The Envy of Beauty

As voice teachers and artists, we crave beauty in all its forms.

We love to hear beautiful singing.

Beautiful vocal music touches the heart and soul, and for this we love this art form.

However, when we are working with a student we have to be very careful of our “Envy of Beauty.” James Jordan describes this in his books as a trait of impatience on the part of the teacher that can lead to dissatisfaction in the student’s ability and progress. The teacher desiring some other result can become impatient, frustrated, and dissatisfied – all feelings the student WILL pick up on in a lesson.

When we “envy beauty” we have the idea of what the student should do to ‘sound better’ or to achieve the sound WE want – (a dangerous prospect for a functional voice teacher!) However, we must be very cautious of these feelings of envy because they can lead to a kind of teaching built upon direct control and manipulation. Every voice progresses in its own time, and no two voices will ever respond the same way to an exercise stimulus. (What is often forgotten is that early bel canto school was not a linear process – the bel canto teacher worked in a more prescriptive fashion.)

This “envy” can also make teachers aggressive and just plain mean when a student can’t accomplish what the teacher wants.

What is the cure for “beauty envy”? It is a willingness to ACCEPT the student’s voice – WARTS and all – AS IT IS in the moment it is brought to life. This is a desire to be a MINDFUL teacher. You might just take in the sound – be with it – and allow it to exist before jumping under the hood! Voice teachers could practice mindfulness (Vipassana) meditation for the ability it gives to be in the moment with the student – its merit is priceless to the teacher of voice.

We can’t respond to these sounds from an aesthetic perspective (usually a faulty personal tone-preference based on one’s own likes and dislikes), but from a functional reality. “Is that the vowel?””Is that the pitch?””How intense is this sound?””What does this sound require? More chest? More head/falsetto?””What is happening?””What is the opposite of the faulty action in this voice?”

The chatter in my own mind is sometimes like that in a conversation, when I’m LISTENING to RESPOND, and not listening to LISTEN. Voice teachers should LISTEN to LISTEN. A teacher will be running a litany of what to do before the tone is even finished! Listening and hearing are not the same.

If we can remain objective, even in the most challenging of vocal circumstances, we can work with a student in a way that is loving and accepting of where they are – not where WE THINK they SHOULD be.




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