By Lisa L Peters
My family story goes that I was singing before I could talk. In my house, music was more than recreation. It was more than a healing balm for the mind, body, and soul. Music was life. I’ve never met a musician who doesn’t feel this way. But feeling it and being able to truly express it are two very different things. Whether you want to sing professionally or just kill it in the shower, nothing will get you there faster or prepare you better than the right skills and support.
I had a chat with Lisa Kay "LK" Fletcher, an accomplished vocal coach for professionals with 35 years of experience - and my lifelong best friend - to learn more about what to look for when you want voice lessons. On the surface it may seem like a no brainer, but just like a fine wine or an exquisite chocolate, there’re so many complex layers and nuances. The right coach brings much more than music to the table.
Lisa P: Would you say that music is your passion?
Lisa Kay: Music was my first language; it’s in my DNA; it’s an integral part of who I am. I’d say my passion - or my true gift - is polishing other people’s talents. Every student is a diamond in the rough. I’m extremely good at seeing the facets beneath the surface and helping them to shine.
Lisa P: Tell me a bit about how and why you became a professional singing coach.
Lisa Kay: As a third generation musician, it never felt like a risk to pursue music as a profession. I started as a performer. I’d done a bit of teaching and liked it and my students seemed to like it, too. But I’d never intended it as a career.
Then life threw me a curveball. My oldest child died and my youngest was very ill. I began teaching as a way to earn a living working from home. It quickly became my bread and butter and it never felt like work. That was 35 years ago. And here I am.
Lisa P: Not feeling like work: That seems like a key element to the coach/student relationship.
Lisa Kay: Absolutely. I love the word 'relationship'. I partner with my students to help them meet or exceed their goals. It is a relationship. And yes, it’s built on and around the music, but I see, hear, and work with each individual by meeting them where they are. I push when I have to. That’s my job. But I’m supporting them to accomplish the objectives which we design together.
Lisa P: All relationships are two-way streets. So let’s start with your lane. What do you consider before taking someone on as a student?
Lisa Kay: We need to be able to create a mutual agenda. We both need to be willing to take the risks necessary to reach our goals. You can’t be reluctant to preform and you must feel good about your progress, however it unfolds. It’s a journey. Basically, I look for you to be three things:
Reliable - Show up, shut up when necessary, and be willing to do whatever it takes to reach your musical goals. I’ll support you all the way.
Capable - This is where I come in. I can teach you the skills and give you the tools you need.
Likable - I don't mean that everybody has to like you. But if you let me like you - notice I said “let me like you” - we can have a really effective relationship.
Lisa P: And more importantly, what should the aspiring singer look for in a vocal coach?
Lisa Kay: Three main things:
Someone who has already taken other singers where they want to go. I’ve had students at every major conservatory, consistently place 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at NATs, sing at all the major opera houses, do broadway national tours, sing backup or have solo careers in major national markets, and I even had a runner up on one of the early seasons of American Idol. The bottom line is This: I help singers meet and exceed their goals. Whether you want to do this for a living or you just want to sing for your newborn without scaring her, I will get you there by helping you take that journey every step of the way.
Somebody who’s in an established network of related professionals. You’re going to need a lot of support in many different areas. A good coach will provide that in her realm of expertise and will also know when to introduce you to other experts when you need them.
Someone who sets goals with you and holds you to them.
Oh, and one more thing: A coach who will let you sit in on a session and observe before your hire them. The right coach is the one you click with. And all good professionals know that not every fit is a good one. I am fortunate to be able to work with many different singers with a large array of talents and goals. I am also blessed to be able to only chose to forge relationships that are mutually beneficial. You should do the same as a student. This is your singing journey. Take it with people who can fully support and appreciate you.
Lisa Kay is a rare gem herself, a truly polished one. Always positive, creative, and supportive, she approaches life and coaching holistically and with a passion and fervor that have a way of inspiring those around her. She is a gentle force who gets transcendent results. I have golden childhood memories of her strumming a tune on the guitar as we worked out angelic harmonies. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was lovingly pushing me to be the best I could be. She is a natural teacher.