Kayla Paulk fell in love with music at an early age when she started to play the piano. Paulk also had always loved to sing and so when she attended Stetson University, she decided she wanted to accompany performances and be a vocal coach.
Paulk got her bachelor’s degree of music education in piano in 1990, and her masters in both music in piano pedagogy and music education from Florida State University in 1992.
From there, Paulk has worked with operatic singers like Sherrill Milnes, who she worked with in his summer opera workshop for a decade.
Paulk has been coaching and accompanying at Eastern New Mexico University for nine years. She coaches 12 students, juniors and seniors, in one-on-one sessions. She also accompanies many of them at concerts throughout the year.
What is the difference between a vocal coach and a voice teacher?
A voice teacher deals with the technical side of singing. They do breathing exercises and teach you the mechanics of your voice. A vocal coach teaches how to approach a song. I teach how to interpret the song and how they should perform it. I also help with foreign language dictation and translation. When I coach, I try to keep those two separate. If one of my students is having a technique problem, I tell them to go over it with their voice teacher as it is not my job and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Vocal coaches and voice teachers are very important to developing singers.
What is your favorite part of being a vocal coach?
By far it is watching a student get assigned a new piece. They know nothing about it and I teach them about what character they are and how to interpret the song and connect to it on a personal level. Then they make the song their own. It is so rewarding to me to see that happen. Sometimes when we go to competitions, people don’t have high expectation for ENMU singers, but we always surprise people, because our students work so hard.
What are some of the difficulties you face when coaching someone?
Sometimes with my one-on-one students they get overwhelmed with other school work. They might not work on their pieces because they are working on other things. They are such hard workers, but sometimes life happens.
What are some of your favorite songs to perform?
Someone asked me that once and I told them it is like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. Every piece I accompany, I find something to love about it. It doesn’t matter who it is by; I always manage to find something to love.
What about Portales do you love the most?
I am originally from the East Coast, so when my husband and I came out here, it was a big change, but now it is home. I don’t have family out here, but the people of the community have become my family. I love it here now.
— compiled by staff writer Lillian Bowe