The History of Teacher Training in AOTOS

AOTOS is dedicated to lifting the standard of singing teaching in this country. Our training courses for voice teachers are central to our work, and were first developed in response to a need for a ‘refresher’ course for existing teachers. The initial impetus came from contacts in America where teacher training is an integral part of all singers’ third-level courses. We do not have that tradition in the UK, where it was felt that performing and teaching courses should be kept separate. Moves to introduce teaching methodology and practice have been slow to arrive in the leading conservatoires.

The founder of the AOTOS’ course, Eileen Price, writes about how it originated:

“Bruce Lunkley, president of the NATS foundation, came to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 1990 where I was Head of Vocal Studies. He noticed that I included a course of vocal physiology for the third-year students who might be interested in teaching voice. It was therefore his kind invitation to observe the newly formed internship programme for young singing teachers in America that inspired me to encourage AOTOS to start a similar programme. The subjective nature of the art of singing ,and the teaching of singing historically, can create a mystique behind which teachers hide their technique and methods. I saw how the intimacy of this new system encourages greater confidence and understanding in a supportive and sharing atmosphere to teachers of all levels. From small beginnings, the AOTOS training course has grown into what it is today. The student teacher learns in a safe and secure environment and much assurance is gained in what can sometimes be a solitary and isolated profession. As more and more younger singers move into the teaching profession, it is imperative that courses like this exist to teach, to train and to inspire.”

Eileen ran the course from its inception in 1992 until 2004 and it settled into its base at Harrow School near her home.

Penelope Price Jones was Teacher Training Director from 2006 to 2013, when she moved to the role of Chair Elect. During 2013 to 2014 she and a working party consisting of Margaret Aronson (who took over as Teacher Training Director in 2013), Coral Gould and Ivor Flint reassessed the role of AOTOS in teacher training. During its time at Dauntsey’s School in Wiltshire the Teacher Training Course had experimented with various ways of meeting the needs of inexperienced and underqualified teachers within the week. This had varying success, although all participants spoke of learning from each other. However, those mentoring the course were all the time aware of the need to match the aspirations of those wanting to teach singing, sometimes with large gaps of essential knowledge, with the standards of tuition that we in AOTOS wanted to endorse. There was also a feeling that some form of validation for the intense work done during the Teacher Training Week needed to be set.

The Pathways – purposely plural, to indicate that there are many different needs – programme was launched to mark our 40th anniversary in 2015. The Teacher Training Week – now our Professional Development Course – remains the central plank of this plan, but people aspiring to become teachers of singing start by attending a Access Day are then allocated to an experienced AOTOS mentor to guide them into filling the gaps in their knowledge, to gain some experience in watching teaching, and then steadily starting to do some themselves. When they are ready they will be recommended to take the PDC, and then to work with further study to take an appropriate diploma for the area in which they want to teach.