Teaching Group Voice Lessons

Teaching Group Voice Lessons

Teaching group voice lessons can be a lucrative and rewarding activity for voice teachers. Learn more about how to implement this into your voice studio and ways to find success teaching in a group setting.


“It’s not exactly like private lessons. It’s not exactly like choir. It’s something different. The students learn from me, but they also learn so much from each other.” This is how Cynthia Vaughn, recently retired founder/director of Magnolia Music Studio and former member of the voice faculty of Colorado State University, described teaching group voice. I reached out to four different group voice teachers who work with a variety of singer populations to get their thoughts on how to get started, how to build, and how to get the most benefit out of teaching group voice lessons.

For teachers just beginning to teach group voice, Amelia Rollings Bigler—assistant professor of voice and voice pedagogy at Coastal Carolina University, who was recently selected as the first recipient of the NATS Clifton Ware Group-Voice Pedagogy Award—says “get training.” Many young voice teachers are often thrown into teaching group voice class without any instruction in working with groups. As Rollings Bigler says, “One-to-one pedagogy is not the same as group voice pedagogy. While the content may be the same, the pedagogy needs to be somewhat different to be effective.” 

Once a teacher has gotten that training, Brittany Hogan Alomar, a private voice teacher specializing in musical theatre voice students in K–12 and owner of a multi-teacher studio, says “ let competition stop you from trying.” Often teachers in a new area are hesitant to offer group voice when there are already large organizations in the area offering music classes, but you never know which students out there are looking for a more personal experience. Alomar also encourages creating a website and marketing via social media. 

Craig Price, member of the voice faculty at Furman University who also teaches group voice at a Senior Action center, recommends sending all group voice marketing materials to current students. Invite them to participate and to share with friends and family. And when Alomar first moved back to her hometown after graduate school, she reached out to local public and private schools, churches, community theaters, and other arts organizations to offer group voice classes. In some cases, she offered to give free workshops to be able to interact with potential voice students, as well as to support the work of local choir teachers. 

When beginning to teach group voice, Price recommends talking with your students and finding out what they want to learn. Some of his senior students have goals as simple as learning to sing lullabies so that they can sing to their grandchildren. Meeting the needs of the student in the class can be so much more meaningful and effective than setting your own expectations for that class. Some students will want to try a solo and some will be hesitant to sing alone. Vaughn proposes that if you have a student who is reluctant to sing alone in class, have them sing in pairs. This allows the teacher to hear that student and give meaningful feedback, but the student feels less alone when they can sing with someone else. 

In fact, Amelia Rollings Bigler has been researching group voice pedagogy and found that some students reported a reduction in performance anxiety as one of the many benefits of group voice classes. Alomar also reports that for her younger students “[group voice] really helps boost their confidence to either continue with private lessons later or to go audition for theater productions in their school or community.” Price says that in a group setting he observes how students support one another, and they become more comfortable by being able to sing together before trying to sing on their own. 

Students also become more confident when they see that others share some of their same challenges in singing. In Rollings Bigler’s voice classes, students are called upon to take turns singing immediately in a “popcorn” style approach as she aims to get as many reps of the material or exercises from the students as possible. She says in her classes “we don’t talk much…we do.” Instead of a masterclass format, she approaches her group classes more like a visit to class at the gym. Instead of watching someone else do the work, her students do the vocal exercises together and individually as many times as possible, and she has found that singers grow exponentially with this repetition-based approach. 

For teachers who are wondering about how to structure group voice, Cynthia Vaughn does suggest that group voice classes require more planning than one-on-one lessons, but teachers also should be ready to “go with the flow.” Vaughn’s The Singing Book (co-written with Meribeth Bunch) has a built-in structure that teachers can follow for their classes, including a section of the book called “First Steps to Singing” that teachers can use as a sort of quick start guide for organizing their class. She also suggests that chairs be placed in a circle for classes to help the student brain recognize from the beginning that this class is going to be something interactive. 

Other things to consider when structuring voice classes are the needs of your students, available spaces for the class, and student ages and schedules. Some of Brittany Hogan Alomar’s first classes grew directly from the needs of her students. They were not getting enough theory in their high school music classes, and there was not enough time in the typical voice lesson to teach it. So, she developed group voice classes where she and her students spent half the class time on concepts in music theory and half the time on singing. With this format, her students got the theory they needed and still got to sing each week in class. Alomar went on to create a series of once-per-month group classes with different themes, including breathing for singing, auditioning, preparing your musical theatre portfolio, etc. 

Craig Price also found that classes with a theme have been a hit with his students at the Senior Action center. After teaching his first group voice classes, Price found that his students wanted more music content—so now, in addition to his group voice classes, he has offered additional classes in music history, music theory, and the Great American Songbook. 

Regarding class size, Alomar teaches from home, so she keeps her classes relatively small and groups them by age. Some teachers refer to these small groups as “semi-private lessons” and find that students really thrive in the small group environment. And for Alomar, since she’s working with only a few hours after school each day, group lessons help her maximize the number of students she can teach. She found that eight is an ideal number of students, as “with 10 or 12 students, it’s harder to give enough individual attention to each student, and there are a lot of distractions and opportunities for side conversations.”

Rollings Bigler uses group voice in both the university setting and her online private voice studio, and she found that her students were willing to reduce their weekly private lesson times with her from one hour to 45 minutes in order to also receive one small group and one large group lesson per week. This has proven more efficient for Rollings Bigler—when she notices her students need help with a particular technical issue, she can address it in large group class, work on it in small group class, and then spend one-to-one lesson time fine-tuning repertoire or additional technical concepts. This one-on-one, small group, and large group approach maximizes the number of hours her students spend with her in training each week. 

Each teacher has resources they recommend for teaching group voice. As a private studio teacher, Brittany Hogan Alomar recommends The Private Voice Studio Handbook: A Practical Guide to all Aspects of Teaching by Joan Frey Boytim. It includes subjects such as studio mission and policy statements, auditioning and accepting new students, taxes, insurance, retirement, and much more. Craig Price often uses the Great American Songbook (early 20th century American jazz standards, popular songs, and show tunes) as a repertoire source for his students as the songs in this group can be suited to many different students of various levels and musical interests. 

The new 4th edition of The Singing Book by Cynthia Vaughn and Meribeth Dayme, edited by Matthew Hoch, will be released in April 2023 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. And Amelia Rollings Bigler recommends the work of Dr. Clayne Robison (emeritus professor of voice at Brigham Young University), which can be found on his website at www.beautifulsinging.com. Members of NATS may also join the NATS Group-Voice Pedagogy Affinity Group (teachers can find out more at www.nats.org). 

Group classes can help teachers reclaim several hours per week while not having to take a pay cut that could threaten their business. They offer students who may not be comfortable with one-on-one lessons, or who may not be able to afford those lessons, the opportunity still to study voice. And as Cynthia Vaughn points out, if a teacher can meet their financial goals with a certain number of students but have room in their class for a few more, then they can scholarship a number of students per class and offer free lessons to students who want but cannot afford them. 

So, give group voice classes a try! You may be surprised at the advantages you discover.

Lisa Sain Odom

Lisa Sain Odom is an Assistant Professor of Vocal Studies and Musical Theatre at Clemson University and is an opera and musical theatre singer and stage/film actor. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance from the University of South Carolina and has taught both classical and musical theatre/contemporary voice at Western Carolina University and North Greenville University. She has sung opera and musical theatre in Europe and the U.S., and her students perform on Broadway, on cruise ships, in regional theatre, at Disney World, and on American Idol. To find out more and get in touch, visit www.lisasainodom.com.