Monday, September 7, 2009

Know With Whom You are Studying!

Happy Labour/Labor Day!

This musing is really more geared toward those of you entering post-secondary as the season is upon us! You will be meeting your teachers and coaches for the first time perhaps; you will be auditioning and being placed in choirs, for productions and the like...a very busy time of year, and often overwhelming for those of you are new to this!

I respectfully suggest these things to you, as I believe it can put you further ahead and help you in the long run in your academic studies! Also, if you begin to consider some of these processes, perhaps it can continue on past academia and into real life!

Do you know with whom you are studying?  I don't just mean the name of the teacher, (please learn how to say it and spell it properly - as someone who gets her surname misspelled constantly!)  but what they are about!!

Whether you are entering a school of music, a department of music/drama/theatre with voice component, or a liberal arts college - it is your responsibility to find out who teaches there!  With the Internet at your disposal, there is absolutely no excuses for not having some biographical knowledge of your teachers and coaches! NONE!

I had a freshman walk into his first voice lesson with me, full of bravado, and say to me "So, what have you done?"  Not the best way to meet your teacher.  In fact, one of the absolute worst first impressions you can make!

Ask yourself this: How would you like your first impression to be with your teacher? your coach? your audition within your college experience?

These first impressions are so important and can set up a framework for you that is positive, or negative, depending on how you choose to function!

Getting to know WHO you will be/are working with will also give you a sense of how you want to be seen by them.  Knowledge is power - it is not intimidation!  You are at school, presumably to learn and grow - not to show how much you know!  However, knowing something about those you stand in front of, will put you in a much stronger position in every way!

Chances are, those who are in the position of teacher/coach/professor/conductor, have probably done a few things more than you have!  Leave the attitude at the door!  You might be nervous, feel vulnerable, but if you are prepared to do what you are there to do - then DO IT and show what you are capable of!

As teachers, we'd like to see what you are capable of; what you can do now; what your strengths seem to be;  we want to see pliability; we want to see openness; we want to see honesty;  we want to see promise and potential!  We don't want to see ignorance, attitude, delusion, lies,  defensiveness or plain stupidity!  Sadly, I can say this because I have seen ALL of these things.

When you meet your teacher and coach for the first time - being respectful does not mean clamming up!  Being respectful means being aware!  Know who you are meeting?  What have you found out? What excites you about working with this person? What questions do you have? What do you feel is important that the teacher or coach knows about you?  ASK! SPEAK!  The more communication there is, the better.  

When auditioning for productions/placements etc - know who will be at the table.  And then do your research!  Who are they? What have they done? Where have they been?  What are their expectations?

Present yourself honestly - as dishonest presentation will catch up with you quickly and will haunt you!  If you have little experience - it's okay! That's why you are there!!  

The more honesty you can develop within yourself, the more clarity you will have during lessons, coachings and rehearsals in order to discover fully what you are there to learn!

By taking your education into your hands NOW, you will create habits you can use throughout your artistic journey.  You will research and ask questions of all teachers, coaches, conductors, pianists, directors you come into contact with.  Let the questions you have grow from the research you've done - not from the lack of it!

Present yourself with acquired knowledge and information and keep asking for more!  Learn! Discover!  Every situation has the potential to learn something - never dismiss anything!!

Stay open to discover and you will!  But with all discovery, comes the work which YOU are responsible for!  When I work with a student who has taken to the time to find out a little bit about me as their teacher, I take that student more seriously.  



  1. Great advice. I have one more bit to add:

    By knowing your teachers' backgrounds, you can also make better choices about repertoire (if you are at a level to make those decisions). Nobody knows everything, so you should find out where your teachers' strengths are. By playing to their strengths whenever you can, you can gain more knowledge and insight into certain styles.

  2. thanks Ian! Knowing a teacher's strengths and what you need as a singer can help you determine if this is a teacher you should investigate fully for your studies!

  3. Fantastic post! One of the most important pieces of advice, I think, is "Stay open to discover and you will! But with all discovery, comes the work which YOU are responsible for!"

    I have seen students, time and time again, who show up to work with fences built around themselves. "My previous teacher says this... or my previous teacher says that."

    Now, I am not advocating that you to fall blindly at the feet of your new teacher. But, assuming that you have made an informed decision on studying with this new teacher - you must be open enough to hear new ideas. AND, be willing to invest in yourself and in the teacher/student connection.

    We, as singers, are our own best teachers... we have to be willing to be open enough to receive guidance from those who have gone before us.