.

The Itinerary:

  • Day 1 Miami – Departs at 07:00 PM, Depart 2 hrs before
  • Day 2 Sailing
  • Day 3 Costa Maya – 09:00 AM, local time
  • Day 4 Sailing
  • Day 5 The Beach Club At Bimini – 09:00 AM, local time
  • Day 6 Miami – Arrives at 06:30 AM
Scarlet Lady!

Since I am starting this small, anywhere from 3-10 participants will be ideal. Each participant will have private voice lessons, group classes, and discussions over dinner. No matter what, I will ensure that there is plenty of time for FUN!

The estimated cost for participants should be $2000 or less (plus flight), depending on the cabin chosen. Non-participants may join you in your cabin for a reduced rate. Also, Scarlet Lady has solo cabins, which means that solo travelers don’t have to pay double!

Please contact me with your interest and availability, and I will answer any questions you might have.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady Beach Club at Bimini
Jonathan Pilkington’s recent solo engagements include Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. He sang the tenor solo in New York premiere of Mendelson’s Humboldt Cantata and was the tenor soloist for Elliott Carter’s The Defense of Corinth with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall. He was a guest soloist at the 2014 Bassi Brugnatelli International Conducting and Singing Symposium in Robbiate, Italy. Additional performances include concerts with Lyric Intermezzo in Augusta, GA, a recital appearance at Reinhardt University, and solo recitals at Piedmont College and Winthrop University. In early 2017, he completed a tour of concerts with Karen Sigers, piano, featuring the songs of Samuel Barber, including a performance at Spivey Hall in Atlanta. In October 2018, he toured California to promote an album of songs with classical guitar, including transcriptions of Schubert’s Winterreise. Pilkington has performed many major choral works with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others, and has been guest lecturer in vocal pedagogy for University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, the Sautee Chorale, and St. Bartholomew’s Church in Atlanta. With degrees from Shorter College (B.M.), Westminster Choir College (M.M.), and the University of Georgia (D.MA.), Pilkington, formerly Assistant Professor of Music at Piedmont College, now teaches at The Lovett School, United Music Studios, Perimeter College-Georgia State University, and The Galloway School, in addition to his own private voice studio. As a dedicated voice teacher, he has participated in the highly selective NATS Intern Program and competed further training at the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework™ at Baldwin Wallace University, and he serves as the NATS District Governor for Georgia. He also serves as a staff singer at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.

Intentional Work in Music & Travel: Making the World a Better Place

You might say that I have entered the “gig economy” in my own way. I am a freelance voice teachersinger, and travel advisor. I love all of the things that I do, and that is important to me. Without the security of a full time job, a bit of stress can enter in, especially when things that I thought were going to happen don’t happen. It is easy to feel mistreated or misunderstood and to be motivated by stress, fear, or money.

I’m quite certain that those things are not going to lead to success, so I have to remind myself of what I realized at the end of July. As I was leaving a week of training for both singing and travel, I began to put some things together. I was wondering how the two careers I’ve taken on will work together, and it started to become clear as I made my way home.

As a singer I believe that I can make a difference in the world by affecting the audience members. They might not go solve climate change because of hearing me sing, but they might be kinder to the person who cuts them off in traffic on their way home. It’s a small change, but who knows, it might save a life!

My high school voice students sometimes say that they don’t want to major in music because they want to do something that makes a difference in the world. I understand that they mean, of course. They want to work biotech or in a non-profit and make a big, tangible difference. That is wonderful, and I respect that! If someone believes they can be happier and more fulfilled doing something other than music for a career, then they should do the other thing. 

I do hope (and believe) that my teaching makes a difference, though, even if it is not realized until years later. Maybe I make someone aware of a postural issue that could have developed into a bigger issue later in life. Maybe the tedious work of vocal technique makes a difference when a former student is a heart surgeon. Maybe the study of voice remains with the student who goes on to become a lawyer, and singing is the only thing that brings them joy.

In the travel business, it would be very easy to get caught up in trying to sell the most high-end, luxury  hotels, resorts, and cruises since more money is made from them. Honestly, I hope the find the clients who can afford those things, and I don’t see any harm there. However, I must come back to what inspires me about travel. Mark Twain’s quote sums it up best: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I’ve said it before, but each time I travel, I learn something else about the world and the people of the world, which makes me a better human. I want everyone to be able to travel, in whatever capacity is best for them, so that they will have similar experiences.

The other side of travel is seeing amazing (natural or manmade) sights of the world, and John O’Donohue’s words sum that up: “Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.” This quote is in my email signature, because it applies to singing and travel. First, I think our minds have to be set on seeing and recognizing beauty, then the beauty of music, or of people, places, things, and experiences, will make us feel more alive, thus making us better people and making the world a better place.

For the “cherry on top,” I must mention my other favorite quote, which really brings everything together. While it may sound religious in nature, I hope that even an atheist can see the value in the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyon: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Music and travel ultimately make us more alive and more human, so this is the world-changing intention that I have for my work. I’m putting it writing and making it public to hold myself accountable to it!