Human beings are NOT machines.
As voice teachers we work with PEOPLE. People with all of their weaknesses, strengths, joys, sorrows, and complications. These traits come right out in the way the singer uses the voice and body.
Current trends to ‘business-ify’ the teaching of voice often overlook this most vital of pedagogical aspects, and turn the transfer of human skills into a kind of empty transaction. We’re all told we need to ‘run a business,”look at yourself as a business,”build your business,”check out new marketing tips.’
So lessons invariably run like a counter at McDonald’s.
Do these exercises.
Sing this song.
Pay your bill.
See you next week.
Would you like fries with that?
Perhaps I am in reaction to those that find some kind of value or merit in the virtues of ‘having a full studio,”the latest equipment,”the trendiest location.’ The ego wants to believe that all of these things somehow ‘make’ the voice teacher. And teachers, always susceptible to the trappings of their position, fall right into the snare of thinking that flashy ‘things’ will somehow prove that they are a good voice teacher. Students, too, are not immune to such thinking either. But is there real genuine LEARNING going on in such flashy circumstances?
What drives this view? In my opinion, it’s simply fear. I’m afraid that I’m not ‘good enough’ as a teacher, and when I have X amount of students/a shiny Steinway/a fabulous location/a comfortable and luxurious studio, THEN I’ll convince myself that I have ‘made it’ and I’m a ‘real teacher.’
In contrast to a ‘business’ approach to teaching, there is another way.
This way is built squarely upon relationship building. For a student to embark on a journey of voice development and discovery, there must be feelings of safety and open-hearted honesty.
The human voice is IN Nature. It responds in the same way that Nature does. In a congenial environment an organism thrives, blooms, and grows. In an inhospitable environment, only the most hearty and strong organism can live. Can a student sense in lessons that they are merely another cog in the teacher’s monetary wheel? Do they feel respected, cared for? The body can sense this. Is this merely a transaction?
People want to feel cared for, appreciated, and yes – loved. The voice teacher has a rare opportunity to move AGAINST the values of this commercial world, and instill feelings of pride, acceptance, and celebration for each student as a unique creation of Nature.
In my studio, I have adopted a relationship-oriented approach. This means I work to create a safe, nurturing environment for every student that walks through the door. I don’t care if you have sung at the Met or on Broadway. I don’t care if you want to rework your voice, or just need a space to try things out without pressure or judgement.
And you know what? With this philosophy I have been able to fill my studio, and work with some of the most open-hearted, kind, decent human beings anyone would ever have the chance to know. I get to rejoice in their successes, share in their frustration, hold a space for their grief, and listen to their worries and frustrations. I watch them become ‘unstuck’ and move through ways of being that have held their voices in bondage for years.
Because I ‘resonate’ this frequency of acceptance and care, I feel I attract people that are also compassionate, kind, and open-hearted. Like attracts like, no? My work fills me up every day. It challenges me. I can’t conceive of human beings as ‘time fillers’ in my schedule.
By looking at students as human beings and not dollar signs, I’ve managed to build a full studio. A studio based on the value of each human being – founded in their own individual and unique needs. And I have relationships in that hour with each student, appreciating them, helping them, and yes – even THANKING them for spending time with me. Thanking them for trusting me, and for having the courage to embark on this wonderfully unique journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
As you’re ‘building your business,’ if you forget the human connection to your work, then you might as well pack it in and ‘make a business’ selling furniture or shoes. We all must pay the bills, but we’ve chosen this profession for a reason. Let’s remember why.