Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Letter: Important information for Singers in Undergrad and Grad School!

It has to be a 2 blog entry day....

This one comes in the form of a letter.

Dear Singers in Undergrad and Grad Programs:

You may not think you are entitled, but chances are many of you are.

I am hearing - and have been witness to over my many years in this business in the "hallowed halls" of "higher learning" (BOTH ridiculous - but that's something else isn't it?!)  about this outrageous sense of entitlement that inflicts upon real progress.

Not you?  Really?  Great, still read, cause I can guarantee you, you know someone JUST LIKE IT! Please, pass it on!

School is not real life.  Not even close!

NOBODY gets a free ride in real life. NO BOD Y.

You might have your tuition paid for, or a full scholarship...congratulations.  

It means NOTHING.  Maybe you have no debt when you leave school.  That's great.  But it doesn't give you talent, a work ethic, a sense of responsibility or a career.  You have to EARN those things and CLAIM those things.

How you develop and nurture the relationships during school, how you develop and nurture your talent and your craft, and how you treat others around you WILL follow you when you leave school.

If you EXPECT a career - you may be for a jolt of reality!  Your expectations, your sense of entitlement,  your wishes - just don't always come out the way you thought they would.

It's called REAL LIFE.

If you have had a free ride in your degree - how fabulous!  But guess what?  There are still things that need to be respected and paid for.  Like what?  Well, let's start with your PIANIST.  They are an important and essential part of your university experience.  They need to be paid, they need to be respected. 

Often the singers that complain the loudest and show the least amount of respect, are compensating for a lack of talent, ability, work ethic or maturity.

A REAL singer - who has a sense of what a singer NEEDS and how the team around them needs to be treated, would never be so disrespectful.

If you have behaved this way - SHAME ON YOU.  You have NO BUSINESS pursuing a career if you cannot give the kind of respect you EXPECT in return.

Your behavior will not just follow you - it often proceeds you.  For a very long time.  You may think you are the sun and the moon and the stars, but actually you are barely embryonic in development. 

How you treat your peers, your colleagues, your professors and your pianists will not be forgotten.  If your attitude and entitlement is larger than your talent (and it usually is) you are the fool.  You are the one who doesn't see how absolutely ridiculous you look - but everybody else sees it, talks about it, and spreads the word!

If you want to be in this business, you need to recognize NOW that people's TIME is valuable.  You will NEVER have enough money to pay for their expertise - an elusive intangible.  So - you pay them for their TIME.  This means teachers, coaches, pianists.  They are not there for your beck and call;  they are building a career and making a living.  YOU NEED THEM.  RESPECT THEM.

Finding out what others need allows for a mutual respect.

Your parents might think you are MARVELLOUS.  Perhaps you are - but you aren't the ONLY marvellous out there.  You will find there are MANY just as talented as you - and often MANY MORE who are MORE talented!!  


If you get a free ride - respect what you need to DO to HONOUR that ride!  Pay with grace and thanks for a pianist/coach who will take you through your paces and support you in those recitals that are marked!!!  Acknowledge with respect the POSITION your teacher holds; and if you are not a match, quit the drama and find a better match!

None of these people are yours.  They are not available 24/7 and in an emergency.  However, they may be more inclined to be available easily if YOU treat them the way they want to be treated.

Quit complaining, quit whining, and quit thinking you are so hard done by!

You are in SCHOOL.  The real world won't have the time of day for you with that attitude and all that noise!  No one is going to change FOR YOU.  You need to recognize and DO THE WORK and find out what the business is about in order to find a way in.  You will not change anything.  There are no shortcuts, secrets or tricks.

It's called hard work,  time, dedication, motivation, respect and discovering value of worth - of yourself and everybody around you.

No one cares if you had a full scholarship.  You were lucky.  So take that opportunity and do something positive with it!

Learn how to work with people well - how to study - how to practice - how to discover - how to approach - how to LIVE.

School isn't forever, and the real world will either welcome you - or kick your ass.  Whether you are ready or not - cannot be pushed on anybody.  This is ALL YOURS.

Good luck and figure it out - or you'll be told where the door is,


  1. I wish I could pass this on to 90% of my former classmates still at the school I left

  2. This type of attitude is certainly epidemic in all forms of music. Quite a very well written post. Thank you.

  3. As a vocal coach and accompanist in a tertiary level Music Theatre program - all I can say is "couldn't agree more!"

  4. It's from experiences like you've described that makes me not want to work as an accompanist. It's good money, but the bullshit isn't worth it.

    But those good singers and instrumentalists... they sucker me back in. :-)

  5. I have to say, I'm relatively offended by your lecturing tone - it seems like you are holding bitterness about interactions with select obnoxious students, but not all of us take things for granted. I consider myself to be a hard-working, respectful individual, and I hate to see that people perceive singers in this way.

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  7. Anonymous - sorry you have to be anonymous!

    Sorry you are relatively offended. If you hard-working and respectful then you really shouldn't be! This wasn't directed at you!

    I am delighted when I see young singers who has a sense of themselves and recognize where they are!!! Congratulations!

    Assumptions aren't always a good thing - this post was MEANT to be harsh - because there is an obvious problem out there! I am tired of hearing from colleagues who teach and play about the horrors they deal with. I was just ready to speak about it on their behalf.

    I wish singers DIDN'T develop this attitude - and it's not all - I did say that - but it's enough that I've had MANY emails asking for permission to print this blog from teachers worldwide so they can post it on their doors.

    This is sad. VERY sad. I am sorry you have to work so hard in your generation to show you have respect. You shouldn't have to.

    Bitter - no. Disappointed - yes. Ready to get REAL - you bet!

    As a singer - I don't want to be perceived as a disrespectful person either. Educating singers in this way makes me sad - because respect should be something you learn growing up. The fact that it is becoming less and less a priority makes me angry.

    Sorry you had to be anonymous. And good luck! Your hard work and your respect will be a beacon for others!

    Recognize who this post was FOR. If you don't see yourself, you have NOTHING to be offended by! And thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post!

  8. Having spent way too many years booking and managing concerts for grad and undergrad students, I can't possibly express how delightful it is too realize that at least one teacher is trying to inject a little reality into their delusions. Keep up the good work Susan.


  9. response to "other anonymous" This bit of truth that Susan has put out there has evoked a lot of talk. In a good way. In this business we are so busy "expressing" ourselves and talking about our feelings we don't ever seem to dive into roots of problems. Everything is on a surface level. Smiles and jazz hands. What is really going on in this business is a lot of laziness, disrespect, and attitude. I am not a pianist i am a singer but i can bet my life that after reading this blog pianists around the world gave a big hooray! that someone actually has the balls to call people out on their bullshit. I'm not sure why you got offended in the first place. Unless it's because you guilty and you've just been found out.