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The Vocal Coach Appoach
When Practice Makes Perfect
A guide to help singers of all levels learn to practice - and love it!

Copyright 2022 by the author and Inside View Press
ISBN 978-1-7335060-4-5
153 Pages

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Downloadable Excerpts

Downloadable Excerpts

Table of Contents


Everyday Tools for Musical Technique

Praise for Ashbaker's Work

The Vocal Coach Approach (When Practice Makes Perfect) by Susan Ashbaker joins a short, but distinguished list of books that should be considered essential for all who instruct and guide young performers of Opera and Art Song. It goes without saying that young singers can benefit greatly from listening to professionals who offer their experience and knowledge of performance traditions and communicate the information in an organized, logical manner. But good coaches who understand voices and vocal technique and have extensive knowledge of repertoire are very hard to find. Books written by professional voice coaches who can also share expertise in the intricacies of the business aspects of Classical Singing are fewer still.

In this book, Susan helps young singers work toward a synthesis of music, text, and style, utilizing all three of these components to fully enliven a character, a story line, and/or an event. Many young singers will never enjoy the benefits of working in person with a coach like Susan—one who has conducted operas, played piano reductions of opera scores, coached and accompanied for art song recitals, directed young artists’ programs, and run entire opera companies. Drawn from a long and highly successful and productive career, Susan has skillfully distilled her knowledge into this handy toolbox for singers. The techniques and insights she shares will guide singers and their teachers as they tackle challenges of style, diction, and phrasing, and work toward a form of vocal expression that more faithfully reveals the intentions of both composer and poet. The Vocal Coach Approach (When Practice Makes Perfect) should be required reading for anyone wishing to be involved in the development of the next generation of great singers.

Christopher Arneson
Director of Voice Pedagogy, Westminster Choir College at Rider University

My longtime esteemed friend and colleague Susan Ashbaker has put together a most useful and practical set of techniques and methods for singers, vocal coaches, and other musicians to use in the study of music that they are learning and perfecting. In our field, she is widely admired for her honest and easy communication, and the ideas that are set forth here are exactly in that vein—they are simple to understand and quickly can be integrated into the habits of those persons who are unlocking the secrets of music as they improve their artistry. Learning how to learn is one of the most important skills anyone can develop. Such writing is a wonderful addition to the canon of thought and process for all of us, and I congratulate her on her accomplishment with this enlightening text!  

Warren Jones
Pianist, Vocal Coach, and Conductor



About the Author

Susan Shiplett Ashbaker, Associate Professor and Director of Westminster Opera Theatre for Westminster Choir College at Rider University and Director for the CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster, brings over 40 years of experience in the performing arts. Ms. Ashbaker is active in the opera/vocal world as an independent artistic advisor and consultant, master class presenter, lecturer, and opera/vocal coach. Her experience on both sides of the opera industry gives her a rare and comprehensive approach to key elements of career advancement for singers as well as a unique vantage point in the administration of opera companies, arts organizations, and institutions of higher learning. She is in demand as a master class presenter, having presented recently at Boston Conservatory, University of Miami, Binghamton University, Montclair University, Rutgers University, and Ithaca College.

Ms. Ashbaker was affiliated with Tri-Cities Opera for five years; four as General and Artistic Director, and one as Artistic Director, and “transformed the company in every way imaginable,” according to the former Board Chair. Additionally, Ms. Ashbaker served Opera Company of Philadelphia (OCP) for sixteen years, the last eleven as director of artistic and music administration. She led casting practices and reestablished the Company as a pioneer in offering advancements to young singers before they achieved national or international recognition, gave unique opportunities to well-established artists, and supervised all activities of the artistic and music departments. Under her direction, OCP established an intern program with the Curtis Institute of Music.

Ms. Ashbaker has worked as assistant conductor/vocal coach with New York City Opera, European Center for Opera and Vocal Arts, Israeli Vocal Arts Institute, International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, Theater am Goetheplatz (Bremen, Germany) and Academy of Vocal Arts, and she was on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music for nearly 20 years.

A frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and former participant on the MET Quiz Show, Ms. Ashbaker has also participated as panelist with Opera America, New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, judge for the Jensen Foundation, Marian Anderson Emerging Artist Competition, and the Richard Tucker Foundation Auditions, among others. Ms. Ashbaker trained at Southern Illinois University and l’École Normale de Musique de Paris and received a second master’s degree in vocal accompanying and coaching from University of Illinois under the tutelage of John Wustman.