Frequently Asked Questions

What happens at my first lesson?

Every student at Higher Voice Studio begins with an initial lesson consultation with Hilerie Klein Rensi, Higher Voice Studio’s owner and founder.  The first lesson is where she learns about your strengths, experience level, background, musical interests, vocal health history and personal goals.  It’s from here that an individual plan is developed and you are placed with the instructor that best fits your unique needs.  You talk a little, sing a little, and learn a little.  It’s very relaxed and very fun.

What if I’m nervous?

Who isn’t nervous for their first lesson with a new teacher?  It doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how many lessons you’ve taken in the past, singing for someone new is exciting, yes, but it’s also a little scary….or, for some, a lot scary!  For some students, this is the first time they have sung in front of anyone before, ever.  But all students, no matter where they come from are welcomed with open arms, sensitivity, warmth and humor.  You have come to us because you want help and we are all here to help you every and any way that we can.  No matter how nervous you are, I can guarantee that you will leave your first lesson feeling better and singing better than you did when you walked in the door.

What should I bring?

You!  You are the instrument!   If you have a song that you like to sing, absolutely bring it.  If you have a whole binder of sheet music that you sing, then bring that too.  If you have a karaoke track that you sing along to, then throw that in.  Hilerie also has TONS of sheet music, so you can certainly use what she has- musical theater, classical, pop.  Sing what you are comfortable singing and whatever gives us the most accurate representation of your voice today.  That’s what we want to hear.  It’s our job to hear all the amazing things your voice will do tomorrow.

How do you pick the best teacher for me?

Higher Voice Studio is a collection of vocal educators that are as unique in their musical backgrounds and expertise as the students that they teach.  Each teacher has their own strengths, vision, experiences and areas of specialty, so depending on the student’s goals and availability there is a teacher at Higher Voice Studio that will be the perfect match.  All teachers study privately with Hilerie Klein Rensi, so are extremely well trained and fluent in the Higher Voice Studio Method®, while bringing their unique perspective to the process.

You can also jump around to different teachers in Higher Voice Studio.  Have an open mic night coming up?  Take a lesson with Kevin.  Preparing your PMEA music?  Take a lesson from Caitlin.  Preparing your audition for the school musical?  Take a lesson from Holly.  Getting ready for your national tour?  Take a lesson from Hilerie.  Some of our students take lessons from two teachers simultaneously to work on different areas of their musical interests or just to get another set of ears.

We are all not only very supportive colleagues, but good friends and we offer all that we know to every student of Higher Voice Studio.

Where is my first lesson?

All first lessons happen at Higher Voice Studio: 144 East Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106

What if I want to study with Hilerie?

Hilerie focuses on professional singers and students that are are looking towards a career in music.  Her high school students compete in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition on a Chapter, Regional and National Level.  All students in Higher Voice Studio have an opportunity to move into Hilerie’s advance studio when they are ready and a regular lesson spot becomes available.  Hilerie also oversees the development of all students in Higher Voice Studio and hosts many of the free masterclasses, so is able to develop a relationship with each and every singer here.  

The beauty of Higher Voice Studio is that there is no wrong choice.  The teachers have all been hand picked and trained by Hilerie, so all of them carry her stamp of approval.  It is an honor to teach at Higher Voice Studio and one that every teacher feels most privileged to be a part of.

Are hour-long lessons available?

Yes, Holly, Kevin & Caitlin all teach hour lessons depending on their availability, but due the unusually high demand, there is only a limited amount of hour lessons that Hilerie, Higher Voice Studio’s founder, teaches per month.

What else should I know before booking a lesson?

By scheduling a lesson you are agreeing to our payment and cancellation policies.

What will we work on in voice lessons?

Whatever you want!  The beauty of private lessons is that we have no set lesson plan.  There is not a “at your first lesson you do this and at your second lesson you do that.”   We listen to you.  Do you have vocal areas that you want to improve?  Do you want to sing lower, higher, louder, easier, longer?  We can work on that!  I even had a student once who needed to learn how to sing while juggling!

Our job is to listen to your instrument.  There will be areas of technique that your voice will do naturally perfect!  Even the most beginning student does certain things incredibly well!  That is our starting point.  From there we can explain how your body as an instrument works.  Sometimes it’s just one sentence and people have an “Ah, HA!” moment.  Sometimes it takes longer.

I’ve never taught the same lesson twice.  Each person will hear the information differently and it’s my job to explain it in a way that makes sense to you and in a way that you can quickly translate into your instrument.  Lessons are demanding, but they are FUN!  Singing is fun!  I promise that you will leave even your first lesson feeling better about how you make sound and with a greater understanding of this “magic” we call singing.

And guess what?  It’s not magic!!  Yes, it’s the only instrument that you can’t see, but it’s muscles and bone and cartilage and human structure.  If it’s hard to sing, then there is tension.  It’s not just a “bad voice day.”  When you begin to understand how the instrument works, it will take away all the “magic” of making great sound.  You will make great sound all the time!  Not just once in awhile, when you wear your lucky shirt and when the planets are in alignment!

Our job is to give you the tools and teach you how to use them, so that when you are “out there in the real world” and you start feeling strange, you can say “Wait a minute!  Hilerie and I worked on this!”  or “What did Holly say last week?” “Caitlin helped me with this!” or “THIS is what Kevin was talking about!  Right, my larynx!  If I think THIS, then my larynx will stay down!  OH!  That feels SO MUCH BETTER!!!”

