Summer 2022 Conference: Programme

Simon Toyne
Simon Toyne

The National Plan for Music Education – where do I fit in?

Our opening keynote comes from the highly motivational Director of Music at the David Ross Educational Trust (DRETT), Simon Toyne – also known to many as one of the directors on the Rodolfus Choral Courses. This year he was invited to become a member of the DofE and DCMS Advisory Expert Panel, influencing the new National Plan for Music Education scheduled for publication in 2022. Simon will outline the principles underpinning the plan, which aims for all pupils have the opportunity to sing, and be taught a musical instrument and make music with others. He will explore its aim for "all young people to have access to a high quality music education" and the vital role that singing teachers across the country have in enabling this. Don't miss the opportunity to be inspired by one of the UK's most articulate and influential musicians as we work together in music and education at this time.

Roderick Williams

Dorothy Richardson Memorial Invitation Masterclass

One of the most sought after international baritones of his generation, Roderick Williams performs a wide repertoire from baroque to contemporary music in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital. He is also a gifted and generous teacher and communicator, and will give a masterclass to four advanced-level conservatoire students.

Jenevora Williams

Dr Williams was the first singing teacher to be awarded a PhD in voice science in the UK and is now internationally well-known in the field of vocal health and research. A popular speaker and educator, we are delighted that Jenevora will join us to share her latest thoughts and developments at conference. She will lead both an interactive workshop, together with a presentation and discussion over the weekend.

Presentation: What is the future role of the singing teacher in voice rehabilitation?

Our traditional 20th century culture for medical intervention relied on quantitative evidence for direction, but now this seems to be shifting. We are more cautious about instantly reaching for pharmaceutical or surgical solutions. More often we turn towards qualitative, practice-based evidence, looking at holistic inter-relationships for an individual, client-centred approach. This may no longer fit with the traditional model of a voice clinic team led by a surgeon. When looking at vocal health issues, clinical interventions are only a part of the whole. If we consider a biopsychosocial model as the overarching philosophy, we may find ourselves moving towards a vocal health team led by a singing teacher Vocal Rehabilitation Specialist (VRS). How can this be accountable, ethical, practical and effective? We will consider how the VRS can lead a team to assess, treat and rehabilitate, with the client at the centre of a non-hierarchical, democratic, trans-disciplinary framework.

Workshop: What type of teacher are you?

The workshop session is an opportunity to explore your teaching style, and to evaluate your strengths and bias. What kind of teacher are you? What are your strengths? How can you work to fill the gaps by developing your strengths rather than addressing your weaknesses? We will be playing with bias testing and some psychometric games. Small group work as well as larger group discussion.

Matthew Mills

Working with Trans and Non-Binary people in voice exploration and development

For the first time at an AOTOS event, we warmly welcome one of the leading voice therapists working with trans and non-binary people, including singers and actors, at the Tavistock Clinic in London. Many of us are seeing an increasing number of trans and non-binary people coming into our teaching studios. Whilst there is a wealth of lived experience and expertise held by trans and non-binary musicians and vocal pedagogues, singing teachers who are not trans and who do not have knowledge of trans and queer culture, may feel nervous and out of their depth in working with trans students.

What language is appropriate and sensitive to use? What are the pertinent effects and possible outcomes from hormone treatments that will affect the singing voice? What might be the psychological, emotional and social considerations that we need to be aware of to support our trans students? What repertoire is authentic and appropriate for each student and how do we address vocal identity inclusively and affirmatively? Matthew will deliver a presentation and hold an extended Q&A session on this important area of vocal education.

Jono McNeil
Jono McNeil

Artist, singer and acclaimed TV vocal coach (The Voice, Little Mix the Search, The Masked Singer etc) – Jono McNeil returns by popular demand and will deliver a presentation followed by demonstration session with live singers.

Presentation: Can you really make a pop star?

With the increased accessibility of pop songwriting courses, affordable recording software and opportunities to easily release music digitally, there are new possibilities for the way we teach our students CCM. Many of them may be moving from simply wanting to sing CCM repertoire (covers), to actually developing as original artists. Facilitating this path is not so straightforward and the traditional role of the singing teacher can be challenged to change, but we are also positioned to make a real difference here. It may be that our students are able to find a stronger sense of identity, find access to new industry job positions, or even become a successful pop artist in their own right. With new waves of Artist Practitioner Research and shifts in vocal coaching strategies, there are real opportunities to look at our practice with a fresh lens and in doing so, perhaps even move the music industry forward.

