Jessica Kos-Whicher Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Teaching Theory To Voice Students
Is it important to teach music theory to voice students?

Watch Glory St. Germain and Special Guest Jessica Kos-Whicher in the Ultimate Music Interview.

HOW you can share the importance of registering for theory lessons with your students and their parents?

Jessica Kos Whicher - UMT Interview

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Jessica Kos-Whicher shares her journey from being a young Music for Young Children student with Glory St. Germain to becoming an Ultimate Music Theory Certified Teacher to being an advocate for music theory education for her own voice students.  

Jessica is comfortable on both Opera and Musical Theatre stages, some of her favourite roles include Tatiana in Eugene Onegin (Opera NUOVA) Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (Manitoba Underground Opera), Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.

Jessica Kos-Whicher graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree and Post-Baccalaureate diploma in vocal performance under the guidance of Tracy Dahl and Monica Huisman at the University of Manitoba.

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Jessica Kos-Whicher is Glory St. Germain's Special Guest on the Ultimate Music Interview Series.

Glory: Well, good morning or good afternoon depending on when you are watching this but I am so excited. I have got a really special guest for you today. Welcome to Ultimate Music Interview. I'm Glory St. Germain and today I have the ever lovely Jessica with me. Welcome, Jessica.

Jessica: Hi.

Glory: She's the cutest thing on the planet. Now, today we're talking about how you can share the importance of registering your students for theory and Jessica's got a great story to share with you. The interesting thing is that sometimes when you are studying voice or piano or any instruments for that matter, theory is sort of like math, maybe, maybe not, and so, how can we get our students excited and actually the parents, right?

Glory: Fortunately, for me, Jessica's mom, and the reason I mentioned her mom is because Jessica was one of my students. She was just a little small fry and, of course, I started teaching when I was 12, so we'll just leave it at that. It's always a thrill to have a student become a teacher and following the footsteps of their teacher, so what a welcome Jessica. She is an extraordinary soprano vocalist and she sings opera and musical theater. Jessica, share a little bit about your story. How did you just get started?

Glory: Obviously, you started with me as a student of piano and theory but tell me your story after that. How did you get into your singing?

Jessica: Yeah. My mom actually, it's always my mom. She's someone who's encouraging you in that way, but we started with music for young children, and then, when I was in grade four, I was put in divisional choir and following that, my mom just said, "You have a gift and you'll be sharing it, so you're going to need some lessons," and I got into that. I said to her I would never sing in public and you can't make me do the festival and I'm never doing anything.

Jessica: Now, it's my job, so that's hilarious and now I'm super grateful that my mom kind of knew that it was my dream before I even did. Mother's intuition as always is great. Yeah, and then, I ended up being really successful in the music festival with singing, and then, I went on to do my degree at the U of M, and then, my postdoc, and then, I started teaching as a way to fund auditions as "starving artist", travel and you pay for your accommodations and often you're sleeping on a couch and that gets really taxing but you're paying application fees and you're paying for flights and you don't get reimbursed for this, so I was teaching primarily for that purpose to fund what I really like, love, and sets my heart on fire is performing.

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Jessica: Then, I kind of just got to this point where I was really feeling unfulfilled in performance and audition and chasing something that just always felt like I was never making a difference, I was never doing, you're all constantly hearing no and I consider myself reasonably thick-skinned, until this one day I just, I was at my … My students had their dress rehearsal and I had been contemplating this for a while because I really was enjoying teaching now that my studio had grown a bit and I, you get to be more creative in repertoire picking and I had a really diverse age range of students, and I just realized this fulfills me in such a way that singing doesn't and performing always will, I will always love it. It's always going to be my first kind of love.

Jessica: But teaching, I love having a relationship with student. I love seeing them grow and I love watching recitals and festivals and performances where I can see what their journey has been because I know mine and no one except my mom and I really know mine, but I know all of their journeys and it's so, I'm so grateful to be a part of 50 students journeys already, so that's kind of where I am at and that's kind of how I got here.

Glory: It's interesting, Jessica, to know about your journey and how rewarding it is for you to see your students grow and audition and get that audition and become part of the production's and your travels and your passion and sleeping on couches and all of that because I too experience that which is why I'm so proud of you, and why I'm so excited that you're here today to share your journey because as teachers, we love to perform.

