Read as Jaime Vendera talks about his career as a Vocal Coach. Find him at www.jaimevendera.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
Actually, I do many jobs that originally evolved from my passion, which is singing. In 2000, I decided to write my first book, which was about vocal technique. Since releasing Raise Your Voice, I’ve written and produced dozens of books, both non-fiction through venderapublishing.com and fiction through 711press.com, with my co-producer, Daniel Middleton. When not writing, or singing, I teach voice and have taught many famous rock singers from bands such as Dream Theater, Thriving Ivory, Kevin Rudolf and more. But my real fun is the television shows I’ve appeared on demonstrating my amazing ability to shatter glass, as seen on shows like Dr. Oz and MythBusters.
How would you describe what you do?
Considering I cover a wide variety with teaching, publishing and performing, I’d have to describe my daily job as intense discipline. I have to work out my voice every day with my own vocal exercises to stay on top of my game for my students and set aside writing time for writing my personal releases, as well as producing the fiction titles. However, my schedule is frequently thrown off when I must travel to China or Australia for example for a TV show or live vocal workshop.
What does your work entail?
Life as a vocal coach in and of itself is as demanding as any other teaching job, requiring you to keep track of assignments given to your students, etc. to become a successful vocal coach, you must look at yourself as a name brand, even if you become a school choir director. It’s best to brand yourself through multiple streams. I, for example, not only write singing books, I’ve also developed an app for singers, The Vendera Digital Vocal Coach, as well as produced many singing videos and audio programs to teach vocal effects such as adding grit and how to scream.
What’s a typical work week like?
Hectic, hectic, hectic…but fun. Each day consists of scheduling students for singing lessons as well as several hours dedicated to writing books and editing fiction novels, as well as working with other partners who handle various products in development. On top of that, I am frequently scheduled for tv shows. This year alone, I’ve filmed in China and the US, as well as for Japan and Europe.
How did you get started?
I studied voice at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood California. But that wasn’t enough for me, so I bugged every rock star I met to share their singing secrets and compiled a book on the best materials, which eventually turned into Raise Your Voice. In 1996, a friend of mine asked me to show him how to sing in the high register because he wanted to sing along with Dream Theater music. I’d never taught voice so I thought about what helped me and I remembered my favorite singer, Jim Gillette, used to slide from low to high on one note. I tried that with my friend and he gained five notes in his upper range that very day. I began using this method to teach others and it worked exceptionally well. What’s ironic, is years later, Jim Gillette taught me to shatter glass, and James Labrie of Dream Theater is now my student.
What do you like about what you do?
Please tell me, what’s not to like. I dare you to point it out, haha. I make my own hours, I do what I love, I get to travel the world and I work with some of my favorite singers.
What do you dislike?
The only thing I dislike is the long 13+ hour flights when I have to perform in other countries.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
Vocal coaches are compensated per voice lesson, but their annual income can be greatly improved if they develop their own product line. Just like a piano teacher, you can make a decent living teaching out of your home, but you can also conduct workshops to make more money as well as attract more students.
How much money do Vocal Coaches make?
Honestly, vocal coaching is probably a job which you start on the low end of the totem pole. You have to develop a reputation and clientele and that takes time. When I started, my hourly rate was $20.00 per hour. Now I charge $100.00 per 45-minute session or $100.00 per hour on Skype. Speaking of Skype, you now literally have millions of singers at your fingertips. With Skype, I’ve taught students in real time via the Internet and webcam. I have students from all over the world. In fact, I wrote a booklet called Online Teaching Secrets Revealed, which is published on Kindle, to show others how I do what I do.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
It varies. Like I said, I started at $20.00 per hour. Many coaches charge $400.00 an hour based on their notoriety. I refuse to charge that much. It also depends on your demographic. Living in a small town means small rates. A bigger city is much better. However, you may also have to rent a space to teach, which eats into your income. But, you can write it off on your taxes.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
It depends on your goals. Do you wish to be a vocal coach or do you want to be the music teacher at a local school or college? If teacher is your goal, you’ll need to head to college. If vocal coach is your ideal situation, you can study with various coaches and materials, start small, maybe even offering a handful of free lessons to develop your teaching routine before setting up shop.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Getting my lazy students to work harder, haha. In the end, your reputation is on the line and you’re only perceived as good as your worst student. So you must find ways to encourage the lazy one. I once forbid a student from more lessons with me because he’d only practiced three times in four weeks. He begged to come back, so I made a deal. He had to practice thirty days in a row before I’d schedule him. I told him I’d know if he didn’t. Long story short, he did it, we did more lessons, and he got a scholarship to college for his wonderful voice.
What is most rewarding?
Most rewarding thing to me is the fact that I’ve had hundreds of people email or call me telling me how I saved their voice, how they recovered from vocal loss and how I’ve inspired them to be more than they can be.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Get in it for the passion, not the money. if money is your goal, get ready to work 24/7 and develop your own product line.
How much time off do you get/take?
I’m a workaholic so I take no time off. However with the Internet, I can go on vacation, take a week off from teaching and write on my laptop. In the end, as your own boss, you set the schedule.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That I’m a millionaire because I perform on TV, haha. Not true.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Save as many voices as I can, write as many books as I can and shatter as many glasses as I can.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
I’m pretty sure I summed it all up…Oh yeah, I get to go back stage at almost every concert I attend. That’s rock-n-roll.