Kathleen Riggs of Riggs Vocal Method: “Take the opportunities that come your way”

What drives me to get up every day is the very real possibility of helping someone achieve their goals. I get to be of service in music and I truly love what I do. I’m so fulfilled by what I do every single day that it’s not difficult to show up. The change that I’d like […]

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What drives me to get up every day is the very real possibility of helping someone achieve their goals. I get to be of service in music and I truly love what I do. I’m so fulfilled by what I do every single day that it’s not difficult to show up.

The change that I’d like to see in this industry is to help more artists that aren’t signed or don’t have big budgets (or any budget) and to be able to get a shine on them too. There is so much amazing music that just isn’t getting the attention or visibility it deserves because of the way the music business works. It should be about the music, not always about the dollar.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Riggs.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kathleen Riggs grew up at the knee of arguably the most distinguished and successful voice teachers in the business, her father Seth Riggs. His vocal and singing method has worked for many of the world’s best singers. It’s been studied by over 200 Grammy winners, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Cher, Tina Turner, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Julio Iglesias, Michael Bolton, Luther Vandross and Madonna. Working side-by-side with her father has earned Kathleen a lifetime of training. She has studied herself since she was 8 years old and began teaching when she was just 17 years old. Studying under the tutelage of her father has given her extraordinary vocal insight, extensive knowledge, and instincts second to none. Kathleen teaches, develops, and unfolds the voices of everyday singers as well as the industry’s finest. Some names to date would be Dua Lipa, Ozzy Osbourne, Nicole Richie, Saweetie, Madison Beer, Vampire Weekend, and a host of many up-and-comers. What attracts many students to Kathleen is her ability to sing. She sings the technique she teaches and demonstrates exactly how to apply it. It’s this particular skill that gives Kathleen a unique advantage over most voice teachers. It allows her to teach others quickly, effectively, with clarity, authority, and a tremendous amount of support. Based out of Los Angeles, Kathleen teaches in-person sessions at her studio and also online all over the world via FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. From Pop to Opera, Rock to Gospel, Jazz to R&B, and Musical Theatre; you should sing with a technique that allows you to relax and concentrate on performing. Kathleen has a distinctive teaching style that is honest, egoless, and trademark laser focused. She has a reputation for creating a supportive and safe atmosphere that allows her students to shine.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Yes! I grew up in LA, in a pretty big family. It was loud and alive! I have six brothers and sisters. I’m the second youngest of seven. Music and singing were constantly around. My mom was an Opera singer, and I grew up singing Opera and Musical Theatre with her, and I’d sing R&B and Soul with my Dad. Both of my parents had a profound influence on my fascination with singing. I’ve been hearing music since I was in my mom’s 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 my friends and me up for carpool or when I’d bring friends home from school, because she’d be singing opera which wasn’t “cool” at the time. I was totally embarrassed, but at the same time I knew she had something really special. She wanted my brothers, sisters, and me to be like the Partridge Family. She would line us all up at the piano and have us sing together. My mom and dad’s 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 15 years old. Looking back, it 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 my voice with my dad when I was 8 years old and I would take lessons every week. He kept reminding me that I had a gift and should use it to help others, so when all my friends started looking at colleges to attend, I sat in with him every day — taking notes, writing everything down, and then began teaching when I was 17 years old.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Singing is in my DNA. It came from both my Mom and Dad, but all of my brothers and sisters sing too. Some sing better than others! I always knew that I wanted to be in music, but I just wasn’t sure how loving music would manifest itself for me into a career path. With all of the encouragement and nudges from my Dad when I was just a teenager, I took him up on his offer. He really wanted to make me a great teacher. He’d say he wanted me to “carry the torch.” As a teenager, I was scared that I wouldn’t live up to what he planned for me. I’ve always believed in what he’s taught me. Little by little, I grew in confidence. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for doing all the work I did when I was a kid, but also the work with him that I’ve continued to do in adulthood. He’s been my one and only teacher.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think the most interesting story for me as a voice teacher is in line with all of the very different personalities I get to teach and coach. Many times people on the outside assign magical qualities to celebrities. It’s very different working with a celebrity. I get to see clients as just the humans that they are. We’re all multi-faceted humans. I remember working with Ozzy Osbourne for the first time. Known as a heavy metal singer and the “Prince of Darkness,” one may think he’d be — well I don’t know — but when I showed up, he was literally the sweetest gentlemen. Don’t get me wrong, he is a rock god and a legend, but because I’m working with his vocal gift, I see this whole other side of him that I don’t know if most do. He is kind, funny, and present. No ego, no sort of armor. He greeted me so kindly and we went quickly into what was a very normal conversation before starting his vocal warm-up. I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to work in this way. I know it is truly a gift.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

If you want people to be themselves, be yourself. If you want someone to be open, you have to be open yourself. I don’t think this is a funny mistake, per se, but my Dad put me in a suit and penny loafers when I first started teaching — and he literally put the pennies in the shoes! Nothing against suits or penny loafers, but if you knew me growing up, I was absolutely mortified. I was a teenager, not an older businessman! Now I just keep it real with how I dress and trust that what I’m teaching speaks for itself.

