Teacher uses unorthodox singing lessons to get real results

Published: Mar. 7, 2018 at 4:31 PM CST
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A Green Bay vocal coach’s availability is quickly filling up, as singers across the area are hoping to try his unique signing method.

It’s more than just singing the traditional “scales.” Instead, singer/songwriter Paul Fontaine created “vocal mechanics,” after years of studying the voice.

“I had gone through industry teachers and also anyone who had any kind of buzz about them. And studied with a dozen different types of teachers, with different techniques. And what I did I was I consolidated these different types of techniques,” Fontaine tells Action 2 News.

Singing students, like Aaron Kornowski, say these methods make all the difference.

“I went and found lessons at a local establishment, and I was with her for about two years, and nothing really felt like I accomplished anything,” he says. “It was very bad.”

Kornowski shared an audio recording with Action 2 News, of his first lesson with Fontaine a year and a half ago. The track shows him learning Fontaine’s regular warm ups, as Kornowski’s voice stretches and cracks.

Fontaine says he initially thought Kornowski was tone deaf – but promised his student he would expand his range.

“I take on each student’s voice like it’s mine and I want to correct it mathematically where I’m trying to figure things out,” Fontaine says. “I was having a harder time than with my other students. It was going slower and it seemed more challenging.”

When he wasn’t seeing normal progress with Kornowski’s voice, Fontaine urged him to see a specialist.

“It turns out I have a piece of tissue that’s laying on my false vocal cord, it’s like sticking out on top of my false vocal cord, laying on top of my chord,” Kornowski says.

This extra piece of tissue was making it 10 times harder for Kornowski to get the kind of sound he wanted. “With traditional lessons, I just wasn’t going to be able to accomplish that,” he says.

That’s when Fontaine’s methods really came into use.

“[I said to him] we’re going to go in gently and strengthen your inner box, so that your inner box is strong enough to carry the load,” Fontaine says.

One of the main methods he used, was removing the tongue muscle to focus on the vocal box.

“I have my students pull their tongue muscle forward, and then we use a gag reflux on the vowels and it literally opens up,” he tells Action 2 News.

Both student and teacher chalk up the change in Kornowski’s voice to this unique teaching style.

“Oh my gosh, it's night and day,” Kornowski smiles. “I mean even this conversation we're having, probably wouldn't have been able to happen two years ago.”

Fontaine says his style of vocal mechanics works, because he focuses each practice on the individual student – instead of using the same material for each singer.

“If a singing teacher hears issues, weaknesses, that they have to deal with, there has to be a technique and method to go in and answer to those things,” Fontaine says. “And that’s what vocal mechanics is more so about. Is literally helping people either strengthen their voice, correct their flaws, correct any pitch issues.”

In the year and a half that Kornowski has worked with Fontaine, he says the process has “changed [his] life.”

“I’ve always felt like I was trapped inside of myself, because I couldn’t get it out,” he says. “And Paul’s helped me find my voice.”

Fontaine believes such a transformation is possible for any student, as long as they have dedication. Currently, he works for himself through Guitar Cellar in Green Bay, quickly filling up with vocal students who sing with him daily.

“I have many students that are very much beginners, who have absolutely gone from beginner, and a lot of tone deaf people who have gone from that, all the way into singing now and they're recording,” he says.