Workshop: Help! They've asked for a pop song

Singers are often encouraged by their teachers to ‘pick a lane’ stylistically but find scouts or casting directors need them to diversify. Maybe a musical theatre audition requesting pop choices, or perhaps the student secretly teaches themselves an Ed Sheeran or Lana Del Rey song despite their lessons only including classical repertoire. Some might even find themselves making diversions in their stylistic tastes toward CCM repertoire, only to find casting agents telling them they’re too “theatre-y”. How do we support our students in these situations? Working with live singers, Jono will provide some practical tools and entry points for retuning your students’ aural perception and enhancing their stylistic tools so they can authentically approach a relevant pop sound.

Mary King
Mary King

Presentation: What to sing when?

How do we help our students to choose repertoire? What is the purpose for those choices? Where does the enthusiasm of the student for their favourite song or aria end and the necessity for rigour begin? Are there sound principles for distinguishing between appropriate material for study and exploration, and that which might be required for university, graded exams, conservatoire entrance or professional auditions? How and when do teachers draw the line if their advice is rejected? What are the consequences for teachers of doing so (or not!)?

How realistic are our expectations when assisting students to pursue their ambitions for further study at Tertiary level?

Mary King draws on her extensive experience as both teacher and audition/competition panellist in the fields of Music Theatre, Classical and Opera, to lead an open discussion on the judgements and wisdom we need as teachers in these situations.


Well known as a leading and inspirational vocal teacher, coach, TV Commentator and Honorary President of AOTOS, we are delighted to welcome Mary King to deliver a Classical and Music Theatre masterclass with Tertiary entry-level students for us at this year's Conference.

Duncan Rock

Nutrition for singers: the missing link in vocal health and longevity

International operatic baritone and nutritionist Duncan Rock has developed a special practice advising singers and actors about nutrition and vocal health. The vocal world is littered with myths and conflicting advice surrounding the food and drink consumption behaviours of singers. Can we consume caffeine? Does dairy actually make us 'phlegmy'? Will spicy food exacerbate my acid reflux? This seminar will explore the efficacy of some of these notions and offer advice on how nutrition can be used as a powerful tool to improve vocal health and longevity.

Emily Foulkes

Mental Health / Trauma in Singers

With over 20 years' experience working in the field of Singing for Wellbeing and as a Senior Lecturer of the Voice Study Centre, Emily will offer an overview of 1) Trauma and mental health, including some of the signs to look out for, and 2) The role of the singing teacher and how we might incorporate trauma and mental health informed practice. Underpinned with research, this overview will provide useful information for all singing teachers, and also signpost people to further training in this important area for those interested in pursuing deeper study and knowledge.

Leontine Hass

Demystifying Mix and Belt

The terms 'mix' and 'belt' tend to bring up more questions than answers in voice pedagogy. As an experienced CCM and Musical Theatre Vocal Coach, who has worked with West End singers and recording artists for many years, Leontine will discuss what we know today about these voice qualities. She will discuss the physiology, what is happening ‘mechanically’, the way to access these sounds, how to teach them, and the difference between them in both male and female voices. She will deconstruct what the confusing term ‘mix’ really means, and how we can both teach it and establish it in our own voices. She will delve into the vocal technique challenges to watch out for, ways to establish mix and belt in less experienced singers, and how to approach these voice qualities or ‘sounds’ safely and incrementally. Leontine will share specific warm ups and technical drills to build stamina and professional resilience. The workshop will also include a presentation where Leontine will work with a male and a female singer on both ‘mix’ and ‘belt’. The workshop will conclude with discussion, questions and answers and sharing.

Melanie Mehta

Things that go bump in the voice – the actors' cut

Specialist SLT (Voice Disorders) and Spoken Voice Tutor, Melanie Mehta, will outline some real stories from her clinic for us to learn from. Creative choice, technical ability, range, flexibility, dexterity, connection, grounding, communicating the message – the list goes on... People we work with want and need all these things but what if there is a vocal issue? There may or may not be medical and/or therapeutic intervention but how do they feel? What are their concerns?

Anita Morrison

Anita Morrison joins us in Cambridge as our resident, qualified practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method®, a somatic movement education system.