Glory: Well, some of us love to perform but certainly, we feel like we're a part of the journey with our students, and I want to invite our viewers today and I want to give a shout out to Sarah Campbell from Upbeat Piano Teachers, she's an amazing coach, and also vocalists like yourself, Sarah, and I just want to ask them a little question … Yes. Welcome, Sarah. Just go ahead and share with us what is sort of your passion? Do you love to teach or do you love to perform?

Glory: Go ahead and share that with us. Are you more passionate about one or the other? I think as you continue to grow as a teacher, we also want to continue with our professional development, and one of the things that brought Jessica and I back together again was that she decided she was going to take the ultimate music theory certification course. Now, you can tell by her credentials, she's really an accomplished educated, not only performer, musician but also continues with her studies.

Glory: Actually, I'm going to be doing a live webinar tomorrow so I know Jessica's going to be popping in there to say hi to us as well, but tell me about, and I'll put the link or perhaps she and I can go ahead and put that in there. Tell me about what made you decide that you wanted to take the Ultimate Music Theory certification course because obviously, you're successful as a voice teacher, so what was that next step for you?

Jessica: Yeah. Okay. I guess last December I contacted you and it was kind of last, early December when I decided, that's it. I'm going to design a school where everybody gets in and everybody has the opportunity to pursue a passion and enjoy music. From September to December, when I made this decision, I was really noticing in my students or in a select number of them at all, some of them are just you know very gifted and very musically intelligent, but I really started to notice, I would say, okay, do you notice the relationship between the two notes or where was the direction of the notes?

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Jessica: They couldn't even really identify that because I guess maybe they were just afraid to look at the music. It's so overwhelming sometimes when you look at a page and you don't know, you're like, "I don't know." You just want to listen to it and that seems like it's an easy thing and it is when you're really young but I was kind of noticing this in grade fives and like early middle school years and I just thought, I am not really sure how to teach this so that they understand but I, this is a skill that these students need to be having if they're going to be pursuing like band and I know that they get that in band, and they get that in choir, but they need to be pursuing it on a more individual level because everyone's learning at different speeds, right?

Jessica: In a choir, it's like, "Okay, read this page." Someone's like, "I'm still on the first note." Someone's at the end of the piece because they just have that skill, it comes naturally to them. I just noticed, "Well, I need to be doing something. I need to figure out how …" Then, I thought, "Oh, gosh. I don't remember any of my theory." I know it but I don’t know how to relay the information, and I'm like, "Do I go back to like this?"

Jessica: I don't know what to do or how to, and then, my students who is also a student of Glory's, Danica that was saying, "Oh, yeah. No, I do know music theory." I said, "I feel like I should just do this course because even if I don’t end up teaching it, I'm going to be a better teacher because I've reviewed the information and I can relay more intelligent, mature music education to children." Which I think that's the best way to deal with kids is to treat them like they're really intelligent, and then, they will be.

Glory: Absolutely. I found too, when I first started teaching, I was teaching piano and I was kind of like you, I sent my students away if they needed theory because I didn’t know how to teach it. It was through sheer, realizing that students needed to have this education that I began researching, and eventually, obviously, became an author and a publisher, and then, realized that there is a need for helping teachers learn how to teach because just because you know something doesn't mean that you can teach it.

Glory: Do I know how to sing? Well, anybody does. I can sing happy birthday. Could I teach it? No. I think it's really important to provide that education and now that you've completed your Ultimate Music Theory certification course, and congratulations because you did that pretty fast, but I think you need to share the story about I met a boy so-

Jessica: Yeah. I connected with Glory and I connected with you in December, late December, and I sat down this one day and I was like, "Oh, I'm going to be so, I'm going to finish this by the end of February." I had all these goals and like, "I'm super, overzealous about it." I was very single at that time like just living my own like great life and he's like, "There's an emergency, can you come help me?" I was like, "Ah." I'm never going to get this done.

Jessica: Then, the next day I spent like … I don't know, four hours doing it and I got really far, and then, I finished the first book and I was like, "Yes. Flying so high." Then, I met a boy. I just, I had all these plans to finish and I finished went through like half of the second book, and I was just so distracted by this new relationship and how one man was, you're like, "Oh, it's so cool that you do this." A little fellow professional development, he thought it was so cool, and I was like, "I'm not actually doing it here now because we're always out.

