Sooner or Later

It has finally happened that someone who is a chair of a voice department at a major university thought that Contemporary Commercial Music was about jingles for TV and radio. This same person also thought that students of CCM were “playing guitar and doing folk songs”. How out of touch can you be and still be in charge of something? Clearly, a lot.

We might never see the day, at least in my lifetime, when rock and roll is taught with equal skill and acceptance alongside classical music in colleges, but I surely do hope that I live to see a day when we have universally moved forward in our thinking.

I just did two master classes out in Washington State over the past week. At the first, where many of the singers were still in their teens, a few of the teachers were present. I took this to be a good sign. There were some students, though, that presented their songs for me without any real preparation. That made me wonder if the teachers had actually ever been at or in a master class. To have a young singer perform a folk/pop piece, read out of a book, without any clue whatsoever to anything that resembled skill, was disappointing. This young woman, one of the oldest teenagers, was barely audible, did not know what the song was actually about, and seemed perplexed that I was asking her to change anything. This lack of preparation falls into the teacher’s lap. It is difficult, in 15 minutes, to be of use to someone who has no clue of any kind, and if the teacher does not know that the student needs to be prepared, there is little I can do to be of assistance.

On the other hand, there were some young performers, a few of whom had had only the barest minimum of training, who were able to rise to the occasion and work with what I asked them to try. Their individual abilities were no better than the aforementioned young lady, but their attitudes were completely different. This reflected something about the preparation they had had. Even beginners can be prepared for a master class if the teacher knows what to say.

The second master class took place at a university. The college kids were very eager to try things and quite conscious of the changes they made as I worked with them. At the end, 8 of them held me captive, trying to find out if it was “OK” to sing rock music and/or “use their chest voice”. It was clear that some of them had been told that doing either of these things was “bad”….a situation that replicates what was said to me 42 YEARS AGO. What does that say about our profession? Are we the only group in the world that has not progressed in 42 years? Well, maybe not, but even the construction company that is re-doing my kitchen is using lasers for plumb lines and electric screwdrivers for the screws.

Sooner or later the information about what real singing is will be in everyone’s hands. Until that time, we all just have to keep on keeping on. Thanks for helping.

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One thought on “Sooner or Later”

  1. I find the fear so fascinating. As someone who was so careful of how to sing in front of his teacher for a while, I can understand it. I’d say it was a good year that I was reluctant to sing things that I was afraid he would frown upon. But as I pushed through that I was so relieved to discover that he understood that I need to (and can) sing different styles, and his concern wasn’t what type of music I was singing, but that I was singing it in the most efficient manner and not damaging myself. I also remember walking in to a musical theatre audition with lots of voice faculty and being terrified that they would disapprove of what I was going to sing. But I had already decided that it was my last audition and I wasn’t really interested in whether they approved of it or not.

    It’s very sad and hard on students who for some reason are led to believe that they will “get in trouble” for singing certain things.

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