New York is known as a cold and mean city, with its glittering lights being the only warmth it has to offer. As the home of Broadway, finance and art, it attracts dreamers like flies to a light only to be squashed by its harshness. In the midst of all of this, a vocal studio in midtown, which acts as a solace for artists, has been able to survive in the big bad city of New York.
Last year, after experiencing “Les Miserables” for the first time, I fell in love with its story and power. I decided to take voice lessons after that. A few Google searches later, I stumbled across New York Vocal Coaching. I quickly learned how large vocal coaching is as a business, especially in NY. The price for a single session can go upward to $400 dollars, but at NYVC prices range from $70 to $150.
I went into my first lesson with my guard up. It was then that I met Travis, a voice coach within the company. We briefly discussed my decision to begin lessons and I was hesitant to tell him the truth behind my sudden interest in singing. I was afraid he would burst my bubble, but all he did was support me and my newfound dream. I decided to take a lesson at a separate studio, to compare the two and see which I liked better. It was there, in a disorganized and unhelpful workplace that I realized just how special New York Vocal Coaching is. They are an establishment that is not only personable and accommodating, but also incredibly passionate about the individuals, both employees and students, throughout the business.
It was their attention to detail and commitment that led me to sit down with NYVC’s very own creator, Justin Stoney. In the exact same room I had my first lesson, Justin and I got to know each other. He showed no signs of mid-week wear or Fourth of July jitters in his V-neck t-shirt and jeans. I start the conversation off with Stoney’s background in teaching. He began from the beginning, explaining how he was originally from Michigan. He started telling me about his time at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with a degree in Music Theater.
“I had the dream,” Justin stated, “of coming to New York and being a singer and actor like so many.” He continued, describing his first few auditions. “I was sitting in a holding room when a casting director came in asking for any one who could play the piano and I sheepishly raised my hand.” He went on to explain that, after an entire day of playing for individuals auditioning for Broadway, almost immediately after moving to New York, he was told by the same casting director that he’d make a great vocal coach.
“I thought being a vocal coach was a step down, like those who can’t do, teach,” Justin shared with me. He went on, explaining that he ended up giving it a shot, posting small ads, experiencing fear of whether or not he was qualified to do this. “But then,” he said, “I realized this was my calling.”
I continued my questions, asking Justin what the overall mission of New York Vocal Coaching is. “Well,” he began, “we are completely invested in the craft of teaching voice.” Stoney explained how he trains all of the teachers at NYVC and that he looks for passion within their approach and attitude. “We are all about people’s inner journey,” he stated.
I smiled, nodding at almost everything he described, knowing first hand how true his statements were. I then asked Justin about the service NYVC offers through YouTube, which has over 1 million views. “We wanted to serve more people,” he stated simply. “I alone have taught 15,000 voice lesson and our teachers have taught thousands of students,” he continued, “so it was more to reach out to students who did not have access to vocal teachers or who could not afford lessons.”
I continued, scribbling everything Justin said down, with my questions. I asked about ‘name-dropping’ in the business and if NYVC had any ‘bright stars.’ “Yes,” Justin said, laughing. “We do have our share of high profile singers and actors that come by…I cannot say their names, but we have had some Broadway stars and recording artists.”
I could see no change in Justin’s persona, no necessary pride for having ‘famous’ individuals be members of his business. It was obvious that he was proud of New York Vocal Coaching for what they did, not who they taught.
“Our core mission,” Justin explained, “is not just to build voices, but to build people and help them become successful with their singing”