“I create a safe space for singers to come in and learn to sing better & I can sing what I teach.”
– Katie Riggs Singer, Teacher
Insidewink always likes to share people with interesting careers and occupations. Recently insidewink sat down with Katie Riggs to talk about her career in music in Los Angeles.
Katie Riggs is considered to be one of LA’s youngest and most outstanding singing teachers, Katie has been a voice instructor for over twenty-one years.
She grew up in Los Angeles at the knee of one of the most distinguished voice teachers in the entertainment industry, her Dad, Seth Riggs.
Thanks, Katie for taking the time to sit down with us today.
Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be asked to share!
Can you share with our readers about your job and career?
Yes, I am a singing teacher and vocal therapy coach. I teach vocal technique to anyone that wants to learn to sing and/or sing more efficiently. I teach one on one vocal lessons and I hold singing workshops where we talk about everything voice and get to share our voices on a group level. I work with anyone, really, including those that have come to me because they’ve gotten into vocal trouble.
I work to regain strength and flexibility in those that have damaged their voices from overuse to those that have never sang before.
Whether that’s a child, a touring musician, or an A-list Pop Global sensation, to someone that wants to sing a song to their significant other at their marriage, to a 77 year old retired Dodgers first baseman that always wanted to sing but never had the courage, to the teenager in highschool that wants a part in their school play, to the Jewish cantor, or the actor who wants to be a triple threat, the person needing to have a certain voice when shooting a character in a movie, and the person who just got the opportunity to sing back up in a band or worship group, to the broadway, folk, pop, punk rock, jazz, gospel, indie, rapper, R&B, ballad singing crooner, opera or country artist, the sons and daughters of the most well known singers to date, to the clients that come in from literally all over the world who wish to learn the ways of connecting and blending their voices from bottom to top without a vocal break or push/strain when singing from low to high.
And the reasons people come to me goes on and on. And I am ever so grateful to be of service!
Surrounded By Music Led to a Lifetime Love
How did all this begin for you?
I grew up in Los Angeles in a very big musical family. I have 6 brothers and sisters. I’m the second to youngest of 6. Music and singing were constantly and always around.
My mom was an Opera singer and I grew up singing Opera and Musical Theatre with her and then I’d sing R&B and soul with my Dad. Both profoundly had an influence on my fascination with singing. I’ve been hearing music since I was in my moms womb… literally. She was auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera when she was pregnant with me.
“I loved all music but I was particularly mortified when she’d pick me and friends up for carpool or when I’d bring friends home from school because she’d be singing opera which at the time wasn’t ‘cool’.”
I was totally embarrassed but at the same time I knew she had something really special. She wanted me and brothers and sisters to be like the Partridge Family she’d line us all up in the living room at the piano and have us sing together.
My mom and my dads love for music was a life force and it very quickly became mine. My mom and dad were married for 26 years until my mom passed away when I was 16 years old. Looking back that was probably one of the most traumatizing times of my life. I started working as a teen in ice cream and chocolate shops and my dad kept bugging me to teach. I knew I loved to sing but I didn’t know if I had the courage to teach.
I started training when I was 8 years old and would take lessons all the time. He’d keep reminding me that I had a gift and I should use it to help others.. so when all my friends started looking at colleges to attend I sat in with him everyday and started teaching when I was 17 years old. He’s always said inherited my singing gift from my Mom and the technique from my Dad.
A Link Between Teacher & Student
Tell us about your students. Do you find that there is a common thread between all of them?
Absolutely, there’s a common thread. Whether seasoned or beginning singers, most students come in not knowing how to navigate singing from their lower register to higher register without the quality of their voice changing. Whether that’s a vocal break or strain that happens for the clients, that middle area between the chest and head voice is where our work is.
Thru a series of vocal exercises that are specifically tailored to blending the voice together I build in their middle or mixed voice. I literally build in their instruments so that there’s more availability, access and control of notes the singer can sing with.
Considering that you’re now a teacher I have to ask. How were you as a student?
I’ve taken lessons with my Dad since I was 8 years old, that has not stopped. I’d say I’m a pretty good student! I show up on time, with songs ready to sing, my lyrics, and ready to take notes. My technique is pretty solid at this point and I know how to take that good form into my singing. I still put in the effort and practice.