Another story is when my dad sent me my first student. The client thought he was seeing my mom because my mom and I have the same first name. I went by Kathleen because it sounded more mature. The client came in visibly very surprised. I was nervous because I knew he was judging my being so young, but as soon as we started working and I showed him in his voice, what was missing, and how to find it, he booked two and a half hours per week with me from there and we worked together for several years!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful for my mom because I’ve been lucky enough to inherit her gift of singing. I’m grateful for my Dad because he’s always been the biggest fan of my teaching. My Dad sends me people all the time, still to this day, but he’s also responsible for sending me my first client. That client then sent other clients, and so on up until now 21 years later. Most of my clients come to me through word-of-mouth, and I’ve been teaching for so long now that I’ve built-up a bit of a reputation. To love something so much as a kid and to be able to have it be my life is such a blessing. I don’t take blessings for granted.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Do not give up. Find the winners and stick with them. Don’t stop learning and improving your craft, whatever that may be. I surround myself with friends and colleagues that believe and support my dreams. I don’t hang around or bounce my ideas off of the nay sayers (and this can sometimes include family). Surround yourself with greatness and greatness is achievable. I think we’re all our own worst critics, so I’d say don’t listen to your head. Show up and take the opportunities, even when you’re scared. Show up anyways. Each situation that comes into our lives will either be a blessing or lesson, but it will definitely teach you. You also have to be your own best advocate when walking into a room. Don’t be afraid of telling the truth, having boundaries, or setting the stage for what you’re comfortable with. If it’s your door, it will open.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in Music? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

What drives me to get up every day is the very real possibility of helping someone achieve their goals. I get to be of service in music and I truly love what I do. I’m so fulfilled by what I do every single day that it’s not difficult to show up.

The change that I’d like to see in this industry is to help more artists that aren’t signed or don’t have big budgets (or any budget) and to be able to get a shine on them too. There is so much amazing music that just isn’t getting the attention or visibility it deserves because of the way the music business works. It should be about the music, not always about the dollar.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you so much! Right now, during the pandemic there aren’t many live shows or performances. In my field, it’s about continuing to prepare clients for when we do open back up. I see myself traveling all over the place when we can (safely). I’ve been asked to visit and give vocal masterclasses in Korea, the UK, Australia, Germany, and France so far. I cannot wait to be able to move freely about in the world again. I can’t wait to be backstage at shows while I warm-up singers before they hit the stage.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

We need diversity because who wants to hear one point of view? There needs to be more seats at the table so there are more stories and cultures to hear, consider, and learn from. The more that’s shared and learned, the more the collective evolves and educates one another. It affects our youth in a profound and meaningful way because it’s honest.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I’d like to reframe this to “4 things I wish I could’ve told myself.”

  1. “It’s okay to slow down.” You don’t always have to rush in life. Be as present as you can in the moment because the present is all we have.

2. “Take the opportunities that come your way.” I was offered a few trips abroad to teach early on in my career and I didn’t take them because I was scared to fly alone. I was also asked to do back-up for a few major artists but I didn’t, not because I didn’t think I could sing, but because I was afraid of being seen.

3. “Speak up for yourself — it doesn’t matter how young you are.” I was hired on a recording gig for a singer that I was teaching at the time. I got bullied by the producer who was manhandling the session and not allowing communication between the artist and me. I wish I could’ve spoken up for myself, because the session probably would’ve ended up being a lot more successful. My job was to pull the best vocal out of the singer, but instead I was silenced.

4. “Experience is in the field.” You’re not going to go very far talking about something. You have to just do it and get the life experience of whatever “it” is. Don’t talk about it, be about it.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I’ve been clean and sober from drugs and alcohol for over 10 years and counting. It’s the single most important thing that I’ve done for my soul, spirit, and mind. It allows me to be fully present, aware, and engaged in whatever I do. I love this feeling. I love being sober. The self-care is 12 step recovery, getting enough sleep and water, eating well, getting outside to exercise, meditation, prayer, and all of the inner work. I also go where the love is. I surround myself with friends, colleagues, and relationships that accept and love me unconditionally, and from this place it’s very easy to operate and thrive in the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Show up, do your best, and let God do the rest. At times in my career I’ve been afraid to make moves or show up. I can scare myself into thinking I won’t be well-received. In those times I repeat this quote, “because if I can just show up and do my personal best, that’s all I can actually do. God is bigger than me, God can do what I can’t, and will always take me forward to serve in the ways I’m intended.”

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

A movement of kindness to strangers because those strangers could become friends. And when we’re kind, it not only spreads love to the person in which you’re talking to, but it makes you feel good too.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would love to have lunch with Stevie Wonder. He’s been studying with my Dad since the late 60’s. At his birthday party, about a decade ago now, he asked me to sing for him and I froze. It’s my biggest regret. I want to have lunch with him because I want to sing for him — and who wouldn’t want to have lunch with Stevie Wonder? Stevie is a vessel that God shines thru when he opens up to sing. Hi Stevie, I’ll sing for you now!

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Yes, I’m on Instagram @Katykmusic for upcoming vocal workshops and @riggsvocalmethod and my website is kathleenriggs.com

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to interview me and allow me to share on your platform!!

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