Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a voice coach? Well, wonder no more. The multi-talented Darci Monet recently talked about it as well as music and acting in this insight interview. Check it out.
How did you develop an interest in music and drama?
“I really was born with it. My mother tells the story that when I was a baby I didn’t wake up crying like most do, I would wake up singing. She’d hear me and come in my room and there I’d be, holding my toes and just singing away in my crib. We often wonder now where that happy attitude in the morning went! She also tells the story that when I was very little, she’d take me to the grocery store and I would stand and recite commercials from tv into the mirrors above the produce. One time she couldn’t get me to stop and she was so embarrassed that she left her cart full of groceries, scooped me up and left in tears. My poor mom. She never likes to be the center of attention, so the irony is not lost on me that her firstborn turned out to be a big ham. I’m still not sure she really knows what to do with me. So, honestly, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing or acting.”
Can you tell us a little about your training?
“The first instrument I learned to play was the violin, beginning in the fourth grade, I believe. I played till about 10th grade, including private lessons, until we moved back to our original hometown which did not have an orchestra in the high school. I began piano lessons around sixth grade I think and played all the way through college. After that I didn’t have access to a piano for about a decade and it turns out it’s not like riding a bike, so my skills now are extremely rusty. I can still play enough to get through vocal exercises and plunk out basic chords for songs I write, but otherwise, I wouldn’t subject people to it! When I was about 16 or 17 I began private voice lessons and that’s pretty much when my world changed. I went on to be a vocal major in college and I still study here and there when I need to brush up or work an audition piece. As for acting, I took some classes in high school but once I went to college to study music, I simply didn’t have enough time to also study acting (anyone who’s studied music in college knows that you have twice as many classes as anyone else does), so I did one play my first semester and then it had to go by the wayside. I only started brushing off my old skills and began auditioning again about five years ago or so. I’ve taken a couple acting and improv classes here and there over that time, but I generally keep it as a fun activity when I have the opportunity to do it as opposed to a career trajectory.”
You are a vocal coach. Explain a little about what that is and what you do.
“Basically, I teach people how to sing correctly using my own “Tech and Truth Method,” which is a mixture of different vocal techniques I’ve learned over the years through my own study as well as incorporating basic acting skills in order for the singer to be able to tell the story of the song believably. My feeling is that not only is great technique important to keep your voice safe and singing healthily for decades to come, but even if you have the most phenomenal voice in the world, it won’t matter if your audience doesn’t believe you. Thus, tech and truth.”
If someone had an interest in becoming a vocal coach, what advice would you give?
“I sort of fell into it. I never planned to teach, truth be told, but that’s another Oprah show! If someone has the desire to do it, the best thing to do is major in music education with an emphasis on vocal performance in college. That way the coach has not only developed his/her own skill set as a vocalist but will also learn how to teach that skill set to other people thanks to the curriculum. If you’re past college age, I’d say start with one or two guinea pigs – friends that might like to learn a thing or two. It’s important that you discover whether or not you can relay what you know about singing correctly to others. Teaching doesn’t come naturally to everyone and just because you’re a great singer does not necessarily mean you’ll be a great teacher or coach. Most importantly, make sure you have vocal exercises to give your students that build strength, power, stamina, breath control, range stretching, etc., because utilizing those is how a singer will protect his/her voice and be able to sing gloriously for decades to come. If you don’t have your own vocal workout that you do on the daily, please don’t teach. Just don’t. You have no business teaching, to be frank. Instead, find a teacher that can give you those tools for yourself. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many students have come through my door and have had years of “voice training” prior to me and yet they have no daily vocal workout of their own. It is no different than trying to a marathon without training for it. That’s crazypants. The exception to this are voice coaches (important distinction between teacher and coach, though some people are both) that specialize in audition or performance prep only. But even they still have to understand basic singing skills to effectively provide their service to their client.”
How much time do you spend honing your skills?
“Nowadays? Well, it’s really hard to say. It depends on what’s coming up on the calendar. It’s certainly not like it used to be because life happens! When I was in college I’d spend five to eight hours a day practicing sometimes, but back then music was the only focus I had. Now that I’m a rickety old lady living real life in the real world, I still at least try and make sure I run my vocal workout (again, exercises!) more days than not and especially on teaching days, and obviously if I have a performance I carve out time for learning my material, practicing with my accompanist or band, etc. If I’m in songwriting mode and I have the luxury of several hours to devote to it, I’ll do so. Other times I might just scribble something down in 30 seconds and save it for later. It truly varies, depending on what’s going on in my life.”