Anita will be available for a limited number of FREE 30 minute 'taster' one to one sessions during Saturday and Sunday. Sign up sheets will be available on Friday.

Warm up 1: Finding the floor – feeling more grounded

Warm up 2: Exploring buoyancy in the ribs

Talk:  Jaw, tongue and neck – strategies from The Feldenkrais Method® to develop freedom and awareness

The Feldenkrais Method® offers a unique and practical way to realise our potential more fully. It is an educational method focusing on learning and movement which can bring about improved movement and enhanced functioning. We will particularly focus on working with the jaw, tongue and neck by using differentiation and integration, slowing down, sensing and observing flow, effort and the initiation of the movement whilst keeping breathing free.

The sessions will be experiential, lying on the floor, so please wear something comfortable and bring a mat or blanket.

Graham Ross

Planning, programming, performing: championing music familiar and unfamiliar

Graham Ross, Fellow and Director of Music, Clare College, Cambridge welcomes AOTOS members and will give a talk and discussion about music programming in general, how directors of music need to think imaginatively and creatively about what music we present and how, including thinking about women composers and our attempts to be more ethnically diverse. There will be opportunity to discuss aspects of long-term planning within an academic/educational sphere, the need to have lots of plates spinning to ensure educational/performing/listening satisfaction at all times, alongside pushing the canon and expanding the boundaries. How does a choir director now manage the obvious challenges of performing live vs online and all the practical logistics? As we send many of our singing students to join college and university choirs or support them in the profession, take the opportunity to hear directly from one of the UK's foremost directors of music – his experience of working with student or professional choral and solo singers, both in the UK and overseas.

Paul Deegan Memorial Lecture
The Complete Songs of Hugo Wolf: Life, Letters, Lieder

Richard Stokes is Professor of Lieder at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He will give a lecture on his latest book about the songs of Wolf. The book gathers together for the first time every poem Wolf set to music – piano-accompanied, a cappella, choral and orchestral. Alongside the original texts (including the Italian and Spanish poems of the Italian and Spanish Songbooks) are translations and hundreds of footnotes that comment on the poems and music. The 33 poets set by Wolf are each given their own chapter: a brief essay on the poet is followed by a note on Wolf's connection with the writer, extracts from letters (in German and English) that throw light on the songs and convey his mood at the time of composition, and the texts and translations. Short biographies of Wolf's correspondents flesh out the extraordinary life of this genius. Come and be immersed in the work of one of the greatest 19th Century Lieder composers – brought to life by one of the musical world's great leading experts in this area.

Ian Massa-Harris

Talking Trans – two trans women discuss their life and vocal journeys

Have you worked with trans singers or been wanting to? Do you wish you had an opportunity to explore a trans person's journey and ask them 1001 questions? This is your chance! Join Ian Massa-Harris (AOTOS member and LGBT+ Music Representative for the Musician's Union EDI Committee) as he hosts an open discussion and Q&A with two gorgeous trans ladies.

Susan Yarnall Monks Cambridge 2022

Workshop: World Café - Connecting the many voices of Singing Teachers

A visioning workshop exploring the world of Vocal Pedagogy across borders! Come and give your words to the rich language we all share when music, words and voices move together. There will be a very short summary of the work of EVTA and others in the past few years with singers, choral groups and teachers; followed by a practical workshop that will get us on our feet with pens and post-its, chatter and exchange, laughter and singing! We have so much to learn when we listen to each other.

Nicki Kennedy

"Moving On Together" – a 'brave space' discussion about equality, diversity and inclusion

We propose to wrap up the conference with an important conversation about how we, as individuals and as an organisation, can provide more welcoming and inclusive environments for our teaching and our members, and how we can become more aware of how our own bias can affect our practice. We hope to unpick some of the tricky conversations around access, inclusion, religion, race, gender, cultural appropriation, repertoire choices and much more, with the help of you, our members. Nicki Kennedy will be joined by Dr Jenevora Williams, Ian Massa-Harris, Shivani Rattan and Nick Duncombe, and you, our members, to dive into a ‘brave space’ conversation about diversity, equality, inclusion and bias. We hope to provide a relaxed and ‘safe’ environment where simple or challenging questions can be freely asked. Join us to chew round some of these important subjects as we close our conference by opening new conversations, so that we can together shape a vibrant future for AOTOS and keep our organisation moving forwards dynamically and with real relevance to our broad and exciting singing teaching community.