Sometimes words don’t stick. They don’t “go in”. They don’t compute. No matter how much a person thinks he or she wants to learn something, there can be reasons why they don’t or seem unable to, even when they are highly motivated. In this case, the person speaking can have the experience of feeling like the message is falling on deaf ears.
Even if you are doing your best to communicate in a very clear manner, and you can explain yourself in myriad ways and you can cover the topic in a variety of approaches and you check in to see if what you are saying is being understood, the message can still not do what you had hoped it would do. For me, this is one of the most disheartening aspects to encounter in a relationship whether it be in a friendship or with a student.
Over the years, even with students who have studied with me for a very long time, some of the things that I consider basic to good vocal production just don’t “connect” deeply enough and I am chagrined to see and/or hear that what has been worked on and accomplished in the lesson process over time has simply gradually slipped away again down the road. Occasionally it is because there were external or personal circumstances that have made it nearly impossible for the singer to keep her skills up but I admit that sometimes I believe the singer never really understood in a deeply profound manner just how important some of those skills really were to her own artistic expression. It could be a difference of opinion, philosophy or attitude about that aspect of singing, perhaps unexpressed or unconscious, but it’s not always possible to know where the break-down is.
You cannot make someone learn something. You cannot force a person to understand the impact of what you are saying (or teaching). You can’t make someone change and stay changed. If you have worked on something over and over again through a course of months or even years, sometimes the only reasonable thing to do is let the whole subject go, particularly if the singer seems to be doing OK and just doesn’t care.
All of us have to choose what we focus on and what we let go of. Do we work on things that are difficult and require complete attention all the time or do we do what is easiest and live with that? How much time do we devote, on a daily basis, to all the aspects of singing, even at a professional level when singing is our full-time endeavor? There are so many things to attend to and only so many precious moments to invest, how do you choose?
If you find that different people from different walks are telling you similar things, pay attention. Maybe the universe is prodding you to listen, to pay attention, to think about what the words could mean. Don’t let yourself walk around with ears that don’t hear.