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About the Program

A progressive, stepped approach to lifelong achievement
(preferred program)

I teach a voice technique that is closely aligned with 17th century bel canto training. I am not a song coach. I work with teen and adult singers, intermediate and advanced-level. School-aged students study sight-reading and ear training, music theory for singers, and studies for the voice including vocal exercises and vocal methods. Singers work on songs and repertoire selected by the teacher (including traditional and classical selections). 

I teach age 12+.  I do not recommend formal voice study for children under the age of 12. All teen students are beginning students of voice. There is no way a teen student can have amassed enough vocal, emotional or intellectual maturity and quality voice training to be considered an intermediate singer. In regard to my training, I consider a beginning singer who already has some fundamental musicianship skill with piano or another instrument and who can read notes on the treble clef "intermediate." A student who is deficient in that area may begin to correct the deficiency by successfully completing 6 weeks of piano lessons with me in advance of beginning voice lessons.

Students ages 12-17 are expected to participate in at least one of the excellent evaluation programs available through Music Teachers Association of California, the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program, or the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

For toddlers and slightly older, I recommend a good musicianship training program, such as Orff Schulwerk, Dalcroze Eurythmics and Kodaly programs. These programs are difficult to find because not everyone insists on quality music education for their children. I suggest calling larger universities for leads, or finding the associations related to these types of programs on the Internet.

I recommend piano lessons for age 7 or 8 and older. If a child doesn't want to practice the piano (violin, etc.), or can't be cajoled into practicing, they will not do well with formal voice instruction, either. Multi-faceted choral programs such as the South Bay Children's Choir and other such offerings are a good training ground. I do not recommend show-type choirs, or groups requiring children to sing with a lower adjustment (chest, belt-style production) before they find and learn to use the upper adjustment. Singing only in lower adjustment often leads singers to believe they have no upper range. And reinforcing lower adjustment before a young physiology is ready for it can have other negative consequences.

Approximately half of the lesson at my studio, or more, is dedicated to the study of technique through vocalises (vocal exercises) and vocal exercises in song form. The remainder of the lesson is dedicated to musicianship skills and repertoire development.

I have chosen to focus my efforts on working with singers of, primarily, classical music and, secondarily, musical theatre, though the technique I teach is completely transferable to other styles of singing. I will not teach any singer to belt until registration is even and connected. Every singer has other than a belt voice. No singer has only a belt voice. They simply have not invested the time and effort into developing anything but some form of a belt, for better or worse.

I will not reinforce any less than efficient vocal habits or techniques. There is a great deal of "stop and go" in my training. Singers who wish only to sing through multiple songs in a lesson will not find my training enjoyable.

For information on the difference between technical training and song coaching, please visit this excellent article at

There is a huge gap today between what once was considered to be genuine voice training and the current song-singing and star making singing and recording sessions that are passing for voice training. I have found that people inquiring into lessons don't have the faintest idea of what voice training ought to be, because they have no personal experience, or they know no one who has had personal experience with genuine voice training.

The reasons for training one's voice are different now. A young person used to learn to sing the way they may have trained for dance cotillion, or participated in etiquette training. An educated, cultured person learned to play the piano, or sing, or play some other instrument. Even into the 1980s and early 1990s, polite parties would feature opera- and theatre-singing and piano playing lawyers, doctors, professors and other professionals. The process of learning to make detailed, nuanced, artistic, beautiful music beautifully enhanced their personal, social and professional lives. I have a difficult time believing that blaring a CD over a stereo system and screaming along with it is an equally artistic and personally satisfying experience.

I look forward to receiving inquires from those who desire training of substance and a music learning experience that comes out of the tradition of beautiful singing.

2014-15 Holidays                     

There will be no lessons offered on the following major holidays.

*Students may schedule lessons on these days if desired.

Adult Voice Lessons

  • Choral Singers

  • Avocational Performers

  • Professionals wanting to touch up their technique

  • People who want to explore the process of learning to sing

  • Sight-singing and Musicianship Training

Adult students receive the same quality technical instruction and attention that is offered to school-aged singers. Half or more of the lesson is dedicated to developing and fine tuning vocal technique via the practice of vocal exercises, exercises in song form.

Lessons for advanced students are flexible and are geared toward individual need and expertise. Advanced students hone existing skills, work to eliminate deficits and add greater dimension to their practice and performance capabilities.

The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program
Formerly the Carnegie Hall-Royal Conservatory

Achievement Program

Evaluations take place throughout the year

MTAC Certificate of Merit
Six months study with your teacher is required for participation. Evaluations take place between Feb - April

NATS Student Evaluation Program
Takes place in early November

CAPMT/MTNA-sponsored auditions, evaluations, competitions

This program is a solid stepping stone for singers embarking on university studies and professional careers. School-aged students participate in competitions and evaluations offered through the Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC), the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Music Development Program, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT).

Students may be required to purchase anywhere from 3 to 6 music books in a 6 to 12 month period. These books are readily available through online outlets. Other optional books may be recommended. Songs are selected for the student by the teacher. Songs texts will be in English, Italian, French and German. It is the student's responsibility to learn the songs. Singers who do not have the ability to sight-read vocal music are required to take six weeks of piano instruction with me prior to starting voice lessons. Instruction is geared toward learning to read notes and rhythms and musical terms related to a vocal line in the music. Singers are also expected to obtain a keyboard of some kind to help them learn their music. The teacher is not responsible for teaching the notes of the songs. Students are expected to learn and memorize assigned songs in a timely fashion, record every lesson and maintain a lesson journal.

Students are expected to show up on time for lessons. (at least 5 or 10 minutes early)

Prospective students must book a preliminary consultation. While music education and singing is for everyone, not every teacher is for every student and vice versa. I do not turn out rock stars. I do not turn out child opera singers. I teach foundation-based technique and artistic singing to those who want to learn.

Patricia Shanks Voice Studio

27601 Forbes Road, Suite 45
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

(949) 723-4473

Please call for information.



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