If a student asks, “Why?” during a lesson and the teacher responds with, “Just trust me”, the student should run away.
Why, indeed, should a student trust you if you can’t answer his questions? On what planet is that a behavior that warrants trust? Trust is based upon loyalty, truthfulness, responsibility, reliability, dedication, and commitment. It doesn’t just show up, it has to be created, even earned. Trusting someone is putting yourself in a vulnerable situation that allows you to expose your deepest self, or, in this case, your voice in all its permutations, and that kind of openness makes a student ripe for abuse.
It is entirely possible, of course, that the teacher has no explanation for the student’s question and that the query has to be deflected because the teacher doesn’t want to look stupid. Guess what? No one has all the answers and there will always be things about singing that don’t fall into a box. A better response, by far, would be for the teacher to say, “I’m interested in why you ask this question. Is there some specific thing that you need to know? Perhaps it will help me give you a better answer.” Then, if the teacher really has no idea how to answer the question she can go out after the lesson and find the answer, somewhere in cyberspace, hopefully from others who have more experience, or maybe even in person. It’s also perfectly fine to simply say, “Gee, I don’t know the answer. Let me find out.” Unless you are divine, you are allowed to not know something, for the rest of your life.
The most frightening thing about the profession is that anyone can put up a sign that says, “Singing Teacher”. Anyone. It is not a licensed profession. If you can’t make a living at Burger King, no problem. You can decide to buy someone’s singing system on line and set yourself up as an “X Method Teacher”. That’s why I am not the latest flavor on the web. You have to have at least minimal contact with me, in person, and listen to me teach, in order to have access to my method.
I’m tired of having people put up with lousy teaching for all the wrong reasons. It seems obvious that you should not stay in any relationship where your needs repeatedly do not get met or even addressed, but people do that every day. The level of competence for teachers of singing has to have a baseline or there are no standards. It isn’t a good thing to be so tolerant that everything is acceptable. Even if there are no rules, there can be guidelines. In a free society all guidelines have to have some degree latitude and will involve group consensus about things that are questionable, but if the majority of people are willing to hold a certain paradigm as being the one that serves the greatest good of the greatest number, and they can hold that paradigm with strength and conviction but not rigidity and force, the welfare of the group will be enhanced. We need standards. I’m going to keep saying that. All the time.
Truly, the vast majority of teachers of singing are doing a good job, and the best they can, all the time, no matter what. They are dedicated to their students, to teaching and to the music, but no one can know everything. Learning is always supposed to be a part of teaching. You have to stay a student if you are going to be a teacher, because if you are not always taking in new information and looking at it with new, beginner’s eyes, you are stagnant and, in short order, you will become useless or, worse, harmful, to your students and, eventually, to yourself. If you are to be trustworthy, you will also stay vulnerable. They go together.