Did you know that all singing teachers are the same?
To our fellow professions, that’s how we appear.
Think about it. Until you know an MD personally, all you know is that the individual is a doctor. Most of us have an idea of what a doctor is because there are very very few people who have not seen a doctor quite a few times, at least in a first world country. That’s probably also true about a dentist, a teacher, a nurse, a fire fighter, a police officer, and several other professions. However, if you have never sung yourself, and many people have not, or if you have not ever had a singing lesson, and lots of people have not, then you wouldn’t really know much about a teacher of singing except that it was a person who taught other people to sing. Period. If I claim to be a singing teacher then I am.
Is it any wonder, then, that those who are in the medical or clinical professions do not readily distinguish singing teachers one from the other easily? We who teach singing do not even have ourselves organized such that there is a licensing body or a regulating agency to give us “papers”. If you take NYSTA’s PDP course, (which you should), or Dr. Ingo Titze’s Vocology course (which you should if you want to know voice science), or if you take my courses (Somatic Voicework™ – which I would like you to do, of course), then you can put those certifications after your name, alongside whatever degrees you hold, if you do.
If, like me, you are not a college graduate, you have nothing to distinguish you to your medical or clinical colleagues at all except maybe your website, your writings (if they are published), or your visibility (if you have a lot of PR or fame). None of these things will say, sadly, whether or not you are good at what you do.
There are well known and successful teachers of singing here in New York City and all over the world who (a) do not sing at all, (b) sing badly, (c) never sang well in the first place, (d) never really had any kind of performing career, (e) have few professional credentials, (f) sang well at one point but stopped quite some time ago and don’t sing anymore (g), never have had professional singers in their studio (h) will never have professional students in their studio [assuming you would like that population] (i) have never joined a professional teaching organization (j) will never join a professional teaching organization, (k) do not care to keep up their skills in either teaching or singing through any kind of continuing education, (l) do not know that there are teaching skills to have in the first place, (m) don’t know vocal function or vocal health or the difference between them and don’t want to know, (n) do not attend any professional congresses or meetings, (o) do not read professional journals or books on singing (p) do not measure themselves against any other teachers of singing, (q) have poor musicianship skills, (r) do not understand performing skills, (s) have a very limited scope or focus on what they teach and how they teach it, (t) cannot sing what they teach, (u) assume that only the talented can sing, (v) blame the students when they fail, consistently, to make progress, (w) cannot speak intelligently to an otolaryngologist or speech language pathologist, (x) put all singing into one big category, usually “classical”, (y) regard singing as something you learn strictly by singing songs and (z) charge a lot of money for any combination of things on this alphabetical listing.
Still, all singing teachers are the same, especially to the doctors who don’t know the difference. If you hold a PhD or a DMA and you are teaching at a well-known college, and you have some course certifications after your name, they figure you know what you are doing. You may not know how to work with voices effectively, but they can’t know that unless someone tells them, and who would do that? Only a singer who has had a negative experience and that can be a long slow way to gather information, one person at a time.
If you teach singing and write a brochure that blows your own horn, you can be seen as being “suspect”. There is still an aura of “only those who are desperate advertise”. I know a number of teachers who boldly advertise themselves and they are not desperate in any way. If you teach singing and advertise your own method, other people who teach singing who do not have their own “method” can find yours suspect because you advertise it and for that reason only. If you “make a name for yourself” by teaching at conferences and congresses (always for free) you can be resented by others who were not asked to do so themselves. If you are successful as a teacher of singing because many high level professional singers work with you, you can be maligned by those who do not create this kind of success (assuming they want that) because they are jealous.
Still, all singing teachers are the same unless they succeed in bringing themselves to the attention of the outside world and the other voice care professions.
A first order conundrum.