What Julia Child Taught Me About Teaching Voice

What does Julia Child have to do with singing and great voice teaching?


There is a special sort of delight in watching a craftsperson in the height of their art. Whether making a dish, painting a picture, or hand-crafting furniture, there is a special sort of hypnotic joy in observing these people creating something out of more basic elements, or occasionally nothing at all.

In the course of the video, Julia understands every element and tool of her craft. Throughout, she answers questions, clarifies points, directs to other educational research (her reading related books on yeast is delightfully charming), and teaches to the limitation of the students watching – based on what tools and cooking items they may have at home.

She offers many solutions to problems, not just one. She does not come off as didactic or authoritarian. She offers a variety of suggestions and ideas for problem solving – never suggesting ONE true way of working. Put your yeast on a heating pad if that’s the only tool you have at hand!

Another element in her work that is infectious is the sheer JOY of creation. Throughout, her delight in the creation of food is infectious and makes you WANT to do what she does.

She also encourages us to do what she does – in no way leading us to believe that we can’t achieve the same things in our own kitchens. She makes us believe it is within our power to achieve what she does effortlessly.

So, too, great voice teaching is expert craftsmanship. The voice teacher that works in this way understands the principles Julia uses in her own kitchen.

Great voice teachers listen to the sounds of the voice before them, understanding the elements of their craft. For me, this is registration – hearing the result of the functions of the larynx helps me understand how to proceed with every student. Once I am able to understand the condition of the voice before me, I can formulate a plan for its continued development and habilitation. But the rest is discovery and application.

Every dish is different and requires different preparations and tools. So, too, is each and every student. While application may vary, fundamental key principles will remain. The teacher will realize this and be able to work with any and all types of students, understanding their particular functional and psychological makeup.

Working with a craftsman voice teacher is a JOYOUS and exciting experience. The teacher creates an environment where the student always feels on the right track and able to achieve success. They look at problems from many different perspectives, noting that some are more successful than others, and leading students to vocal responses that are healthy and congruent with functional realities.

There is no drudgery in a craftsperson’s work. It is always a process of discovery, fun, creativity, and art.

There is no confusion in a craftsman’s work: they are always able to tell you WHAT they are doing, and WHY they are doing it. At no point is there any ‘mystery.’ In fact, Julia Child’s work did the opposite: demystifying something that might have been held in secret by the great chefs and cooks of France. She brought it into the cold light of day and showed us how such ‘magic’ could be achieved.

Occasionally, an omelet falls on the floor. The craftsperson is not perfect and understands that human nature will always prevail in every lesson. Not every exercise will ‘work,’ not every song will be a ‘fit,’ but the teacher/craftsperson will be able to rectify the situation and redirect as necessary, still driving toward a successful conclusion.

To become a great teacher, it is necessary to observe great teaching. Sometimes these teachers will be voice teachers, sometimes they’ll be Julia Child or another inspirational craftsperson. The important thing is to take the lessons we learn and incorporate them into our studios.

Sharing the delights of the finished product, whether a fabulous buttery croissant, or a student’s beautifully used voice – the results in each case are simply irresistible.

This blog was updated from a post on August 15, 2015.

One thought on “What Julia Child Taught Me About Teaching Voice

  1. I just made Child’s cheese Soufflé from her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” People say it’s hard, are afraid it will fall, etc etc, but the thing is: if you follow her directions to the letter you can’t go wrong. Call me old fashioned, but working with a great voice teacher is much the same.

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