Friday, April 9, 2010

Assumptions in the Studio

Friday musings...

A colleague of mine was discussing with me an issue he had been dealing with this week.  I thought it was something very worthwhile to bring up here.

What assumptions do singers make as would-be clientele of a studio?

Should assumptions be made?

What assumptions do teachers make?

I say I try not to make assumptions, but being human, I often fail in this regard.  I have ASSUMED that once my studio policies are given out that a singer actually reads and acknowledges them (not all the time). I have ASSUMED that because I value my time, a singer would (not all the time).  I have ASSUMED that since a singer has made a commitment to study with me that they value my expertise (not all the time).

First time, shame on them, 2nd time, shame on me - 3rd time: there's the door, don't let it hit you on your butt on the way out!

The primary assumption that was discussed this week was that of a complimentary consultation or "first lesson".


It shouldn't be.

Why?  It is an investment of time, enquiry and development - from both the singer and the teacher.  It involves both parties intimately.  You are DOING something, you aren't observing something.  You are partaking of someone's knowledge and expertise as it pertains to YOU and your craft.

Auditing a class is sometimes complimentary, because you are not an ACTIVE party.  And simply, there are others in the class that are already paying for it.  They pay more because they are DOING something in the class and it is for them.

To assume this in a private studio is egregious behavior.  No one dictates the business policies of a professional teacher but that teacher.  If you don't like it - find somebody else!

Education and the task of discovering teachers and classes and coaches is an INVESTMENT.  Yes it takes TIME, yes it takes INVESTIGATION, yes it takes MONEY.  It takes your COMMITMENT to find what you need.

Consultations are VERY important.  It allows for assessment, discussion, work and discovery by both the singer AND the teacher.  It gives an opportunity to find out whether this will be a worthwhile match.

I have paid for consultations and recognized I paid to find out that that particular teacher was someone I would not be going back to.  Ever.   It was an investment in KNOWLEDGE.


It allows for a slice of truth before you commit.

And simply, if the teacher is making time for you - this is their profession!  They are paid for their TIME.  Why should they give their time away to someone they have no history with and do not know?

Sadly, I have known singers over the years who try to "get the freebie" and never go back - they just wander from class to class/teacher to teacher to get freebies and one-time offers - thinking this method is going to illuminate them!!!  WRONG.

What it does is expose them for what they are: cheap and uninspired and leaches.

As a singer working with a private teacher or coach, you should always be offered a consultation first.  If a teacher or coach doesn't do this (for a fee) and expects you simply to "sign up" that is a red flag.

You cannot begin something untested.  This is just not a good idea.  Even if the teacher is highly recommended and works well for many - it might not be a good fit for the two of you!

Singers, do not apologize for asking for the details of the studio policy! And teachers, do not apologize for having one!

I have learned, after many years of doing this,  that if a singer has the audacity/stupidity/nerve - call it what you will - to ASSUME in conversation or an email or voice mail that the consultation is complimentary - that I am not there to educate them in decorum.  Good luck with your teacher search.

If you are assuming a freebie, I don't respond well to those ethics from the get-go and we might not be a good match anyway.

I have often worked out specials for ongoing singers who study with me long term and refer singers to me.  The breaks come when a relationship is established and an acknowledgement is made!  But again, that is MY studio and how I run it.

There has to be a respect for any teacher's decision to run their studio as they run it.  To assume anything else is unprofessional.  If you don't like it - find another teacher.

Teachers, you don't need to try to explain your reasoning either.  These are the policies, these are the fees, simple and outright.  What's not to understand?

Someone will always try to work you - and then you decide.  I have learned the sooner you recognize being worked the quicker you can eliminate the problem!

Assume NOTHING.  Just as you, the singer may know little about the teacher you are wanting to consult with, so that teacher knows little to nothing about you.  Pay them for their time.  RESPECT THEM.  If they are true teachers, they will respect you in return, and if a relationship can be forged, it has started with MUTUAL respect.

A mutual respect,  an open mind and a desire to discover can allow for many wonderful possibilities in the studio between teacher and singer!

If your initial email to a potential teacher is "and can I expect a complimentary consultation?"  you have been seen.  Clearly.  And you may not get much of an answer back.  And, your reputation will proceed you!! (remember, our business is rather small...)

If your initial email contains "what could I expect in an initial consultation and what is your fee?" then THAT respect will be graciously acknowledged with a response and if the teacher has space, a time if you are able to pay that fee!

Imagine it!

Yes it costs - ALL of us.  Is the cost worthwhile?  Only you can decide that.  But then that begs another question - why are you here in the first place?  If all you want is 'free', why bother?


There is a cost.  But there is an even larger VALUE.  What matters more to you?  Only you can decide that, and act accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting.
    You're the first professional vocal coach I've hired and though I didn't know what to expect as far as cost is concerned, I don't remember expecting anything to be FREE.
    The first meal I have at a new restaurant I expect to pay for.
    I happen to think artists need to be PAID for their TIME. It's one reason I'm diminishing my work Off-off B'way. I need to be PAID for my TIME. In recognition of my own goals I then started working with YOU to raise my worth. And what I pay you for is worth MORE to me than what I am paying.
    And frankly a no-pay expectation makes me insanely annoyed. Coming from a long background of "community theatre" in a city where even the REGIONAL LORT THEATRE refused to hire local talent, I know from giving away your time. I know people who've given away their LIVES but for the want of professional opportunity in a place where eyes roll if you say you're an artist.
    How can someone expect to be PAID as an artist if they don't expect to have to PAY an artist?
    The fact you don't brook no nonsense just makes me enjoy you the more.