A few weeks ago, I had a young student (age 13) be told by the music director of a local Children’s Theater group (someone I’ve been professional acquaintances with for many years) to stop studying with me as I was teaching her to be “too classical.” I received this information from the mother, who was getting ready to go out of town on an extended business trip.
I had been working with this young girl for only 6 months, and had determined that her voice had not yet begun to truly change. We were working on getting vocal consistency and projection. I was well aware that her goal was to sing music theater, but did not feel she was ready to try anything even approximating a belt. She has a small soprano voice.
When I received this communication from the mother, I immediately called her to discuss my concerns. I felt, as we hung up, that she was aware of the potential dangers of pushing this young girls voice too hard, too quickly (although she stated “I know nothing about music.”).
She tried to contact the music director the following day, and when she had not heard anything within 48 hours, I sent a follow-up email to the director. My email said the following:
XXX’s mom said that you had a concern about where I’m taking XXX vocally/stylistically. Could you give me a call so that I can let you know where I feel XXX’s voice is developmentally and we can work on a game plan to help her have the best of everything? I know she’s really into Music Theater and I totally support that (and I love to teach broadway). I’d like to make sure we’re on the same page and can help this fabulous kid. Thanks!!!
The next thing I know, the mother has given up trying to contact the director and has withdrawn the student from my studio. The director has also not acknowledged my message at all (even now, 3 weeks later). I have been hit very hard by this, as I hope that I had communicated to the parent and the student what I felt were the long-term vocal goals for this student. The parents had also previously committed to lessons through April, but withdrew before the March lessons could begin (so, I’m also out financially).
At this point I have just withdrawn as gracefully as possible. I still get very upset at this music director, as well as the parent for not trusting the information I’ve given them (thus, this blog posting!). It seems to me to be very unethical to make the kind of suggestion he made, and then not respond to my request for dialogue.
Here are my questions to you, the MTH community:
1) How else could I have handled this? Should I have held the family to their previous commitment to continue lessons through April?
2) What do you think of the behavior of the music director? Should he be giving vocal advice (he’s trained as a collaborative pianist – we knew each other when we were in grad school 15 years ago, but he hasn’t had direct contact with my teaching since then)? Should I press the point and send him another email stating my concerns over his actions?
3) How have YOU handled any situations like this? Have you ever suggested that a student quit studying with their current teacher? Why?
THANK YOU everyone!! Your thoughts and ideas are greatly appreciated (and needed at this point in time).