Can we work on music for school?  Sight Reading?

Of course!  Bring in your chorus music, your part in the school show, PMEA music, audition music, audition monologues, sight reading, music theory homework….  We can help you with all of it.  We WANT to help you with all of it!  Learning how to carry your part in a chorus is a skill that all great musicians have.  Acting is just as important as singing well in a performance.  Music theory and sight reading is about learning our language!  The language of music!  You would never expect someone to read all of your books to you at school, so then why would you expect someone to teach you all of your music notes.

Learn how to read!  It’s really not as hard as you think it is.  AND it’s so much cheaper!!!  As a professional singer, I constantly have to learn music.  The teachers and coaches that I go to for lessons are $175-250 an hour!!  Can you imagine how much it would cost me to have my teachers teach me every note!  Thank the Lord that I had a chorus teacher as a child who taught me how to read.  It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving!!!

Plus there is so much more to learn than just what notes to sing.  We learn HOW to sing the notes, meaning, phrasing, diction and character development, to name a few.  And most importantly how to make it sound good!

What vocal styles do you teach?

None.  We teach no particular style.  We teach healthy singing, because I know that if you can sing healthy, then you can sing whatever style you want!  Whether that is opera, classical, musical theater, pop, rock, country, jazz, R&B or contemporary Christian is up to you!  We have sung them all and we can teach you how to also.

No matter what you sing, the way you sing it is all the same.  Healthy.  As singers, we sing because we love it.  How awful would it be if you had to stop because you hurt yourself!  I want you singing into your 80s!!!  I want you to get through your show without feeling exhausted and then I want you to be able to get up the next day and do it all over again.

As a trained opera singer, I have learned to sing over an entire orchestra for three hours at a time without a microphone, without hurting myself and with my 90+ year old grandparents in the back row of the theater still being able to hear me.  To do that, you have to sing right or you will you hurt yourself.  That’s all there is to it.

How much are lessons?

The current rate for a lesson with Hilerie is $60 for a 45 minute lesson, and Holly and Caitlin are $30 for a 30 minute lesson and $60 for an hour.  All lessons are reserved with a credit card, but feel free to bring cash or a check to the lesson if you don’t want your card to be charged.

A lesson book and technique cd are purchased at your first lesson for an additional $20.

How do I schedule my weekly lessons?

At your introductory lesson, we will look at schedules and reserve your weekly lesson time with your new teacher.  From then on, that will be your lesson time!  Every week, the day before your lesson, you will receive a text and/or email reminding you of your upcoming lesson.

There is a strict 24 hour cancelation policy and you will be charged for lessons canceled with less than 24 hours notice or lessons that the student doesn’t show up for.

We do all of our lesson scheduling online right through the Higher Voice Studio website.  This gives students and families full access to their teacher’s schedule.  As all of our teachers keep extra spots open each day, lessons cancelled with over 24 hour notice are to be rescheduled​ for the earliest convenient time.  Students may opt to wave rescheduling, but payment is still expected in these instances. For more information, read our Lesson Policies.

What is a masterclass?

The masterclasses are one of the best parts of taking lessons here, at Higher Voice Studio.  Everyone who studies with me, Holly or Caitlin get the unique opportunity to participate in free open classes with me and various guest lecturers hosting.  Subjects include performing, technique, songwriting, audience connection, acting, musical expression, audio and video recording, body engagement and all aspects that affect singers in the music world.

A lot of times, a singer will want to perform, but won’t be given the chance, because they don’t have the experience singing in front of other people.  It’s a real catch 22.  You have to have experience performing to get experience performing, but you need experience performing to get the chance to perform.  Masterclasses at Higher Voice Studio Recitals are how we break the cycle.  They allow singers to explore their talents in a fun, safe and supportive environment.   They give us a chance to get to know everyone and where they are on their journey.  You will celebrate their growth along with them, as they celebrate you.  This is the community of Higher Voice Studio.

When is a good time to start taking lessons?

Now.  There is never a better time.  You will learn no matter your age and no matter your ability.  I started very young, but not all do.  My youngest student was my son Nicholas who started at 5 and my oldest student was in her 70s.  A lot of teachers won’t take a student as young as 5 or 6, but I am SO grateful that my parents started me when they did.

My father, who started music much later than I and earned his Masters Degree in Music Composition from UCLA, always said the biggest difference between us was that music was my first language and for him it was his second.  I was blessed with fantastic teachers who never pushed me to sound older than I was or louder than I could sing, and it really gave me a leg up on my peers, especially in middle school and high school.

Remember though, some famous singers didn’t start until their 20s and 30s, assuming you want to become a famous singer.  Maybe you just want to be able to sing in your car with your windows rolled down, instead of up.  Wouldn’t that be nice?!?!?

Why Higher Voice Studio?

Because we know that teaching someone to sing isn’t just about training the instrument.  It’s about the singer.  It’s ALWAYS about the singer.  No matter what your goals are, you will only achieve them if you feel safe to do so.  If you are surrounded by teachers and fellow students that appreciate who you are as a person, that cheer with you, that support you, that are with you through your journey, then and only then will you flourish.  Then and only then will you sing.  That’s what Higher Voice Studio is all about… because everyone wants to SING!!!!!