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Gina Latimerlo gives feedback to her student vocalist during a lesson.

Gina Latimerlo, private voice and acting instructor

Gina Latimerlo always loved singing and teaching. She wanted to be a singer since she was four but was too shy to tell anyone. She didn’t hide that she wanted to have her own business, though. 

“My cousin and I used to play house in our little kitchen set. I always had a briefcase and went off to work, and he stayed home, and that was always how it went. And when I drew pictures, even in kindergarten, I was off doing my own kind of work or singing,” Latimerlo said. 

But when people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was always “teacher.” When she was older, she started tutoring kids.

“I really liked telling people what to do,” Latimerlo said. 

It wasn’t until her senior year of college that she realized she could do all three of her interests. Latimerlo was graduating with a performance degree, considering moving to New York while also planning to get her teaching credential.

“I didn’t actually make the connection between singing and teaching; my voice teacher did,” Latimerlo said. 

Latimerlo’s voice teacher suggested her own career to Latimerlo, and she was immediately hooked. That year, 1998, she graduated from college and started her business: The Latimerlo Studio in Belmont. 

The first thing Latimerlo had to do was find clients. 

“My voice teacher actually had this waiting list of about 10 people, and she said, ‘You know what? You can have them,’” Latimerlo said. 

That wasn’t the only thing her voice teacher helped her out with.

“This was before the internet, and so my voice teacher basically gave me the afternoon in her house to just take all the music I wanted and photocopy it all,” Latimerlo said. “I really credit her with helping start my business.”

It wasn’t all easy, though. 

“Realistically, you need to give yourself five years to build your business and know that you’re going to need to separate your experience and your income,” Latimerlo said. 

While building the studio, she taught high school drama and directed some musicals at companies like Hillbarn Theatre, Broadway by the Bay, and Peninsula Youth Theatre

This helped Latimerlo in different ways. For one, it helped pay her rent. It also helped her get to know students who would be interested in taking lessons. 

“When you have those community theater companies’ names on your resume, or when you talk about having taught there, then it’s showing that an institution has faith in you, and parents are more likely to have faith in you, especially when you’re starting out,” Latimerlo said. 

She also leaned on her training and experience. 

“I was 22 and 23, so I looked young. Parents were like, ‘You’re the teacher? Really?’ So I needed to inundate them with information, telling them all the things they don’t know, and then they show appropriate respect.”

Besides getting to know people through the theater companies, Latimerlo had to figure out other ways to get the word out.

“I marketed to high school teachers. I sent every choir teacher a letter to dance studios, and I put up flyers. I would say that was a little tricky, but it slowly built,” Latimerlo said. “Once you kind of start getting a reputation as being a good teacher, then it’s easier. I don’t do marketing anymore. I just have a website, and it’s all by referrals.”

Gina Latimerlo explains how the other muscles in the larynx interact with the vocal cord muscles to change their shape. (Kate Ridgway)

One of the unique aspects of The Latimerlo Studio is that it doesn’t just focus on one style but allows anyone to learn however many genres of music they want. The lack of information on singing different styles of music she experienced in college influenced her choices for her business. 

“I wanted to be able to do everything from straight acting to musical theater, from operetta to opera. People should be able to sing whatever style of music they want. You should have the skills to move between styles,” Latimerlo said. 

Being self-employed allows Latimerlo to choose to be an all-style vocal coach and acting teacher; she can also control many aspects of her business, such as her hours and clients.

“You get to choose your tribe; you get to choose your people,” Latimerlo said. “It’s a different work environment from other places. I get to work with people I like and respect and turn away the people I don’t like or respect, and I think that’s super healthy, particularly when they’re coming into your home.”

Part of her job is hosting performance opportunities for her students. The Latimerlo Studio has participated regularly in Belmont’s city event Celebrate the Music, formally known as Save the Music.

Performing on stage can be a really challenging career because so many people want to do it, but Latimerlo encourages anyone who has a passion for music to explore and not automatically assume there are no good-paying career options. 

“There are lots of ways to be in the arts. You can perform but don’t think that just because you’re getting a degree in performing, you’re limited to performing. That degree in performance enables you to get into at least a dozen different kinds of careers, careers that also allow you to have a house,” Latimerlo said.

As she celebrates her studio’s 25th anniversary, her job brings a smile to her face.

“My job is just so happy-making. I get four to six hours a day just immersed in music, and it’s just so good for like happy brain chemicals and even the work associated with it, like making tracks for people or transposing or whatever,” Latimerlo said. “Just to be able to live in the arts is an amazing thing.”

Latimerlo feels the most fulfilled when her students hit a milestone. 

“My favorite moments are like the ‘aha moments,’ when somebody gets it, or when the song sounds so much better based on the work we’ve done together, and then that’s a beautiful thing. And people getting their first lead in a show, that’s a beautiful thing, too,” Latimerlo said.

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