Jessica: Then, I ended up finishing it, I think or in May like end of May, and I got … I went on a trip with my mom and him and I were pretty committed at that point, and I just ended up saying like, "Hey. I need to put it in my calendar. I need to …" Just say I am writing the exam on this Sunday morning and that is when I have to be done by that day, and if I'm not, like I will fail the exam. You had to recommit to it in a way.

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Glory: Yeah. I'm so glad to hear you say that because you're right, when you set a goal, I think you do. You need to put it in your calendar, and then, it's an ink but I also think it's cool that you met a boy, because you know what? That's life, right? We've got to have relationships and we still have to live our life at the same time as being committed to professional development and one thing that I see which is interesting is that you've gone from being a performer to saying, "You know what? I want to serve and I want to help other young singers realize their dreams and take them along.

Glory: One of the comments here is from Marilyn Hooper, and she said, "I am definitely …" Let me see if I can pop her up there. I think it's showing up. Marilyn says, "I'm definitely much more passionate about teaching and I'm gradually conquering my stage fright in regards to performing. I think it's interesting how as teachers sometimes were really nervous about teaching, and sometimes we're really nervous about performing.

Glory: I think just through educating and continuing to learn and grow and share and just be part of the musical community, we get to be a little more confident, right?

Jessica: Yeah.

Glory: I want to also give a shout out to those that are watching us here and perhaps on the replay, just go ahead and share what is your passion? Do you feel more confident teaching or do you feel more confident as a performer or are you still a student? Because students need to grow, and eventually, your path will be either a forever student or you're going to grow and decide that you want to hit the road like Jessica did and perform all over the world. Especially in this day and age, right?

Glory: We can connect with people from all parts of the globe and it is really just unlimited especially with technology in these days, and now, Jessica is on her way to the next step in your studio. You have a very successful studio and you're now going to start with your UMT Club classes, so let's talk about that goal, Jessica.

Jessica: Sure. I think originally when we spoke last December, you were like, "No. This is the perfect thing for you. You're going to double your income, triple it, it's going to be amazing and you're going to have so many more students." This was really appealing to me, obviously. Then, I'm planning for the rest of the year, and I'm like, "Okay. I can't really introduce this midway through a year." Because I'm not, I feel like I want to review it and really be... when you would do the exams like I know it and I understand it, but I want to make sure that I'm really confident when I'm teaching them.

Jessica: When this year came along and I decided this was like the year that I decided to really market, and so, I hired a marketing company and we've designed like a brand, which is so exciting. I've gained several new students. I've hired a new teacher. It's all really kind of coming together, and then, for this, I want to have a choir next year, and I've spoken to choir directors, which is super exciting because I don't want to just have a voice studio, I want to have a performing arts, a vocal and performing arts school.

Jessica: I want my parents to want their kids to come and I want kids to want to come because I have vibrant and exciting teachers teaching, but I want also children to know how to read music, and so, like what is a better way than in a group, seriously, it's so much fun.

Jessica: I remember doing MYC and it was like the same day of the week because you get to go and do music with your friends. It's so good. I think introducing that and relaying the importance of it, and the value, plus times are tough, money is tight for some families. It's hard to recommit to all these things especially when kids are in either a thousand activities are no activities, and because they can't afford it or they're just not interested and they're in a thousand activities because their parents maybe want a lot of control of their whereabouts or they want, they really want to see their kids just like not on a screen, which I'm totally on board with.

Jessica: I think it's just going to be how to relay that information, so that they're excited about the value and they're excited, kids are excited about coming and learning and parents are excited about the value for the dollar for their kid's education musically because not, music is so often described as a hobby, and it is. We're all lucky to say, "We more than likely love our job." We get to do what, the fun part of our life or work. How incredible?

Jessica: However, when you're young, it's like, "Okay, you do skating, you do hockey, you swimming, you do singing, you do piano, you also do guitar," and so many kids they'll commit for a long time.  Anyway, but now, I think it's just relaying the importance of that activity, support your other ones. There, that was very long.

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

Glory: Well, you know what? Interesting that you're saying all of that, Jessica, because as music teachers, we often find that you're right. A, kids are they're really super busy, and then, they want to reschedule because they have sporting activities and things that take priority.

