Living in Ignorant Bliss

As a child, I was told often by my mother, some people just don’t know how to behave, so you have to forgive them. She was cognizant of the fact that life’s “rules and regulations” sometimes pass people by, and consequently, they are not truly responsible for failing to know what to say or how to behave in certain circumstances. Of course, the government’s position is “ignorance is no excuse”, meaning if you break a law and you didn’t even know it was a law, too bad for you if you get caught. One could make an argument for either position.

In terms of singing, if a person has spent a lifetime singing classical music, listening only to classical repertoire and attending only classical performances, and has studiously avoided virtually everything else, they may justifiably claim to be ignorant of other styles of music and of the parameters they encompass. It would be fair to say, then, that these people live in a restricted world. This, however, skirts the issue that their life of restriction requires some rather deliberate behavior, given that other styles of music swirl around us at the mall, in elevators, in restaurants, in stores, all manner of TV shows and movies, radio broadcasts, internet sources and countless other places. You have to work hard to remain totally isolated when you are living in the midst of it.

It’s a little different, however, if you enter into the world of Contemporary Commercial Music and “mess around” there. If you find yourself being called upon to sing or teach any style in which you have no experience and no training, you are a novice, and you actually have no business being there until and unless you have made some kind of an effort to inform yourself. You have an obligation to know what is expected and why. Refusal to do so can’t be excused as ignorance. It can’t be looked upon as some kind of unfortunate accident.

Every time I run into an attitude of “I know enough” and “this is all I have to know” in singing teachers who fit the bill just described, when I know darn well that the individuals involved have spent all of 15 minutes gathering information, I am astounded. I once again encountered this first hand quite recently and it was all I could do to keep my already too big mouth closed and keep my frustration to myself. (I managed).

I consoled myself with the notion that many of these classical singer/teachers don’t sing or teach classically all that well, either, and in point of fact, likely know less than they should about classical rep and pedagogy, which makes them lousy at their primarily discipline in the first place. Why would their secondary interest be any better? Lousy is as lousy does, I suppose.

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