"For The Good Of The Profession"

I have written here in the past about things that are “for the good of the profession” (of teaching singing and of singing itself). I have also been accused of being only interested in myself, and only interested in promoting my own ideas.

Who am I to talk about what is best for the good of the profession? How would I presume to know and why should I care anyway? People will always do what they do and there is no one to stop them. There are, as I’ve said here before, no “voice police”.

There is a way, however, to determine whether or not something is “for the good of the profession” and that is to ask, “How many people will benefit from this idea, method, approach, attitude, behavior, rule, etc., and how many would be harmed by it?” We could also ask, “Who will benefit from the sharing or spreading of this idea, rule, or method?” If the answer is just one person, be suspect. If the answer is a group of people, be less questioning. If the answer is everyone, you can know that whatever it is, it is “for the good of the profession”.

Further, what would be good for the profession specifically? (see several previous posts) How about a willingness to agree on the use of specific terminology and definitions thereof? How about a willingness to set parameters and boundaries regarding the ways students learn in a lesson? (How long should it be before progress happens in regular lessons? What kinds of things should be showing up in lessons? What kinds of things should be addressed in a lesson and what should not?) What are the minimum requirements for someone to be considered a “professional” capable of teaching singing in terms of knowledge, experience and ability (not pieces of paper or being married to someone else who already has a related job). The list is long and grows. None of these things would benefit only one person or even one person’s method. They would make all professionals accountable for their actions, they would give students a fair and honest chance to get a teacher who actually had something of value to teach, they would allow clearer and stronger interaction of information between teachers, and they would support both teacher and student in dealing with each other and with the outside world in a practical and equitable manner.

Recently, I had a professional operatic baritone show up in my studio asking me to train him to be a high pop belter. When I asked why he wanted such training, he said he had a gig coming up in which he had been hired to do some music by “Queen” and that he didn’t want to sound “wrong”. I was reluctant, but we worked together and as I heard him and guided him, I was pleased to learn that he both understood me and was able to execute without issue what I was asking him to try. By the time we had seen each other twice, he sounded like a real pop singer, his upper range went up a fourth and he was thrilled. We spent a total of three hours together. These dramatic results were possible because the man’s training (by someone I did not know) was functionally based. He understood the terminology I used, he was in touch with his throat and body, he had excellent posture and breathing and he was willing to try things. His progress toward his desired goal was a direct result of his having been functionally trained and of his open-mindedness. It had nothing to do with me, really. Anyone who is trained functionally, is in touch with her or her throat and body, is open to various approaches, and can stand up straight and breathe deliberately, will do well with any teacher who isn’t absolutely crazy and knows what to do to get to a desired goal.

This is true, as well, about the music business. It really was not up to this man or me to determine how “Queen’s” music should be done, but we both understood that the audience would be “expecting” it to sound a certain way, the way it had been recorded. No, he didn’t have to do it in the same exact way, artistically. He could choose to do it any way at all, but he, like me, had a feeling for how the music was sung and we wanted to replicate it in his own way because that is a respectful and valid approach. His decision was based on what made sense for the music, for his voice and for his career. My decision was simply to help him get there in the healthiest, quickest way I could.

Openly sharing what you know, what you have learned and what you believe in, is scary. It sets you up for all manner of criticism, of misconceptions by those who “hear about you” but don’t actually work with you, and it let’s others who are unscrupulous claim that your information is theirs because you will probably never find out. There isn’t anything to do about any of that. If you choose to share what you know because you want to help people who teach or sing shorten the path to their goal, lighten their load of confusion and frustration, or provide avenues for further investigation and discussion, you do so because you are willing to do so regardless of the risks involved, up to and including being rejected by the profession entirely. The profession may take what you have and ultimately forget that they are using something that came originally from you.

So be it. If it makes it possible for even one person to have benefitted in the process of putting the information out, then it’s worth it. That it is done, without acknowledgement from anyone, “for the good of the profession” is enough.

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