Sunday, February 13, 2011

Armchair "Pedagogues" and Egotists!

Sunday musings...

I've "run into" several what I call "armchair pedagogues" this week - those that spout their rhetoric stupidly and expect the rest of us to jump and listen and obey.

These to me are the frightening teachers.  They have a little bit of knowledge that has been twisted and distorted and have decided to brand themselves and hype themselves from that tiny grain of truth.  The rest is just packaging and smoke and mirrors.

Like armchair quarterbacks,  armchair pedagogues will tell you have fabulous THEY are.  They will tell you how fabulous YOU will be if you only do what they say,  and congratulate you when you DO achieve something, but put it back on themselves "well obviously you are doing MY exercises" etc etc.

They have all the answers,  they know all the questions,  they require no further development, and never demonstrate a thing.  hmmm....

The armchair pedagogue can be deceiving.  So much so, in fact, that they have a self-delusion.  They are not all trying to be deceiving - they honestly believe they know.  This is beyond frightening.  And it's beyond egotistical.

As singers,  we need to pay attention!

It is a scary place out there trying to find a teacher that really understands the voice,  how it functions, how it is built and developed and how the body and breath are aligned to achieve a healthy instrument over someone who THINKS they know and makes it sound like they know what to do.

Are there some telltale signs?  I think least these would be a few red flags for me:

1. One size fits all technique.  This is someone who treats every "body" and every voice the same.  Someone who believes we all have to the parts and they should respond in the same manner to achieve the same end.  This someone has a read a pedagogy book about anatomy and that's it.  No space to discover the person standing in front of him/her because that would take actual KNOWLEDGE.  One size does NOT fit all.  PERIOD.

2.  Exercises with no reason.  As a singer, you need to know WHY.  WHY are you being asked to do each exercise?  And if you cannot do it, is there an alternative or is it one way or the highway?

3.  Can the so-called teacher demonstrate the skill?  demonstrate the exercise?  demonstrate the stylistic and technical balance being asked for?  Successfully??   Obviously there is latitude somewhat here if you are a male singer studying with a female teacher and vice versa!!!  However,  if the teacher cannot demonstrate with enough professional prowess to accentuate the request, then again...

4.  Are you welcome to ask questions or are your questions squelched?  Real teachers welcome questions, and are the first to be honest if they don't know the answer.  Armchair pedagogues know all the questions BEFORE you ask them (!!) and do not allow for discussion.  Period.  They spout rhetoric that is memorized out of context,  or simply made up.

5.  Hype and Props.  Are they over the top?  Perhaps ego,  perhaps smoke and mirrors.  Or a combination of both.   Too much hype,  and too many props should send off some type of flag.  It could simply be ego, but as with any great stage production:  props should be USED.  If they are not,  something's up.

Bottom line - YOU the singer, need to be comfortable - psychically, emotionally, physically and vocally.  If you leave a lesson more confused,  vocally fatigued lesson after lesson,  finding no improvement (and are practicing said exercises at home regularly),  then perhaps it's time to explore another teacher.

Poor teaching, bad teaching,  egotistical teaching and armchair teaching are not serving the art and the craft of vocal pedagogy, and certainly not serving the singers there to learn and discover THEIR voice.

Singers need to be challenged,  encouraged and SAFE.  Singers need to be treated as the individuals they are.  You do not fit into a box,  and so your study should be uniquely YOURS.  Your voice and your physicality and athleticism is uniquely YOURS and needs to be treated with the respect it deserves - from YOU and from your teacher.

If it doesn't feel like it is - then RUN and find someone else who sees you truly.

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