About Pharos Music Studio
Why the name “Pharos Music Studio”?
What is “pharos”? A pharos is a lighthouse, a guiding light.
As a teacher, this is what I strive to be - one who helps others find their way. Learning a skill like music or retraining your speaking habits can be disorienting. At the beginning, we don’t even know what questions to ask or what the process of learning with be like. As we learn more, new questions and challenges arise. The right teacher will keep you on course toward your goals. As you learn and others see you sing your song, you become a “pharos” as well.
I’ve always felt that I’m making the most music I can possibly make when I’m singing. I love the physical sensations of singing as well as the sound. It fascinates me how intimately connected the voice is to emotion.
Teaching and learning have always gone together for me. I often gain a deeper understanding of a skill or concept when figuring out how to communicate it to someone else. And as soon as I “get” something, I want to share it.
I was not the singer that won the scholarships and competitions, though I certainly had solo opportunities and the like. I struggled. I was a perfectionist - not an asset for a singer, or any sort of creative. I was very analytical and very sensitive to criticism. My early teachers - while encouraging, and I learned many valuable things - did not give me the tools I needed for technical mastery. I had no framework for working through vocal problems or challenges. I cannot express how frustrating and disheartening it was to watch my friends win competitions and will places in summer programs while I got the same comments year after year.
It was only in graduate school that I learned the framework and process I’d been looking for. Not only did I now have the tools to improve my own singing by leaps and bounds, I relished the process of observation, problem solving, and communication necessary for effective voice teaching. My years of struggle had become an asset! I knew that a student could overcome a particular challenge or learn a particular skill because I had been through the process. So many times a student has come in to our lesson upset saying, “I just don’t know how to do this!” And I can honestly say, “It’s OK. We’ll solve it together.” And we do.
I love voice science and pedagogy. I love the psychology of learning. The work of Ingo Titze and Katherine Verdolini have been tremendously useful. I must acknowledge the skillful introduction to this material I received from Scott McCoy and Chris Arneson.
Learning to be a leader means learning to serve.
Growing up, I never had any trouble being in charge. I sought out responsibility and leadership positions and started conducting my first year of high school. As an undergrad I did the same. You may not think that being a Pep Band director at UNC would be good preparation for a choral conductor, but it was such a rich learning experience! Those experiences would be a blog post or several.
I took all the conducting classes available to me, both instrumental and choral. I even guest conducted a piece with the UNC Symphony after I graduated! Funnily enough, it was that experience that led me to step away from conducting for a while. Simply put, I realized that many of my opinions were not truly my own. I was used to doing what was needed to be done to get the “A.” When it came to having a strong vision of my own, I simply was not ready. Youth is not often an asset to a conductor.
In the time between then and now, I’ve worked with the good, the bad, the ugly, and the extraordinary. My musical opinions are informed and they are my own. I am myself with the group I conduct rather than an imitation of a teacher or a pre-conceived notion of the role.
How am I when I work with a group? I let my enjoyment be evident. I am happy to be rehearsing or performing. I meet the group where they are and do my best to help the group improve in a way that will have the most impact. Most importantly - I am there to serve the group (chorus or orchestra); they are not there to serve my personal artistic ambitions. Of course, the best fit between group and conductor will offer opportunities for growth for both parties.
Music Education Advocate
Music is so very life-enriching!
My hero and role models are those excellent musicians who also have a gift for education and reaching new audiences such as Leonard Bernstein, Wynton Marsalis and Benjamin Zander.
Teaching music appreciation at Wake Technical Community College has inspired a couple of projects currently in progress to help musicians foster joy in their daily music practice. I am also gathering resources to help parents of music students navigate the many decisions that come up during the course of music study.
Have a Question for Jean? Send a message below.
Jean Marie Whaley
Garner, NC 27529