Saturday, September 19, 2009

So You Say You Teach Voice...

Saturday musings...

This question comes up rhetorically often:" Why in our discipline are there so many who think they can just start teaching, and why do people go to them?"

Is it uniquely voice? Perhaps not, but it often happens in the voice discipline because hacks can hide a little more easily than if they were trying to teach an external instrument like piano or violin or an external discipline like dance. It would become very apparent very quickly if you could actually "do" the discipline you were trying to teach!

Teaching voice isn't just about hanging out your shingle!! What do you know? What can you DO?!

And as the person wanting to study - what are you looking for? Whether you are beginner singer or a budding professional or a professional you need to know what you NEED and what you are SEEKING. If you don't know, then you have some work to do!

If you are looking for the cheapest teacher - you need to do something else. We need to recognize the difference between the COST of something and the VALUE of something. What do you VALUE? Realize that first, and then find what you can afford!

Recognize that cheap doesn't necessarily mean bad, but expensive doesn't necessarily mean good either! The philosophy of a teacher will eliminate any doubts. If they don't have one - there's your answer!! If the value of that teacher's time is what you are looking for, but the cost is out of your price range find out how you could make it work - maybe you will have to study less often, but you will get what you NEED!

What says you can teach voice? A degree? Singing in the church choir? A "pretty" voice? You do well at karaoke? You took a few lessons?

This does not make a voice teacher.

As with any discipline, you need knowledge on many levels and ONGOING KNOWLEDGE. People are putting their vocal lives in your hands. They have one psyche, one set of vocal cords and they are trusting you with that. It is not something to do 'for fun'.

Do you know your vocal and physical terminology? Do you know what it means? Do you know what it sounds like? Do you know how to translate it? Do you know how to demonstrate it? Do you know how to develop it so you are teaching the individual and not material?

If I was studying dance and the dance instructor couldn't explain and/or demonstrate certain steps or positions, I would have a red flag go up; if they couldn't determine what I was doing and give me the instruction of how to make it right or better or stronger, another red flag would go up;

Perhaps one of the reasons there are many "unqualified" voice teachers out there is because this intrinsic instrument is carried with us. We use our voices in most circumstances in some way or other; to someone uninitiated, it doesn't look that difficult (!) or time consuming (!) and you don't need to invest in a piano, a violin, tap shoes, leotards...

Oh how wrong and how naive!

It is simply because voice is so intrinsic that it needs even more professional attention! And that professional attention needs acknowledgement. Singers who are just starting, are young, are from another discipline (acting, dance, instrumentalist) should never assume they don't need an experienced professional teacher!!! These teachers are not just for professional singers! ANY singer pursuing study needs to be with somebody who truly knows what they are doing!

And professional and semi-professional singers need to recognize that it isn't always the "name" teacher that is better than a teacher who has decided not to be so politically savvy!

This is a huge topic - and I am just speaking overview right now...

Perhaps these so-called teachers "teach" because they think it's easy money; and perhaps people go to them because it's cheap, or it's easy, or it makes them feel good. Okay - but that isn't teaching and that isn't studying voice!

The study of voice is a life-long commitment; The teaching of voice is a life-long commitment. COMMITMENT to the development of the discipline is key.

In Canada, (for instance) having your grade 8 voice from the Royal Conservatory doesn't make you ready to teach voice! Having studied the Royal Academy's exam system in voice doesn't mean you are ready to teach voice! Being a soloist in the Honor Choir system doesn't mean you can teach! Even having a degree in voice performance or vocal studies does not make you ready to teach voice or be a voice teacher!

As teachers WE ARE RESPONSIBLE to develop our knowledge and our ability to translate that knowledge. As students WE ARE RESPONSIBLE to seek out that knowledge.

If you say you teach voice - prove it. Don't hide or pretend or make it up as you go. LEARN HOW! COMMIT to it!

If you are looking for a real teacher - really SEEK IT OUT. Don't assume; don't get lazy; find out what you need and look for it and find it!

Great teachers need to be great students! Great teachers keep learning in order to teach! Great teachers keep DOING in order to know! Great teachers require great commitment - from themselves and those that entrust them with their vocal lives. Great teachers KNOW and SEEK KNOWLEDGE and SHARE THAT KNOWLEDGE OPENLY.

Great teachers take this responsibility seriously and takes each singer that enters their studio with care and humanity, and imparts knowledge and reason and clarity. Anything less is worth nothing, no matter what it costs.

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