Depending on whats going on emotionally it can be harder or easier to connect to a song. And sometimes I may get a little lazy remembering all the things. That’s why its so helpful to have a teacher.
I practice on my own 5 days a week. I will always be an eternal student of singing. I just love it. I continue to learn and make breakthroughs in my own voice and every time I have a lesson I’m reminded how lucky I’ve been over the years to have this training and how I’ve never had to deal with a bad teacher.
“Show up, do your best, let God do the rest.”
Los Angeles seems to be full of people who teach singing and vocal skills, what’s made you different and so successful?
I’m personable and down to earth. I’ve been teaching singing as my sole career for over 21 years. And I think that’s impressive or noteworthy. It’s what I do day in and day out. I must be good at it or the students wouldn’t come in. I tell the truth but I do it kindly. I don’t hold a lot of ego or judgment or criticism.
I create a safe space for singers to come in and learn to sing better. I can sing what I teach. There are a lot of teachers who can’t practice what they preach.
What I teach yields pretty fast results and living in such a fast paced society people want results and they want them yesterday. I do also attribute my success of teaching to being able to show up like I do because I’m sober. I’ve been clean and sober in recovery from drugs and alcohol for over 10 years. It’s taught me to be authentic and comfortable and confident in my own skin to say the least.
I wear my heart and life experience on my sleeve and so I think people are attracted to that. I’m open, sensitive and relatable.
Why do your students come to you?
I can say the general reason students come to me is to be able to express from their hearts without feeling trapped or limited by their vocal instrument. They come to me to learn balance, control, ease, flexibility, strength, endurance, stamina for their singing.
What’s a common mistake that you see your students make when they first start with you?
A common mistake students make when they first start with me is the acknowledgment that building in their voice takes discipline. That vocals are a craft, a skill to be refined and that does take time to build it in to be able to rely on it.
Whether that’s a few months or a year it takes work and consistency. The same for any athlete it takes a daily routine. You wouldn’t show up for a bikini contest without having put in the work to get your body in the best shape. OR WOULD YOU?
What should they expect?
Students should expect to get answers to their questions. To have a clear explanation of what they’ve been doing that hasn’t worked, or why it has worked.
My job is to give singers the tools to start remedying, balancing and strengthening their trouble spots. My job is to give you the warmups that are designed to maximize your range and style. My job is to have you feel in real time the difference of different feels in your voice.
What’s an example of the way you’ve seen your teaching has made the difference for a student?
I can hear the ways my teaching has made differences when the student that has been struggling thru a certain passage of a song now sings that passage and says it feels easy.
I get messages from clients after their performances saying that they could rely on their voice to sing the songs they want in the keys they want with clarity and confidence.
I get messages from clients saying that they can actually sing the songs they’ve written and abandoned because they didn’t think they could sing them in the past.
Touring schedules today are grueling. So when I get phone calls from the road from students saying that their voices feel great and that they can still keep singing after a 3 hour gig, it makes me SO happy and proud. I love what I do and to know it makes a difference means the world to me.
“I get to see the lights turn on every time I have a student that sings or does warmups and reaches notes they’ve never sang before and that excitement is just as rewarding and exciting for me as it is for them.”
What advice can you provide to singers who are trying to improve.
Find a good coach who can sing in their voice where you want to sing in your voice. And sing it well in their voice, where it sounds pleasurable to listen to.
Someone that can show you how to sing what you want to without any strain or problem. Train weekly with a voice coach and practice your vocal warmups every day. The only ones who fail are those that quit. So keep showing up.
Go out to places that play music and meet people. Network. It’s a who knows who business. So get in there, do the work. You deserve a seat at the table. Don’t be afraid to reach your hand out and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to start over. Be yourself, what you bring to the table is special. We don’t want want to hear you trying to sound like anyone else but yourself.
Eat clean, drink plenty of water, get your rest. As long as you stay consistent and persistent you can and will achieve your dreams. Don’t let yourself get in the way.
What do you wish that people knew about your work and what do they think you do?
I wish people knew that in no way shape or form am I ever trying to change your sound. Thats a common misperception with artists or producers in regards to singing lessons in general. And its wrong. My job in what I teach is to solely make your voice reliable and sustainable over the longterm whilst building in your range and healthy habits.
