Using SMART Goals in the Voice Studio

SMART goals are often used in business practice to assist with personal and professional development. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Attainable.
  • Realistic.
  • Time Bound.

Set specific goals: Specificity is key in effective goal making. Diffuse, general goals are vague and don’t give the student anything in the way of a destination. “I want to sing higher” is vague. “I want to sing up to a G above middle C with ease, and clearly defined vowels” is a much more specific goal.

Goals can even be set by teacher and student for each lesson. The student, asked at the start of each session “What is your goal for today?” gets into the driver’s seat and takes responsibility for their development. Specificity of goals should also carry over to the student’s practice session throughout the week. If they can’t answer that question, then goal oriented conversations can be spontaneously addressed. It also gives the teacher a ‘leverage’ if performance in lessons begins to lag or drop off.

Set measurable goals: How will we know as student and teacher if the specific goal is being achieved? How will we know that we’ve been successful in our work? The goal, after being specified clearly, should have parameters of measurement to make sure that progress is being made. “By August 29th, I will be able to sing this coloratura passage cleanly and with ease, and incorporate 3 separate dynamics: piano, mezzo-piano, and forte.” This is a specific and measurable goal. Either the singer will be able to do that by August 29th, or they won’t.

Set attainable goals: Nothing will cause more frustration if the goal is too easily achieved (boredom sets in) or if it is too challenging (anxiety and stress).  No student should be demoralized by their lack of ability to achieve something that is over their level of skill. Items such as repertoire selection, exercises, and musical theory (sight-reading/ear training) should all be at the level of the student, with a logical progression to more difficult musical challenges in time.

Set realistic goals: Perhaps singing the Mad scene from Lucia by the end of the month isn’t really going to work. Maybe getting your belt voice in 2 weeks also isn’t going to fly in the real world. Goal-setting should be realistic and again, based on the student’s current level of development; both vocal and musical.

Set time bound goals: Goals can be set from the macro to the micro; from the year all the way to the week and hour. Setting a time bound goal helps focus technical work and musical practice. Studio recitals, performances, open mic nights, can all function as a way of creating a time-bound goal for a student.

A practice journal or diary can be useful in capturing goals from the macro to the micro. A continuum of progress can be assured when the goal-setting process is built on rational logic and the ability of the student. Students also appreciate the focus that this brings to their own work at home as well. They never question what specifically should be addressed at any given point in time.

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