Meet Sarah Ingraham, singer/songwriter, voice, and piano teacher from San Diego. She currently performs contemporary, Jazz, and Top 40 music throughout the San Diego and North County area, in addition to teaching piano and voice lessons. A voice and harpsichord major at UCSC, Sarah went on to explore world music in India and Japan and became fascinated with pop, jazz, and world fusion. Sarah won Best New Age Vocalist at the Los Angeles Music Awards with her debut CD Human, produced and co-written by Rob Mullins. Human is a blend of East Indian, Pop, Jazz, Dance, and R&B.
I caught up with Sarah to find out what she’s been up to during the pandemic and also to discuss what kind of experiences she’s had as a voice teacher. Here are the highlights from that interview.
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How does Sarah feel about the level of exposure and understanding kids have of music nowadays?
“There isn’t enough exposure,” she says. Mostly the kids that get exposed to classical music are usually those with affluent backgrounds who can afford private lessons. Sarah believes that exposure to music from an early age is important for children because it helps stimulate their brains by sharpening their analytical and artistic skills at the same time.
What’s her take on the type of music and singing styles students adopt, especially as teenagers?
Sarah is against the idea that all songs have to be belted out in a loud voice. She thinks it’s a notion that has been propagated by talent shows on TV. Some kids have beautiful but gentle voices, which should be allowed to develop naturally. Sarah says she likes to remain flexible on voice technique.
We both agreed that music has changed a lot and there isn’t a “right way” of singing. A case in point is Billy Eilish, who has her own delicate and breathy way of singing. Stylistically, that would be the correct way to perform her songs.
Are music schools teaching relevant material?
Sarah says she wishes music schools would teach more ways to perform music as opposed to the concert pianist or opera singer approach, which narrows one’s choices. She’d like students in music school to get a sense of what it’s like to be a working musician.
However, we both agreed that exposure to classical music is still important because it’s going to help you discover who you are, what your sound is, and the unique characteristics and qualities of your voice – especially if you’re a performing artiste.
How do you teach the right voice technique?
Sarah says that being obsessed with singing technique can be a hindrance to “feeling” the music. A performer shouldn’t be afraid of making a mistake in their voice technique, she adds.
If you’re set in the classical techniques, it’s hard to deviate from it. You tend to focus on creating a really clean vocal, so it ends up making it hard to really sound cool if you’re singing contemporary songs. The fan thing about jazz, for example, is being able to improvise as you go along. There’s leeway to be creative, including being able to hit a dissonant chord and still sound good.
On the challenges of giving voice lessons to kids
We both agreed that kids, especially in their pre-teens, prefer performing pop songs to classics. Unfortunately, pop music comes with a diverse range of notes that they may not be ready for. It gets tough for you as a music teacher because you want them to learn songs that are at a comfortable range for the students.
Modern-day students are also more exposed to music that’s targeted for an adult audience, and they usually want to emulate adult voices even when their voices aren’t developed to that level. This can be frustrating for a music teacher. It’s also challenging getting kids to keep their pronunciations neutral and be themselves when singing.
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Hi! I’m Danielle Tucker – singer, vocal coach, and lead vocalist of The Mighty Untouchables band.
Throughout my 20-year career, I’ve equally enjoyed singing country, rock, pop, gospel, and jazz. Today, I’m a professional singer/songwriter available for solo performances, studio recording, and lead vocalist of San Diego-based band The Mighty Untouchables. I also offer vocal coaching to both solo artists and groups through my own studio. I’ve crafted a rewarding vocal career, and it’s my great pleasure to bring music to others through private bookings, performing with my band, or helping others to grow more confident in their own vocal gifts. Thanks for visiting my site I’m honored that you’d like to get to know me!