If you go to a medical expert, a specialist, to find out about something specific, for instance, a hip problem, and the expert says, “Here is a range of possibilities as presented by a number of other experts, who can tell you what is available to address your hip problem. I can’t recommend any of them in particular, but if you do some research, in good time, you will be able to understand enough to make a safe judgement yourself, ” would you be happy with that? Is that why you would go to a hospital to consult a specialist? To get referrals to several other different people with conflicting opinions, before you even get one simple diagnosis?
A few places are now offering courses in vocal pedagogy and some of them are bending over backwards to seem “neutral” about their offerings. They will tell you, “we don’t endorse any of these experts because we are neutral. You can decide for yourselves what you like.” People who come to their courses or read their books are offered a “selection” of experts, all of whom have a different opinion on what works and why. Participants are being told, “Come to the buffet. We have lots of choices!” The sponsors dare not commit to just one point of view, lest they seem “prejudiced” or “not objective enough”.
If It’s Good, Run Away!
I recently heard that a very highly regarded college wishes to hire teachers who are NOT Somatic Voicework™ teachers in order for the voice department to be “more balanced” since many of the faculty have gone through my program. Funny about that. Maybe the reason so many people have gone through the program is because the word-of-mouth at the school is very strong that Somatic Voicework™ is based in reality and works. Instead, teachers are being asked to hide or deny their Somatic Voicework™ training in the name of “balance”. Yep. This isn’t the first time I have encountered this phenomenon either. If a lot of people like it, and a lot of people use it, and those people are excellent at what they do, and they tell their friends about it — don’t investigate the concrete reasons for this success — of course, go in some other direction just because!!!!! : [
Let’s use me for an example but please know this in no way applies only to me. I am representative of many others.
I have spent four decades studying everything there was to learn about singing from all disciplines that related to it in any way. I compared this to that, and I made all kinds of sounds in all kinds of music in my own voice, and I performed in all styles of music in Connecticut (where I’m from) and in NYC Off-Broadway and with Broadway professionals in numerous venues. Finally, after doing research with world-class scientists and doctors, and after several decades of teaching 5 days a week, all day every day, working with all kinds of singers, of all ages and backgrounds, and after being appointed as a consultant at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, I decided that certain pedagogical things were better and certain things were dumb and useless, based on personal experience and objective study. Is it possible that there is some validity in these conclusions? Is it possible that someone who is in their mid-30s or even early 40s might not have that same level of knowledge about what works and what does not? What happens, then, when someone of that age is placed alongside someone such as me (or anyone who is a “senior citizen”) as a peer? Are we really equals?
These conferences and courses present everyone, everywhere, regardless of the length of time they have been teaching, regardless of the unfounded ideas of their approach, regardless of the quality of their own singing, regardless of the amount or kind of their training or where it was done — everyone — as being experts of equal standing. This is supposed to be about fairness. It indicates being balanced. Of course. That puts the onus on the participant to be able to discriminate the true from the false or the so-so from the really great. If they could do that, they wouldn’t be at an educational course in the first place. Oops!
Many people seem to think that experience, investigation, study, actual physical use and validation by objective outside experts is not important in any topic. Not me. I want all of those things in anyone I consult, regardless of what it may be. I want to know that what is presented to me as information or guidance has been thoroughly investigated by a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and they all agree that the person or the product is excellent.
It is, of course, possible to offer courses or write books in which you say to the participants, “We are inviting you to come here to learn, (or read this book) but once you are here, you must decide for yourselves what you need to know, since we refuse to shine a light in any one direction. You will never catch us recommending one thing, one person or one approach over another. We are OBJECTIVE.” Offering Hodge-Podge is a way to play it safe and not be “for” anything much at all.
If people who can sing very well, who have training, who have science in their background, who have tried something and know that it works, decide to throw that away in an effort to seem politically correct or “unbiased” no one can stop them. If, however, they cannot say, “This is better because I have investigated it all and I know what makes sense and works and what does not, and I stand behind my own ability to make an informed choice,” then do they have a right to offer courses at all? Do they have a right to be selling books as “experts” to the public? On what basis do these conferences or course books rest their authority? Going to a conference like that is analogous to strolling the Mall and seeing what store calls to you, rather than going there looking to purchase something specific in one particular place.”
Do You Really Want To Purchase Hodge-Podge?
If you go to a seminar, course, conference or workshop, and various experts are there offering information, and they conflict with one another, and the people sponsoring the conference will not show you one definite, cohesive, proven approach, you might be wasting not only your time but your money. Look for places offering courses in vocal pedagogy that stand behind the work with honesty and integrity. If they cannot present one clean, simple, direct, proven and ESTABLISHED pedagogy, if they have not vetted what is being proffered, and stand behind it, why is it being offered at all? And, if their expert faculty do not sing and sing well, in any style, ask yourself why that would be the case. If they are teaching singing using the methods they are selling to participants and they can’t sing well, should you trust what they are offering?
Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) is more true than ever.