Student Spotlight: William N.

Meet Will, one of our wonderful adult vocal students. Balancing life at UC Irvine with his music studies has been challenging but rewarding, and he’s even managed to fit singing and musical theatre into college life. Though getting ready to graduate and move onto dental school, Will continues to practice and improve, and it’s clear from his interview how thoughtful and engaged he is in his voice lessons.

MM: How did you get started with music in general, and how long have you been singing? How long have you taken lessons?

WN: At the age of 5, I began taking piano lessons and continued onward with it until the end of high school. However, I didn’t start singing until sophomore year of high school when a friend convinced me to do it. I decided to do vocal lessons in the fall of 2014 when I realized that I needed a vocal coach to help me out of my singing plateau.

MM: I know you’ve used lessons with Michael to prepare for a few performances. Can you tell us about those shows–what songs you did and where, how you heard about them, and what preparing/performing was like?

WN: I’m in a Greek fraternity at UCI, and we participate in a philanthropy called Greek Songfest. Every year there is a huge show/competition that takes place where each group or pairing is able to do a 12-minute run of a musical that they choose. About 2,000 people attend the show, and all of the proceeds go to a charity of choice. In the past two years, my groups did the shows Xanadu and Annie. This year we’re doing Grease, and we generally practice for a few hours 2-3 days a week during our winter and spring quarters.

Michael was a wonderful vocal coach due to his background in having done such performances before, but more importantly, I learned proper vocal technique and developed a strong foundation that has allowed me to improve in ways that I wasn’t able to before.

MM: How do you help yourself practice? Where do you practice? When do you practice?

WN: I practice whenever I have time. Even when I’m too busy to formally practice at home, I try to at least casually sing every day because stopping does make me a bit rusty as it would with a sport or any other hobby. I practice anywhere from singing at home on my piano to singing in the car as I’m driving around.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists who have inspired you, and why?

WN: I have a lot of favorite artists, but I worked with Michael with songs particularly from John Legend, Sam Smith, Alicia Keys, Michael Buble, and Jason Mraz. They’re not always the easiest to sing, but I admire how unique each of their styles is.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you and Michael have focused on, and how you improved/mastered it?

WN: I think that one of the most important techniques that he taught me was properly supporting my breath. I spent several months focusing on just breathing technique, and it wasn’t until I became comfortable doing this that I was able to see significant improvement in my singing.

MM: It can be especially tough learning something new as an adult. What advice would you give to other adult students just starting out, or considering lessons?

WN: I really encourage everyone to stick it out with the lessons. I only noticed slight improvements over several months. However, once I was able to understand and get comfortable with the techniques, it took my singing to another level. Singing is tough because everything happens internally. Singing is as visual as it is auditory. That might not make much sense, but you’ll have to be able to trick yourself into engaging muscles that you’re probably not used to using. I believe that experimenting with your voice at home and bringing what you learned to your lessons will help the most with improvement. Then your vocal coach can help you determine what to do and what not to do.

MM: What are you up to in life? I know you’re nearly done with school, but if I remember right, there’s dental school to come?

WN: I’m graduating this spring quarter at UCI, and so far it looks like I’ll be matriculating in fall 2016 for dental school at USC. It’s been tough being a student and pursuing this hobby on the side, but I think a desire to improve really allowed me to stay committed to these lessons!

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