What is the best thing you like about being a vocal coach?
“Two things, really. When I get a teenager with a fire in their belly to be a musician for a living like I had, that’s a real gift. I feel like I have so much knowledge and experience thanks to my own failures and successes to share with them outside of teaching them technique and performance skills. And it’s so exciting to teach a student who is committed to coming every week, practicing at home regularly and getting out there to perform! The second thing I like best is when I have a student who comes in with serious emotional or mental baggage getting in the way of them being the best they can be. When their confidence begins to build and we have breakthrough moments, either with their technique or their thought process, it’s the best feeling in the world! Those students are like hunting for little treasures inside their hearts and minds and when we find the treasure it has the potential to be life-changing for them. Utterly satisfying!”
What do you find more challenging, music or acting?
“Well, I wouldn’t say one or the other. Both seemed to come pretty naturally to me at a very young age as far as the artistry goes, but I will admit that if I had to take a music theory class right now I’d be sweating bullets! It’s been a minute! However, I will say that the process of getting work as a singer or actor is equally challenging. Talented people are a dime a dozen and figuring out what makes you stand out from the crowd as a vocalist or actor is the real challenge. You study/learn as much as you can about all aspects of your craft so that your own musical style or your own “type” as an actor is that much stronger. And then, you just have to have a great attitude, view your auditions as your opportunity to play that day and nothing more, do what you came to do, and then leave it in the room or on the stage. There’s a somewhat morbid saying in the business, you have to learn to “murder your babies.” You have to put your art out there, let it go and move on to the next opportunity and never allow not booking a job or gig to determine your self-worth or become a statement on the level of your talent, because very rarely do the two match. It seems when I go into an audition with that kind of attitude, as opposed to one of desperation, I get the job or gig.”
Do you think your musical talents have helped your acting an any way?
“Of course and I’d say vice versa. Learning to tell the story in a song believably infuses how I prepare a character. Both come down to telling the truth and that’s it. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.”
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you and your career?
“Well, I’m a big believer in creating your own opportunities as an artist and not just sitting around and waiting for other people to decide your fate for you. In this technological age, the internet has provided a wonderful platform for that and absolutely no excuse not to. There are a million ways to get your music heard or to find jobs as a singer thanks to the internet and even more opportunities for actors, I’d say. I am a niche market as an actor because I’m a big girl, so opportunities for females my size, despite the success of Melissa McCarthy, are still few and far between. And I’m just done with being sent on auditions for diet pills to talk about how much I hate myself because of what I weigh. I don’t hate myself and I won’t say that I do on national television. So, my wonderfully talented friend Kelly Goodman and I just started our own talk show webseries called “And ANOTHER Thing…with Darci and Kelly” and we put it up to YouTube every two weeks. We’re having a blast doing it and it’s a wonderful creative outlet for both of us. We talk about everything from politics to pop culture with an emphasis on body positivity and Health At Every Size and we do it all with lots of laughter, as we’re both primarily comedic actors. It’s like “The View” with way fewer hosts, a lot more laughs and zero cat fights! Our newest episode released August 30th is an all-Olympics special and we’re really excited about it!”
Folks who are curious about checking us out can find us here:
Twitter and Insta: @anotherthingtv
Twitter and Insta: @kelalag
“Also as a vocalist, I do the occasional live performance and free voice class when I have the time and inclination. The last few Christmases I’ve been broadcasting a live concert from my living room via www.ConcertWindow.com and I’m sure I will again this year. It’s literally a live concert like any other except that I sit and do it from my living room and you get to sit and watch it in the comfort of your own home from any of your devices. It only costs the ticket price. No parking hassles or fees, no commuting in traffic, no food/drink minimums, no screaming children or loud talkers disrupting your experience, no heads blocking your view, etc. I encourage every musician to check it out and see if it’s an opportunity they can utilize for themselves! And if you want to find out what I have coming up or inquire about private voice lessons (I teach in person in L.A. and also via Skype if you’re not local), you can find me here:”
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