When does learning stop? When do you get to have “all the information you will ever need?” When is your education complete?
I think a lot of folks would say when you finish school. Many people learn what they have to and stop there. Singers, however, should NEVER have that idea. You absolutely cannot afford to think that you have nothing more to learn at any stage of your life.
Taking courses, studying new things, working with teachers, coaches, conductors, directors, composers, choreographers, language specialists, diction experts……there is so much to discover when you sing. Yet, sadly, I have encountered singing teachers who have had one, maybe two teachers, were happy with them, liked their own singing, and that was that.
I have to admit it – that mentality baffles me completely. I can’t imagine not wanting to grow, to challenge myself, to examine old ideas and beliefs and see if they need re-organization. It’s like never cleaning out your garage or attic. Ideas, like boxes of “life stuff”, can become out-dated and irrelevant. I am always taking courses or attending conferences, working with coaches, talking to my colleagues and mentors, reading articles and books.
Self-satisfaction in an artist is important because you really can’t share your singing with others if you don’t much like it without feeling like a fraud. Self-indulgence, however, can become a trap. Thinking you are above it all and know more than everyone else is AWFUL, but every profession has people who think this about themselves and, sadly, they convince others that they are smarter than they actually are. Then, not only is the individual deluding him or herself, but he is taking others down the road of delusion as well.
If you study with a teacher who hasn’t been to one of the conferences that are offered to voice professionals (and there are many now), or hasn’t sung or performed in decades even though they could, or has no interest in reading the latest information about voice science or pedagogy – why would you do that? Is your teacher some kind of magician? Even the smartest, most talented people continue to develop through study. Why should your teacher be different? Don’t study with such teachers. Look around for those with a more open, curious mind.
CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute, Shenandoah Conservatory, July 2014. ccminstitute.com