I'm in high school, and I'd like to pursue classical singing at university. I was told that it would be good to see a vocal coach to work on some of my pieces, which is what I'm doing with my teacher. What is the difference between a vocal coach and my teacher, and do I have to bring something different to the coach?
As a general rule, a singing teachers main role is to teach you how to sing, as any other instrumental teacher teaches their student how to play their instrument. Of course, they also help you with all sorts of musical issues. Singers tend to go to vocal coaches to get guidance on pretty much anything else to do with their music that doesn’t involve singing technique, although the line is a little blurry sometimes …
Every vocal coach (or repetiteur) will have their own focus or individual skills, but in general they are piano players who specialise in vocal repertoire. They are often used to working with lots of different singers with all sorts of music, so may be able to offer a different perspective from your singing teacher. Many coaches specialise in certain repertoire or in language skills – often singers go to vocal coaches to sharpen their French, German or Italian before a performance.
It is also very useful for singers to work regularly with accompanists. In terms of repertoire, simply bring the pieces of music that you would like to improve, and that can be anything at all. If you know your French is a little dodgy, bring some French songs. If you’re preparing for an audition, bring your audition songs. Vocal coaches will always do their best to help you prepare for whatever’s coming up.
I would encourage you to try to work with as many coaches as you can. As with all teachers and musical collaborators, you will get more out of some coaches with some people than with others. I’m sure you’ll end up finding someone (or a few different coaches) that you like working with!