John Oxley – Singing Teacher


Who is John Oxley – Singing Teacher

John Oxley - Singing TeacherJohn studied at the Royal College of Music, London. After singing professionally for some years, in 1961 became singing teacher responsible for singing and voice at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, England, and later singing teacher at York University Department of Theatre, Ontario, Canada. If you are a past student, please say hello – naturalsinging (at) gmail (dot) com.

For those of you who would like to know more about John. As a boy of 9 he joined the church choir and a year later sang and appeared in the Opera ‘Sir John in Love’ by Vaughan Williams. This was the first time John met Vaughan Williams. By the age of 13 John’s voice started to change and at 15 he was singing as a Boy Baritone, which was very unusual at that time. When John was 15 (1936 and 1937 season) he played international rugby for England school boys.

From 1942 to 1946 John served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. After demobilisation John studied at the Royal College of Music entering this world renowned music college in 1947. He graduated in 1950 to start his professional career as a singer, working on radio and television, generally broadcasting live. In 1951 he joined Laurence Olivier Productions as a member of the cast of the The Consul, an opera in three acts with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, in the London’s West End, and continued working in the West End and throughout the UK. Finally he decided to go into teaching this wonderful art as a full time singing teacher.

He joined the Bristol Old Vic in January 1961 and taught singing at the Theatre School. Students describe him as a straightforward, avuncular and jovial man, and have a special fondness for his favoured training song, Ombra Mai Fu.

During Johns time performing, singing and teaching he was involved and connected with:

  • NODA – National Operatic and Dramatic Association, South West UK conferences for over 30yrs – as a tutor for singing and voice

  • Bristol Opera School – as the chorus master in the 1950’s

  • International Who’s Who in music – John’s name first appeared here in 1975

  • Adjudicator – during his career John adjudicated singing, acting and stage craft

Why Breathing in Singing is so important

As a singing teacher John taught actors to focus their breath in such a way that their voice would come out from the top of the head, because even humming quietly can then be heard right up in the ‘Gods’ of the theatre. He claimed to be able to teach anyone to sing, no matter how unpromising they seemed when they arrived at the theatre school.

Singing and Tone Deafness

John always referred to tone deafness as having a ‘Faulty Ear’ meaning the pitch we hear and the sound we produce are different. As a result he would teach a special Saturday class for people who had a ‘faulty ear’, affecting not only their singing but also the range of their speaking voice, and the ability to vary pitch:

…At the end of the year, I would have them singing unaccompanied in two parts, …he would say with pride.

How Singing can help all Performers

Christopher Ashley remembers John showing him that in order to act, he didn’t need to put on a special voice. An acting voice is simply an extension of an ordinary voice, and a singing voice is simply another extension of that.

Shaun Batt (the other team member)

Shaun Batt in CarmenHere is Shaun singing the role of Escamillo the toreador, in Carmen. Shaun has a musical and technical background and got to know John as a singing student. He studied at LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) and sung professionally. I would say that John’s skills as a singing teacher are exceptional. His teaching skills reach far beyond singing…he teaches you how to listen more closely to yourself and what you are saying when singing. I consider myself very lucky to have met John and then to have him as my singing teacher.