Integrity

Integrity is defined in the Oxford dictionary as being “honest, fair and good”. We all hope that those who teach singing are that, and that they put the welfare of their students above their own. We hope.

Of course, teachers would have to actually monitor themselves on a somewhat regular basis, asking “what’s the best thing for the student here?” Sometimes, of course, isn’t clear cut or easy to know how to answer that.

Many of the teachers who are teaching Somatic Voicework™ are people who care about integrity, they care about what the student needs and they care about being honest, fair and good. In practical terms, however, doing that in a vacuum would be quite difficult, so we have a chat room where we can discuss difficult issues or questions and be honest with each other. Sometimes there is disagreement, sometimes not, but the exchanges are fair and that makes them good.

Deep work requires integrity. Without integrity, it is very hard to be a teacher that does what teachers ought to do — light the way. You cannot create trust if you don’t tell the truth in a kind manner. You cannot ask someone to risk doing something vulnerable (a feeling that arises frequently when we try something new and difficult), and you cannot ask someone to open to their own inner workings, if they know ahead of time they will be judged or condemned for doing so. You cannot ask someone to look at their weaknesses or failings, even if they understand that is what is necessary in order to grow, if they don’t know for sure that you are also willing to look at your own. Having integrity means that you wouldn’t ask the student to do something you yourself wouldn’t do. It means seeing yourself as part of the equation and owning up to what you really do not know just as much as what you do.

I have never heard any of these issues discussed at The New York Singing Teachers’ Association meetings, and I have been a member since 1978. I’ve never heard them discussed anywhere by any organization of teachers of singing. The only place these issues are raised is in the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia, in Level III of Somatic Voicework℠ The LoVetri Method. I take the word integrity very seriously and want the people who are certified in Somatic Voicework℠ to take it seriously, too. The functional vocal work we do ultimately recreates the default position of the mechanism all the way down to the responses in the vocal folds, and as that takes place, it changes the mindset of the singer at the same time. This is work that will last because it is done slowly, and it is work that is profound, because it honors the sacredness of each voice and person. This is work that is always unique even though we do the same thing all the time. The integrity of the teachers, and the safe environment they create for their students in their studios is paramount. We live the values of honesty and fairness and we work always to be good, as teachers, as guides, and as vocalists on the path of self-discovery. We encourage everyone to think about integrity. It’s a good thing.

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One thought on “Integrity”

  1. Jeanie, thank you for this post. I also really appreciated your earlier posts about the all-too-familiar phenomenon of voice students completing DMAs without actually being able to produce a viable sound (not to mention professors who can’t either).

    Integrity means that our students’ progress is to a large degree OUR responsibility (assuming that they are doing their homework).

    As you pointed out, there are obvious, objective criteria that let us know whether a student is improving or not. If any of my students is not achieving the results I would expect, it means I must take action – either by changing my approach or referring them to a trusted colleague with a fresh pair of ears.

    The idea of having some poor singer paying for my time week after week without making progress is simply unthinkable. When we see this happening in many studios, for weeks or even years at a time, it’s time for someone to speak up. We need to raise our standards as a community, and holding each other to a high level of integrity is a good start.

    best, Claudia

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