Sunday, April 3, 2011

A letter to a student

Dear Singer:
So here it is, in response to your letter...
No matter who we are, we are a part of this business, because we are invited.  There are lots of reasons why they are issued and lots of reasons they are not issued to us.

We only have a limited amount of control of who issues that, when it's issued and how it's issued.  

All we have control over is how well-prepared we are.  That's it.  

We don't work in this business because we are good.  We work or don't work on the basis of how we are perceived.  

Our perception of ourselves is not necessarily what reads in a room.  Learning the TRUTH about that perception can be difficult, alarming and often disappointing.  It does, however, reveal honestly to us and allow us to make decisions that we either choose to acknowledge or not.

You are under the mistaken impression that talent = career  and that guarantees it.  It does not.  NO guarantees.  Anywhere.

You were sent to me because you were having major vocal issues.  There was damage and that's what I do - I repair voices and build voices.  You have worked hard and successfully to remedy that, and together, we have found and discovered a healthy balance in the voice.  This is just the beginning.

 I build voices.  I don't build careers.

I don't teach in negatives, but rather teach from ACTION. If you want negatives, you've come to the wrong studio.  I have always prefaced our work with saying we are building behavior create a stronger positive response, in order to allow the negative/unneeded behaviors to move out! 
Our work in the studio is about vocal behavior to allow that behavior to become consistent in audition/in performance and beyond.  I want you, as a singer, to find your best YOU, vocally;  Not to mimic, not to be like someone else , not to compare yourself to others.  If you are so focused on who is working, you are not focused on you.

HOWEVER,   I think you have to come to terms with who YOU are and what you have to offer.  You are so busy trying to get hired, that you haven't connected fully to yourself.  I have no control over how you see yourself;  YOU DO. I have no control over getting you an invitation; THEY DO.  All I can do is set up an opportunity to help you develop that instrument and develop the artistry you have to the best of your ability.

I see you haven't really been hearing what I DO say to you.  We work for and from ACTION from within.   I don't tear down.  I build up.  We have made decisions about repertoire.  From a pedagogical standpoint, I am working with you on your INSTRUMENT and within the repertoire you choose.  A COACH who works to rebuild repertoire books will help you build your book.  That's not what I do ultimately.  I can certainly suggest things, and continue to help you find integration to allow you to embody a song, a 16 bar cut or what you need.  Ultimately it is YOU who has to connect to the music, find a way to act through it.  The tools are there for you to pick up and use.  

I have given you the basic tools to begin to develop the voice.  This takes time.  Trying to build the instrument fully and audition at the same time - which I told you at the beginning - is more than a little difficult,  especially when you are trying to audition on vocal fatigue and damage.  You simply cannot reveal your best self if that self/voice is not at optimum.

Respectfully,  it's time to really figure out WHO YOU ARE as an artist,  not who you think you want to be, or who you think they want you to be.  If you aren't what they are buying, you will have to come to terms with that too.  We all have to figure this out and make it work.

Take your break by all means.  Make sure you know who you are seeing and why.  
Taking a step back and getting some perspective of what you want, why you want it, and what you need to do to facilitate it; is always an ongoing and necessary thing.  Do what you need to do.

I am here to help you find the best vocal instrument you HAVE.  I cannot create an instrument you do not have.  If you claim YOU best self, the authenticity of you will be much easier to claim and therefore,  it will read true in a room.  That is really all you can be sure of.



  1. Thank you for sharing this letter, Susan. I needed to hear a lot of this - as a teacher and as a singer. I am learning more and more how comfortable I can get with trying to fit into what I think is expected of me (again, as a singer and as a teacher), and being disappointed with outcomes. What I am reminded of by your post is that when I give in to that habit, I lose myself in the process, and no one benefits. Thank you for this reminder to have faith in myself: my preparation, process, progress, growth and abilities.

  2. thank you Alison for posting and sharing that this resonated. We are all victim to falling into routine - me included! Knowing why we do what we do and questioning ourselves in order to bring a possible truth to reality for someone else is something we constantly have to to be aware of!