teaching

What do we as music professionals owe our students?

I just came back from the Classical Singer Convention in Chicago.  I heard some AMAZING singing and some really good singing.  Unfortunately, I also heard some excruciatingly bad singing – from people who are trying to make it in the singing business.  This means that they spent the money to attend the convention (fees, hotel, flights…), they are paying for voice lessons and coachings, and somebody is telling them that they are ready for a professional career.

When I teach, I try to make sure that I am honest with my students about their possibilities.  I can teach anyone to sing.  I cannot make them practice.  I cannot overcome certain physical characteristics.  I do have several students who have potential and might want a career.  I have other students who tell me that they want careers in singing, but don’t practice.  Do I have the right, ever, to smash someone’s dream?  But, I also have the responsibility to let my student know that they might be wasting their time in pursuit of the goal of being a professional singer.  I will NEVER tell my student that they “can’t sing,” as I believe everyone is able to sing (even if just in the shower).  I think, though, that I do need to gently let them know that their goals are possibly not within reach – if they don’t have the vocal strength/stamina, dedication to practicing, physical qualifications.  Many necessary skills can be learned and improved on.  If you REALLY want it, I believe that you should try your hardest.  This, though, includes clear self-honesty on YOUR part.   You cannot make it in this business and be delusional about your flaws or bad habits.

That being said, I think that students MUST be aware of their voice and take responsibility for their training.  Do you record your lessons and listen with a critical ear?  This doesn’t mean being hard on yourself & deciding you are a horrible singer.  Do you just like your teacher and are impressed with them, or are you REALLY improving?  Does your voice, honestly, compare with those currently performing the same repertoire (and getting paid for it & re-hired for it)?  If not, what do you need to do to get up to that level?  Is your teacher guiding you in this path?  Are you REALLY making enough progress to be able to achieve your goals within a reasonable time?

Things to beware of with teachers, no matter their qualifications: [···]

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Every time I find something new that works for me in my own practice, I try it out on my students.  Here’s my latest – the BOSU ball. It’s basically an exercise ball cut in half (& on a sturdy platform – you can turn it BOSU in the Voice Studioover and stand on the flat part, too).  But, just standing on the thing works your core muscles.  A MUST for singers.  I’ve been using the BOSU to really work on my core muscles (needed after 2 C-sections!) and had a brainstorm that I wanted one of my students to use it.

This student is a high school student, but will likely develop into a dramatic soprano of great strength & power.  The thing about those voices is that they REALLY need a lot of control as they are often called upon to have great subtlety as well as great power.  So, I’ve called upon the BOSU to help her activate her core muscles.  It’s helped a LOT and she’s really happy with the results (although sore at the end of the lesson.

Other tricks I’ve utilized lately in my studio to help my students: [···]

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