Jubilation Foundation Teaching Artist Fellow Erica Merritt

Erica Merritt

Seattle WA

“When we close our eyes and open our hearts to sing, we have one voice.”

Erica began singing and performing at age five. She studied voice and music in college, and began teaching choir in 1998. She continues to teach voice, songwriting, and choir through various arts organizations.

At-risk kids are her specialty. She’s not afraid to tell the truth, so youth know exactly where they stand with her. Her ability to build community is extraordinary.

What led you to be a teaching artist?
From early childhood through adolescence, I endured physical and mental abuse. The one thing I possessed, which allowed me to connect with my peers, was my gift and passion for music. Singing takes me to a place of perfect peace. I wrote about issues that I hadn’t the wherewithal to discuss. I also wrote about the changes I wished to see. I understood at an early age the transformative, protective, and healing powers of music.

Describe your teaching philosophy:
To find the music within. I often teach a cappella pieces, in order to emphasize the beauty in our naked voices. I want students to feel fully equipped and confident in creating extraordinary sounds generating from their vocal cords alone.

My teaching style is firm and candid. My intention is to create a safe environment. One of my goals is to create musical cohorts that outlast the class. Building camaraderie and community is essential to success.

You must get through the ugly to get to the pretty in terms of vocal technique. Sweat is necessary before you shine. I ask my students not to compare themselves to anyone else, for we were all made equally, with our own set of assets.

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