Rachel Byrd – Voice Teacher

Voice and Piano Instructor
B.M. in Vocal Performance; Temple University
Opera, Musical Theatre, Jazz, Pop

voice teacher, voice lessons, piano lessons, music lessons, philadelphia, opera, I teach voice and piano.  From a young age, I knew that music was my second language.  My desire to sing, act, and dance on stage came to fruition at the age of 4. I spent years of my youth performing piano at local churches,  participating in local choirs and musical theatre, and pursuing classical and jazz percussion through school ensembles.  When I was 16,  I started pursuing classical voice intensively.  It quickly became my deepest passion and I believe that my studies in piano and percussion have only enhanced my ability and understanding of the art.  I participated in the Washington National Opera Institute and in choral festivals around the United States.  I furthered my studies first at the Boston Conservatory then graduated with a Bachelors degree in Vocal Performance from Temple University.  In my time at Temple, I performed in a variety of operas including Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Die Fledermaus (Strauss) Suor Angelica (Puccini) and Die Zauberflote (Mozart).  I have also performed in the operas Don Giovanni (Mozart) and La Straniera (Donezetti).


As a vocalist, our bodies are our instrument.  Every body is built differently, and I cater my lessons to each students needs.  I teach students anywhere from beginner to advanced.  My goal as a vocal instructor is to help my students sing freely and healthfully.  Lessons are focused on breathing, technique, music theory, and applying technical knowledge to pieces.  I encourage my students to explore their capabilities and experiment until they find their unique voice.  As a piano instructor, I teach beginner to intermediate students.  I focus on music reading fluency, healthy technique, sight reading, and music theory.


When did you begin playing piano and singing, and why?
I began singing when I was 4 years old and privately studying piano when I was 5.  I would spend hours at the keyboard making up my own songs.


What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I started pursuing percussion when I was 10 years old.  I had experience playing jazz and classical in school ensembles and played snare drum in high school marching band.


What are your personal goals as a musician?
My goals as a musician are to sing and play with as little tension as possible, to effectively communicate while singing or playing with ensembles, and to trigger an emotional response from my audience.


Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
This concept for me clicked very recently.  I used to think that when I sang lower notes that the sound would feel huge in my body and high notes would feel like a laser beam.  It is quite opposite!  When a vocalist sings higher,  the vocal chords stretch and more pressure builds below them making your body feel full.  The feeling is blissful!


What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
My favorite piece of advice was from my current voice instructor.  She says that as vocalist, the hardest thing we have to do is get out of our own way.  We try to produce a specific sounds and modify our bodies to achieve it.  All we can do is align our bodies and breath.  We have no control over the outcome.


What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Singing is an abstract art.  It requires mind games, analogies, and exploring physical limits.  Until recently,  I had very little understanding of my body and breathing mechanism.  After college,  I took a year off of singing and solely focused on practicing yoga, breath and meditation, and pushing my body past the limitations I set for it.  Not allowing myself to sing felt like cutting off one of my life lines. However, the rewards of my singing break were incredible!  I learned that singing IS breathing.  Keeping my muscles relaxed and letting my breath flow like a waterfall allowed me to sing with freedom and power.


What is your biggest musical achievement?
This has to be my senior recital at Temple University.  I spent months building repertoire all set to text by William Shakespeare.  I was able to find pieces that were translated into German, French, and Italian!


Favorite thing about teaching?
I absolutely love when a concept clicks during their practice over the week and they come to lessons excited to share their thoughts and ideas!


What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Try not to compare your own improvement to others.  Everyone learns and grows at a different pace.  Keep loving what you do and stay curious.  Then you will make a unique and genuine contribution to the music world.