I heard recently that one of our most prestigious university music theater training programs here in NYC is going to start training teachers for CCM styles, copying my original and ground-breaking program at Shenandoah Conservatory in some manner. This same MT program is dominated by a young man (who is as old as the length of my teaching career) who has reportedly declared that “the music business will come around” and “follow their lead” in terms of its standards. [Note: this is my version of the rumor I heard. I am wiling to be corrected should I find out that the information I was given is wrong. It came, however, from several reliable sources who have credibility and knowledge of what goes on in this organization]. This is the same program that “does not teach to the marketplace”, meaning they think belting is bad and stay away from it, and from the use of active chest register as if it were a malaria mosquito.
Last I heard, the music business/community wasn’t in the habit of going to schools to seek advice for any reason, let alone to ask about the standards it should have for singing. Broadway producers want to have successful runs and make their investments back. They could care less about whether or not performers voices are trashed or are exalted, they could care less about musical values, or even the well-being of the audience. Only someone who is INSIDE the business would know that. If all you have done in your life is get a degree, sing in an opera here and there, and then get a job teaching so you can pay your rent and have a family, this little piece of information might have slipped under your radar.
This attitude harkens back yet again to the idea that the real world is wrong and the smarter-than-everyone-else academic types know better. It isn’t different than other hollow-headed ideas like “supply side economics” (the rich will filter their wealth down to the poor. That really worked, didn’t it?).
Sometimes I become very exhausted after more than 40 years of dealing with this brick wall, and then I have a day of inspiration that lifts me up and keeps me going. Yesterday was like that.
I lectured at Teachers College at Columbia University for a small class in vocal pedagogy that is classically oriented but was open (thanks to their terrific professor, Dr. Jeanne Goffi-Fynn) to hearing about CCM and its various characteristics. Although some of the students looked as if I was lecturing about life on Uranus, they were taking notes like mad. I thought, “Hmmmmmm, maybe these young people will one day run vocal departments and maybe they will have different attitudes than their predecessors have had.” It was enlivening and encouraging 85 minutes and I am grateful for the invitation.
If you are also toiling away teaching CCM, wherever, and are faced with this same slow-to-go-away issue, be encouraged as well. Each of these small moments is adding up, every day. The facts and life’s demands are on our side. Please keep on keeping on and I promise that I will too!!