From the Chair

Welcome to the Association of Teachers of Singing. I have been a member of this organisation for more than 20 years, my own singing teacher – Margaret Hyde – having been one of the founder members in 1975, and I am honoured to take the reins for the next couple of years.

Set up originally from a group of professional singers and singing teachers, concerned to discuss and promote good practice and healthy instruction for voice educators, AOTOS has grown into the large and vibrant community of singing teachers that it is today. Members are drawn from across the UK, Europe and beyond, meeting together regularly (in normal times) at national conferences and local area study days, and through our national network of smaller, local groups called pods.

Whilst there has been a great increase in the interest and availability of scientific singing study, the opportunities to achieve a qualification in this important field in the UK are still limited and costly. Most of us are already working in the isolation of our teaching studios so that finding training for this profession can be challenging. At AOTOS, we aim to continue learning ‘on the job’ with training and sharing best practice at the heart of our organisation. We aim to keep teachers up to date, informed and engaged in the practical application of voice science and vocal pedagogy and do this through in-person conferences, networking with others, emailed newsletters, an annual magazine, building a library of member resources on our website, and hosting lively discussions on our social media forums.

AOTOS incorporates all styles and genres of singing from classical to rock and musical theatre to folk and pop, but at the centre is the understanding, nurturing and development of healthy singing for all.

As a charity, our hard-working Council are all volunteers (with some part-time staff in support) and most of our speakers who give short presentations at conferences, do so generously, enabling us to keep costs to a minimum.

AOTOS members may be teaching one-to-one, in small groups or large classes. They may be a private singing teacher or visiting music teacher in a school, college, institute of higher education and conservatoire. Or perhaps they are a choir director, aiming to instill vocal technique into rehearsals, or a musical theatre director working at a professional or amateur level. Whatever your situation, we aim to share our information, experience and ideas from our wide membership base so that we can enhance and improve teaching for all.

I have taken over the chairmanship in extraordinary times – during a global pandemic. The severe lockdown and restrictions have affected our lives and livelihoods profoundly and at this point, the future of singing and the performing arts in general looks very uncertain.

We have had to re-think our whole offering to our membership. But in only a few weeks, the move to teaching and learning online, whilst a steep learning curve, has brought unexpected benefits – widening our community reach throughout the UK and beyond, to the US and Europe – we are a member of the ‘umbrella’ European Voice Teacher Association (EVTA). The conversations with friends and colleagues across the world have enriched us, and with online meetings and social media conversations, we are perhaps more in touch as a community than ever before. Despite our health, economic and professional worries, AOTOS has proved its worth in 2020.

As I write, our comprehensive and bespoke training programme for new teachers – Pathways – is being re-devised, but there will be many events planned online suitable for both newer and more experienced teachers in our association.

We never stop learning as singing teachers and I hope that membership of AOTOS will afford you a rich and stimulating learning environment, a friendly and caring professional network and that you will find old (and make new) friends along the way.

I hope you will consider becoming part of this welcoming, engaging and relevant charitable association. I very much look forward to meeting you – perhaps online, but hopefully in-person too – before my tenure is over.

Nicola-Jane Kemp