Merriam Webster defines respect this way:
a) a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important
b) a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way
One way to respect music is to find out what the composer intended when she wrote it and to investigate what the poet or lyricist intended as well. Sometimes we don’t really know, but we should do our best to research things and discover whatever we can. Another way is to understand the general style of the music when more than one composer or lyricist has created in that style. Lincoln Center Library lists quite a few distinct styles including music theater, jazz, rock, folk, pop, alternative, etc. While there is always artistic license, such that any music can be arranged in any manner, in order to express something unique, not bothering to find out what was intended in the first place, now that we have the internet, is unacceptable.
There are many ways to make analogies here. If you arrive in a place and decide the people living there are stupid barbarians and that you should suppress their customs and religious beliefs because yours are better, then you yourself are the barbarian. If you think that classical music is superior to all other music and that classical musical and vocal values should be applied to all styles — you, too, are a barbarian. Fortunately, this idea is going away, but it isn’t gone. The old wives’ tales die slowly and the one that says, “If you can sing classically, you can sing anything”, is persistent. Sadly, it’s simply not true.
In previous posts I have written about “non-classical” as a term of disrespect. “Non” in the dictionary means:
a) not: other than: reverse of: absence of
b) of little or no consequence; unimportant, worthless
c) lacking the usual especially positive characteristics of the thing specified
This means that “non-classical” music is of little or no consequence, is unimportant or worthless. Yes, we still have this term and we still live with its consequences. WHY?
And, if you respect the music, then respect the people who teach it the way it was intended to be performed. Respect the teachers who understand the vocal, stylistic and performance aspects of music and help you understand how to work with all styles in your own unique way. Respect teachers who do not insist that you must first learn to sing “An Die Muzik” in order to sing “Out Tonight” from Rent.
Respect is necessary. When you respect your teachers it is because you also respect yourself, your voice, your body and your artistic vision to express something unique and special. Contemporary Commercial Music (the term that has replaced “non-classical”) deserves everyone’s respect. If you agree with this idea, please share this post.