We singers are such fragile creatures. We command an instrument out of our reach that can’t be manipulated with fingers like a piano, or put away in a case like a violin.
It is always with us. On good days and bad days, our voices travel with us through all temperatures and seasons. It’s only natural that we would build up some psychological attachment to it over time and begin to “self-identify” with it.
IN MY OPINION, this identification puts too much control into the hands of those in charge of developing us as singers, musicians, and artists. We are robbed of our creative power. Many singers (myself included) suffer from “good student” syndrome. We want to do what our teachers say.
But the teacher’s chair can become a DANGEROUS place to be. It can lead to control, mind games, guru-ism, and coteries that are psychologically unhealthy for budding singers.
A lot of singers rely on their teachers too much, to the loss of their own artistic and creative development.
This can cause students to:
1. Wait for a teacher to assign them repertoire – rather than finding things that resonate with them. Or searching out things that interest them for fear of making a “bad choice.”
2. Not listen to multiple recordings of their rep, finding their “favorite” rendition, and waiting for the teacher or coach to say “Oh, that person is TERRIBLE! You have to listen to person X.”
3. Tend not to read the literature of their field – whether that’s books on composers, poetry, literature, music history, or theory, or pedagogy.
4. Fail to practice.
5. Fail to take on professional performance opportunities for which they are CLEARLY READY in fear that it would “upset the teacher.”
6. Sing repertoire that they love (jazz, pop, musical theater, classical) because they feel that their teacher “wouldn’t like it.”
7. Become risk-adverse to opportunities as they present themselves.
These students are PLAGUED with self-doubt at every turn when the teacher or coach is not there to “make decisions” for them. Whether it’s HOW to sing, or WHAT to sing – these students are in KNOTS when forced to make a decision on their own terms. They become “artistically paralyzed”.
The greatest ACHIEVEMENT ANY artist of ANY art form can say is this:
“What do I think?”
Not – “What does so and so think?”
When a singer can take control of their artistic path, self-evaluate, and strike out on their own terms it’s an exciting and scary thing. OF COURSE, having advisors is important. OF COURSE we need feedback on our work. But to become a “puppet” or a “parrot” to a teacher doesn’t create a vibrant, exciting, or expressive artist. One book I recommend for all singers and artists in this kind of “recovery” is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. This book is extremely helpful for getting in touch with one’s true artistic nature and self.
I encourage every singer that comes into my studio to MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS. What do YOU want to sing? What rep do you LOVE? And then, let’s work to get there with healthy concepts that will let you sing that for a lifetime. Don’t agree with something I say? Let’s talk about it and come to a decision. But please don’t treat us teachers like gurus. We’re just as infallible as everyone else.
Stay true to yourself and YOUR voice, and life will be so much easier.
One thought on “The Song is You”
Very well put. I, too, was a ‘teacher pleaser’ in my early training. Because of that, I rarely sang any R&B/pop/gospel in my teacher’s studio, even though that is what I really do instead of the classical repertoire that we stuck to.