Glory: Yeah, don't even, yeah, don’t get me started on … Oh, yes, and then, I even brought it to help me out today because they like freak out if you're not going to show up for your theory club class but I think one of the things and I wanted to share the webinar that I'm doing tomorrow because, in fact, I'm talking about how can we engage students? The benefits of learning in a group theory activity, and we actually learn better when we're learning in small groups.

Glory: I'm going to share all of that information. I'm going to be talking about how are we going to market? How can we make a thousand dollars a month by teaching one hour a week? I'm sharing all of those tips and tricks in the live webinar that we're presenting. There's actually two times to choose from on Wednesday and two times to choose from on Thursday, and there's a lot of value in the webinars so I'm hoping that teachers, if you're looking to expand your teaching studio, you do want to make more money and you do want to share the importance of learning music theory, this is the webinar that you definitely don't want to miss.

Glory: I'm so glad that Jessica has shared her story with us today and I can't wait for you to start your theory club classes because we're actually doing a coaching call for our Ultimate Music Theory certified teachers, and so, that's a special group that we're really working on, how can we market and how can we provide value for the parents? Because ultimately, the parents are the ones that are writing the checks, so that kids may say, "I want to go to Theory Club," but if the parents don't understand the value, well, then, they're not going to write you a check.

Glory: It's really important that we can connect and communicate with the parents about how important it is and you know Jessica that learning music makes you smarter, right? You knew that, right? Did you know that teaching music makes you better looking? Exactly.

Jessica: Amen.

Glory: There you have it. Just in wrapping everything up today, make sure that you as educators are following your heart, following your passion, share the importance of learning music and, of course, learning music theory too to really give that full musicianship education, and I want to say a special thank you to Jessica and congratulations on your studio. It's growing fast. I know you're going to have great success with getting started with your UMT club classes and growing. I love to hear about the choir. I can't wait to see what you're going to be working on with that. What's the next step for you just before we wrap things up? What's the goal? Let's have the challenge, what are you planning for the next?

Jessica: Yeah. I think there's that saying like big, very audacious goal. I think when I first said to my mom, I'm going to design a school where everyone gets in. That was what my goal was, and then, I was like, "Yeah. Well, there are so many kids that …" For example, there's a lot of choirs in this community, and they all auditioned.

Jessica: There are a lot of really good kids that just don't get in because there's not enough room, okay, and that's like … I get that. I want every kid to have the opportunity to be like, I love singing and I love choir and I loved seeing my friends at choir. I loved seeing what my friend is singing at recital and I'm really lucky to have super talented siblings that are like, "Oh, yeah, sure. We'll play with your students at the next concert."

Jessica: But it's my goal is that music education is not necessarily just a hobby but it's like a super valuable and it's like a necessity rather than a hobby because I think there's multiple health benefits to being happy in athletics. I think that it's important to be in athletics. I was never very skilled to dance but now I'm in this relationship, but he's an athlete.

Jessica: I think music education is so much for your mind and I just want people to see the value in that, more than they see, "Oh, well, that's just singing or that's just piano or that's just theory. It's just fun." It is fun.

Glory: Yes it is.

Jessica: You know what? You become a better human being too and so, I want to see, I want to hire more teachers. I want to hire like more singing teachers, and then, I want to eventually have a program where I'm producing a musical for them, and they can shine in that way, and if they don't want to, they don't have to do, and eventually, like that choir, it won't be just students, it will be, anybody can be in this choir but if you're a student, it's like an added bonus for you.

Jessica: I want a lot of students and eventually, my own building where I'm, it's like the place to go after school.

Glory: Wow. You know what? I'm so glad we're doing this on video because I'm going to put this out again a year from now and we'll see where you've taken it, and sometimes having an accountability partner is huge. I mentioned earlier, I actually work with three coaches and I want to give them shout out again to Sarah Campbell, and Lauren Armstrong because they're amazing and when you have coaches that are on your side and on your team and accountability partners, you really do GSD, get stuff done.

Glory: Yeah. I'm super excited for you, Jessica. I want to wish you all the best and I'm looking forward to sharing all of this value on the webinar tomorrow, so make sure that you get registered and we're going to see where Jessica is a year from now. We'll have her back as our special guest.

Glory: Have a great day, everyone, and teach with passion and I will see you on the next one. Have a great day.

Jessica: Bye.

Glory: Bye. Thanks, Jessica.

Jessica Kos-Whicher - Teaching Theory To Voice Students

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