J Marchand Knight (they/them)
Doctorate of Musical Arts, Vocal Pedagogy and Performance from University of Miami
In Progress: PhD, Individualized Program in Pure Science from Concordia University
Senior Voice Instructor
Juanita is a soprano and voice researcher based in Montreal, Canada. They have performed extensively on operatic and concert stages in Canada, the US, and Europe. Currently working in the field of music technology and pursuing an individualized PhD in psychoacoustics, Juanita also holds degrees in Vocal Pedagogy and Audio Engineering. They enjoy side-hustles in pop, electronic/electro-acoustic, and church music. Juanita loves teaching and learning about varied styles and genres of singing.
Why do you sing?
I sing because it makes me happy and because I love music. I could never imagine doing anything else with my life but music. As long as I can remember, singing has been a joyful experience for me. After a good performance or rehearsal or after writing a new song, I feel the way joggers describe feeling after a good run.
Why do you teach other people to sing?
The further along I got in my performance studies and career, the more I realized I had something different to give. I love singing but I have lost sight of that at times and allowed other people’s expectation, grades, and reviews turn it into something stressful. I began to see these same stresses manifesting in my students, so I became committed to building spaces where they feel safe from all of that. I want to see the world of vocal instruction become more inclusive and supportive and the best way I know how to create that change is from the inside.
How do you practice?
It depends on the day! Voices feel different from day to day – weather, hormones, digestion, fatigue and all sorts of things beyond our control can affect this. I usually begin a practice session with some physical movement and gentle vocal warm-ups to see where I’m at. When I am locked into a gig, I have to arrive at some degree of “sameness” each day, so I tend to focus on getting things to work. When I have the freedom to sing for the sake of singing, I go with what feels good. I love to look for creative new ways to sing old repertoire. That way, when I have to perform those pieces again, I will have options and solutions in my back pocket for high voice days, low voice days, slow voice days, and all the other kinds of curve ball days that life throws at me.
How do you describe your lessons?
I hope they are fun. If something isn’t fun, it can be hard to keep it up. As a student, I loved going to my lessons for a chance to talk to my teacher about music and life in general, laugh out loud, and sing with all my heart. That being said, I believe in creating a basic individualized structure with each unique student, dividing the lesson time between things like warmups, breathing and technical exercises, vocal health and hygiene, songs, and cool downs and then, approaching each lesson with flexibility. The structure is there to serve us, not the other way around.
What do you do with a new student at their first lesson?
At a first lesson, I like to get an idea of a student’s history with voice and/or musical training and also talk about their goals. I like to answer questions they might have about the process or about my background in voice teaching and performance. I love to hear the student’s voice too! I invite them to sing a song of their choice or we can do some vocalizing together. Depending on where the student is in their development, I might help them begin making a practice plan that they can keep building over time.
Define a pivotal moment/person from your musical development who has helped you get here.
When I returned to Montreal after 11 years of studying, teaching, and singing opera in the US, I was burnt out – vocally, mentally, and emotionally. I knew that my Florida teaching license was not transferable, and I was going to have figure out my life. With what felt like nothing to lose, I did something I always wanted to do: I applied to audio engineering school. Our first project was to record ourselves as a pickup band and then, start composing our own music. So, I started singing rock (in public – I had always sung it in the shower!), recording my own original music (which I had been writing for years but was always scared to share with people!), and came out as gender-queer. I still had contacts in Montreal who wanted me for classical gigs so I found a supportive voice team willing to meet me where I was. So much of my identity was bound up with singing a certain rep in a certain way that it’s been quite a process to dismantle and rebuild – but I am so much happier and stronger for having done it! I can’t wait to see what comes next.