Being “politically correct” is very tricky. Many people who depend on university positions in order to support themselves or their families are unable to speak up vigorously about various departmental issues, lest they anger their colleagues and perhaps lose their jobs. This is particularly true of adjuncts, who have no protection, but can also happen with tenured professors who may not lose their positions, but can end up creating for themselves a toxic atmosphere in which to work.
I, of course, am self-employed and have always been so. My outspoken criticism of various aspects of the profession is often seen as being disturbing and I understand this. I am frequently encouraged by my colleagues to be quiet and docile, keep my opinions couched in the most polite language and pass up making any inflammatory or opinionated judgements about the profession at large when I speak or present.
I regard myself as someone who is more or less an independent voice, one who isn’t fearful of negative backlash (although I never like it), when calling a spade a spade. Would that there were more truth in our profession!! I say over and over, “If someone is lousy and you make believe they are not, you are only making the profession worse,” but many disagree. They feel that each person should operate as an island, doing the best that he or she can, and let what others do be of no concern. This is an old argument and it can be found in many other professions besides that of teaching singing.
The problem with this argument is that change does not happen by accepting the status quo. Change happens because someone is interested in causing change. Virtually every person who has upset the standards of any given time or era, in any profession, has been reviled and, in some severe cases, even put to death! The easy path is to stay quiet, mind your own business, say as little as possible and hope that you can live your life in security and peace.
If Rosa Parks had not decided to refuse to sit in the back of the bus, who knows how long that segregated policy would have continued before some other brave soul decided to put her foot down and say “no more!” Think of all the people who put all they had on the line for the right of women to vote, for the rights of African Americans, for the rights of those with physical challenges, or to stop drunk driving from being socially acceptable.
People who teach singing should be able to sing and sing well. They should understand the way the larynx works, including understanding that you cannot directly manipulate it without also shutting off freely expressed emotion. They should understand the standards of the various styles of the music business as they exist in the marketplace. They should be able to tell the truth in a clear and compassionate way without making condescending remarks to students, particularly young students. If stating that a particular approach or method is not in alignment with these things is, in itself, a criticism, then so be it. If that makes me a monster, then I guess it does.
If, however, a young student should happen to hear something I’ve said that lets her know a specific vocal instruction given in a singing lesson is just plain not possible, and is therefore poor teaching, and, by finding that out is saved feeling stupid and inept, then my being labeled a “monster” or, more often, a “bitch” is worth it.
If we are to entrust young singers, or adult beginners, to teachers who do not know what they are doing but think they do because no one has ever confronted them, are we not part of the problem? If you see something, say something. That’s what they tell us. During the AIDS crisis the posters read: Silence = Death.
Surely, it isn’t fun to be associated with a loud mouth. It isn’t nice to have as a colleague someone you wish would just be quiet. It has to be very hard to hang with someone who can be volatile and unpredictable rather than sweet and easy-going. I do understand.
On the other hand, if for all these decades I had kept quiet and said nothing or done nothing other than teach my private students, I would still be sitting at home, in my studio, teaching lessons one at a time and living my life. There would be no CCM Institute, no courses anywhere, no Somatic Voicework™ to share with anyone. In order to put yourself out into the world in a way that lets the world know who you are and what you stand for, you have to make some kind of noise. If you aren’t willing to take the heat, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen.
I will continue to cook…………..