Martha Lavender, M.M.E.

Private Voice Instructor • Vocal Coach • Music Educator

What exactly is bel canto technique? Bel Canto refers to a style of singing ​first made famous in the 16th century in Italian opera that glorified and celebrated the human voice.  As a technical term, it is used to describe a teaching style that emphasizes purity of tone, vocal agility and smoothness, and a voice that is free of breaks or differentiations between vocal registers.

I don't want to sound like an opera singer...will bel canto technique make me sound like that? No, not if you are not interested in studying that style of music and do not have a voice that is suited to that type of repertoire.  The philosophy behind the bel canto style of teaching is that singing should be natural, healthy, and tension free.  Singers with this kind of proper foundation can apply it to any style of song they wish

What if I have absolutely no talent?  I am here to help you, not to judge you.  You are here to learn about yourself as a singer and to grow.  I encourage you to leave your fear and inhibition at the door and bring with you to your lessons your open mind, curiosity, and willingness to take instruction.  Singing is similar to speech.  Do you have the ability to sustain a tone when you speak?  I bet you can sing!  The quality of your tone when singing can be improved through study as can your understanding of the physiology of the process of vocalization and the use of your body (that's what I can help you with).  How much improvement you will see will have to do with how much you involve yourself in your study and apply yourself to the process.  I can honestly say that 100% of the students who have worked with me have seen some form of improvement and growth during their course of study while working with me (be it weeks, months, or years).  I believe talent has more to do with natural tone quality, musicality, a singer's ear (pitch matching ability), and performance nuance (some people refer to this as the "it factor").  

What if I have to miss a lesson?  If you know you are going to miss a lesson due to a scheduled vacation, school event, doctor's appointment, work commitment, etc., just let me know in advance and we'll see if we can reschedule the lesson for the week (though rescheduling can prove to be difficult because my schedule is booked fairly tightly).  If rescheduling is not possible, a lesson will be skipped for the week; if it was previously paid for, a credit will be given for the following month.  If a lesson is missed without notification, the lesson is still charged.

Can I choose a song that I really want to work on?  Most certainly.  However it is important that we determine if this selection will be beneficial to your study.  Sometimes students pick out songs that are not necessarily the best thing to work on at that particular point in their course of study (either too demanding, too fast, too high, too low, etc.).  That does not mean that it isn't a choice that could be revisited in the future.

Can my mom (dad/friend/etc.) drop me off for my lesson?  Yes, but please be aware that there is likely to be a student scheduled directly before and after your lesson.  If your ride drops you off early and picks you up late, you will have wait outside the studio and there is no lobby.  This can be tricky during bad weather.  Just be sure your drop off and pick up rides are aware of the time!

Can my mom (dad/friend/etc.) stay during the lesson?   Lesson observation is permitted but is entirely up to the student.  If a student will feel self-conscious or inhibited in any way because someone is observing, I do not encourage having anyone else but the student and the teacher in the room.  On the other hand, there are many students who enjoy having a parent or friend in a lesson.  There is a comfortable sitting area in the studio for guests to sit and observe lessons.

These are some actual questions Martha has recently received (and the answers she gave) -

What happens during a lesson? Lessons begin with vocalise​, the art of vocal exercises on vowel sounds and shapes. The point of this is to build strength, coordination, and muscle memory in the body and conceptual understanding of vocalization in the mind. After these drills, we move on to repertoire work. While working on songs, we utilize the technical concepts and practices we are focusing on and apply them to the music phrases and lyric patterns in the song(s) we are currently studying.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some recommendations from some of my students 

(if you are a current or former student and wish to submit a testimonial, please contact me) -

"If you have had even a fleeting thought about taking voice lessons, pick up the phone and call Martha right now.  She has an extraordinary gift for tuning into her students' psyches and abilities to help them achieve their full potential. No matter where you are in your voice journey, Martha's intuitive, caring and professional coaching style will have you singing for joy. After 48 years of recreational singing, I am completely blown away at what my voice can now do after only three months with Martha. She is truly one the best kept secrets in New Jersey. If you have an opportunity to work with Martha, grab it. You'll be very glad you did." - Anna, adult student

"I am truly grateful to be working with Martha. In the few months that I have been studying, I have made huge strides in vocal technique and production. Martha is excellent to work with--she emphasizes how supporting the note feels in your body, not how the note should or shouldn't sound. She is wonderfully supportive and has helped me prepare for numerous college auditions and performances. Thanks, Martha!" - Francesca, age 17

"I have always wanted to learn how to sing properly, but let everyday life interfere for too long. Thankfully I found Martha and she has opened the whole world of vocal music to me.  She is skilled, kind, and encouraging and my weekly lessons are a consistent joy and delight. I can't believe how much progress I've made in the past 6 months and look forward to continued progress." - Phyllis, adult student

"Martha is a consummate professional and has grace, patience, and wisdom working with her students.  She builds on the strengths of each student and it shows in their confidence.  Martha, thank you for helping to shape my daughter into the beautiful person she is today: a confident young lady!!" - Goldie, mother of a 13 year old student

"Martha is super fun to work with. She pushes you, but in a caring way. She really helped me with my pitch and breathing, and with being able to pronounce the lyrics. I really love practicing for musicals with her!" - Colly, age 10

"My daughter and I both take voice lessons with Martha.  She is a very caring, energetic person who encourages her students to participate in their vocal training by allowing them to help choose their songs.  She individualizes the lesson to the students' voices as my daughter has a more popular sounding voice while I have a more classical (opera) sound.  She also allows you to experiment with all genres of music." - Elise, adult student and mother of three including student Sarah, age 13

"Martha has a dynamite personality.  She teaches in an upbeat manner.  My daughter looks forward to her voice lesson every week.  Martha is very skilled at what she does.  I'm amazed at the improvement that I hear in my daughter's voice each week." - Chrissy, mother of a 14 year old student

"Martha is a great teacher and is good at picking songs to fit each student. She also has some pretty funny stories and is very friendly. She helped me prepare for the talent show that I sang in.  When I was done with my performance,  I got a BIG round of applause and every single teacher, all my friends who were there,  and even my old principal from pre-k told me I was outstanding!" - Bridgette, age 14