My job is build upon what you’re doing to get the very best out of your vocal.
I’m also an open book with my life and experiences and I think clients understand that they can open up to me. That they can be real with me, that they can tell me the truth of whatever is going on for them without any judgement from me.
I am here to be of service in any capacity I can be. I treat everyone the same. I think my students know this about me and my teaching. Those that don’t know me wouldn’t know.. but I do try to share my life out loud on Facebook and Instagram!!
On A Personal Note…
What has the pandemic been like for you?
Besides the teaching which is very busy, the pandemic life for me has been really quiet! I am not married and I don’t have kids. So lots of time with self.
I’ve taken up long walks in my neighborhood, masked up hikes in the area, cooking, tons more time with my dog Miles, clearing out spaces and updating my space. Learning new songs. Listening to Audiobooks, joining zoom game nights and zoom birthday hangs, planning workshops, teaching online and recovery meetings. I haven’t been meditating as much.. thanks for reminding me!
I still watch probably just as much Netflix as I always have.. which is a lot.
“In my spare time I’m either exercising, listening to an audiobook, hanging out with a friend masked up, napping, watching a new show on TV, or cooking something up!”
What makes you get up in the morning?
Knowing that I have a purpose in the world and that I have a wealth of joy in my heart and gratitude for all that I have and all that I don’t. I get to be here, I get to be of service to singers and those in recovery. That I lived to tell the tale and I want to help others on that path and with their voices. I jump out of bed on a mission to get to the things I love which is my life, my dog, my students, my friendships and the things that feel good.
Who inspires you?
My biggest inspirations are those that don’t quit. It’s the resilience for me. The music business and/or the line of work you wish to become apart of can be rough and often is full of “No’s” or “Not Yet’s”.
I’ve seen clients and friends reinvent themselves over and over and over again and that’s inspiring to me. To not give up, to lean into the process and just try try again. Literally the only way to fail is to quit.
My hat is off to anyone that hangs in there with their passion, and soft hearts, and drive to get out there. To anyone that isn’t afraid to start from scratch or start over. To get heard and still be just as fiery about it. That’s inspiring. It influences me in the way that when I see people move thru adversity it means I can too.
“I share the good from shining inside out.”
What’s your favorite place in Los Angeles?
My favorite place in Los Angeles is my home. The beach is right nearby, Hollywood is nearby, hiking is nearby. There are so many lovely restaurants and shops nearby. My friends are also nearby. I live in a really beautiful neighborhood Hancock Park/Larchmont area.
What are you currently listening to? What’s on your playlist?
On my playlist right now I have: Ani Di Franco’s new album called “Revolutionary Love”, “Plastic Hearts” album by Miley Cyrus, Cardi B’s new single “Up”, Temple Of The Dog, London Grammar’s “If You Wait” album, Mac Miller’s “Swimming” album, my student Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia”, and Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over” album, and Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits album. Quite eclectic, ha!
Our tagline at insidewink is “Share The Good” how do you share the good?
I don’t mean to go deep but I heard that when we share our pain it gets cut in half, and when we share the good, it multiplies.
I share the good by showing up authentically in my life. Sharing good news and dumb but so powerfully epically funny memes with anyone I can get my hands on as soon as I get it. I share the good from shining from the inside out.
I honestly love my life so much, and even in pandemic.
The shitty stuff still happens but I’ve definitely learned to move thru it more quickly and with a much better attitude. I have my health, I have my friends and family and my dog and students I mean… there ya have it.
Good energy is either infectious or annoying… I’d like to think mine is infectious!
What’s the most useless talent you have?
I can cross all of my fingers over one another on my hands or run with my shoes tied together. Don’t ask.
Pie, Cake, or Ice cream?
What is this the hardest question of all time? YUM, I love all three. But… I probably love ice cream the most. It would be even better if you put some cake on it and slide in a sliver of pie too!
All good things to you! Xo Katie Riggs
By STEPHEN O'BRYAN
Former Captain of a fictious submarine, he likes to talk about Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, and his Type 181 Volkswagon Thing. He can often be found playing X Box with his kids or camping at the beach with his family. Steve will often say things like “it’s the people that matter” and “what type of ice cream do you have?” Generally happiest around people with a camera in his hand.
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