I have often been asked if it is important for singers to be able to read music. Speaking from experience, I can certainly say that I have noticed a difference between singers who read music and singers who don’t.
Many singers start singing by listening to others, and the development of recording technology has made this much easier for those who have not yet learned the skill of reading music to access a multitude of songs. The drawback to this is that it limits the repertoire a singer can learn to only what they can hear. Learning to read creates flexibility and a larger volume of songs a student can master. It also creates independence as it means they do not need assistance from a pianist or other musician to learn their part.
This leads me to my second point. Singers who do not read music tend to take a longer time learning the music assigned to them. This results in a lot of time in the lesson focused on learning the song, rather than applying proper vocal technique to the selection, which is the real goal to vocal lessons.
This is one of the main reasons that I opted to offer longer lesson times to students with a portion of each lesson dedicated to the learning of music reading or what some term “musicianship.” The remainder of the lesson focuses on technique and vocal development while applying these techniques to musical selections. I encourage students to learn their notes outside of the lesson so that we can maintain an efficient education session. My studio also offers an 8-week summer class which teaches the foundations of music to musicians of all types. There are also a great number of music theory lessons that aspiring singers and musicians can access online.
Ultimately, the choice to learn the skill of reading music is up to the student and the teacher they are studying with. From my experience the learning of musicianship skills help to create independent and well-versed singers with a large repertoire available to them that they can present to the world.