Do What I Don’t Do?

How can you teach what you don’t do? I have never understood that. If you are teaching a physical skill, and you personally do not possess that skill, how can you teach it? On what basis do you monitor what is happening? If you have never felt the same sensations, don’t know what the experience feels like as movement and as feedback, how can you know what is happening when someone else does it?

Confidence comes from knowing. Been there, done that. It comes from sense memory, and from personal experience. The “tough love” people who go around talking to young people about what it’s like to be in jail, have all been in jail. They know what they are talking about. They speak in an effort to get the young people to avoid the mistakes they’ve made. They are tough because they know that is what they have to be if they expect to be effective.

Do you think they would have the same impact if they hadn’t been in jail themselves?

How about an Army drill sargeant who had not been in the Army? A football coach who didn’t play football?

In order to teach a physical skill, one has to have that skill, or at least some limited amount of it. The singing teachers who refuse to learn how to make CCM sounds but teach them anyway should take a good look at what they are doing. Even if each teacher is “thrown into” this situation at a school or university, it behooves them to seek some kind of experiential and auditory training before taking responsibility for other people’s voices and vocal development or health.

Relying solely upon ones ears is dangerous when those ears are not also relying upon the feedback of the physical body. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for physicality. Sensation in the body is sensation in the body. It isn’t mental acuity, it isn’t intellectual perception, it isn’t visual observation.

It isn’t surprising then, that the people who don’t know what CCM sounds feel like, can’t decipher what they are hearing. The ears don’t operate in isolation. How can one tell if the sound is healthy or appropriate? Some classical singers put all CCM vocal production into the “ugly” category, believing all chest-register dominant sounds are harmful, and leave it at that. Others may think that CCM sounds are OK, just different, but can’t tell what constriction or forcing sounds like, as they lack proper discernment. Neither situation is good.

What is possibly worse is relying upon the student to assess whether or not the sound is healthy. Unless the student is a skilled professional with years of experience singing, how can he or she possibly make such an assessment? Just because something feels comfortable in the moment, doesn’t mean it is correct, or that it will not cause long term problems. It is important to know if the student is comfortable and what the student understands and experiences, but that knowledge is not a substitute for the wisdom that the teacher is responsible for carrying as the expert. The teacher who is just guessing should at least tell the student the truth….that the instruction is based upon guesswork. Better humble and honest than not.

In order to take reasonable risks in teaching, you have to be able to assess what a reasonable risk is. To do that, you need boundaries. You acquire boundaries through life experience which includes study and experimentation, exploration outside of study, and applications of knowledge gained through past experiences to new ones. That is why it is a requirement of anyone who is certified in Somatic Voicework™ to actually make the sounds we are expecting to teach. Certified teachers have at least begun to sing CCM sounds.

The most frequent comment I hear while working with classical singers new to CCM is “this is weird” or “this is strange”. Yes, it isn’t like classical singing and it isn’t harmful. A good beginning, and in my opinion, the only valid place to start.

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One thought on “Do What I Don’t Do?”

  1. Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

    Albert Einstein

    Thanks Jeannie.. keep leading on.

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